February 23rd 2019

  Buy Issue 3038

Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Something rotten led to fish-kill: perhaps fishy environmentalism

EDITORIAL Resistance grows to Beijing's soft-power push

CANBERRA OBSERVED Climate change: deadly ... to political leaders

TECHNOLOGY Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies


CYBER SECURITY Chinese smartphone threat extends way beyond Huawei

SOCIETY Such grandeur of spirit

POLITICS John Hewson should have as sturdy a Constitution

FINANCE Hayne royal commission sets agenda for bank reform

FAMILY RELATIONS Dad: a girl's first and most influential love

COMMENTARY Words gone feral: rights and equality

MEDICINE AND CULTURE Book captures tragedy of falling foul of a fanatic

SOCIETY AND CULTURE A dog's life: reflections of a grey nomad


MUSIC Serialism a killer: Ideas tend to get in the way

CINEMA Cold Pursuit: Revenge served up manic

BOOK REVIEW Why the West and nowhere else

BOOK REVIEW The escalation of horror and atrocity


FAMILY AND SOCIETY The end of Liberalism

SPECIAL EDITORIAL Has Cardinal George Pell been wrongly convicted?

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Electric cars: UK taxpayers subsidise rich greenies

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, February 23, 2019


  • Sales of electric cars in Britain amount to less than 1 per cent of new cars sold
  • Subsidies for electric vehicles have cost UK taxpayers $1 billion so far
  • The battery is merely a store of electricity: it generates none

Data recently released by Britain’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) show that last year, electric cars amounted to less than 1 per cent of new cars sold in Britain. This is despite the lavish subsidies afforded by the British Government as part of its commitment to reducing greenhouse-gas emissions.

As electric cars are much more expen­sive than conventional petrol, gas or diesel cars, the subsidies on offer will be mainly taken up by either the wealthy or by corporations.

Coal is cool: Electric cars use

electricity produced primarily by coal.

The SMMT data, available on its website, show that the total number of new motor vehicles registered in 2018 was 2.37 million. It breaks down the total into the number of petrol, diesel and “alternatively fuelled vehicles” (AFV). AFV includes electric cars, petrol-electric hybrids, diesel-electric hybrids, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

While AFVs accounted for 5.75 per cent of all new vehicles, electric cars accounted for just 15,474 units, or 0.7 per cent of the total number of new vehicles registered.

The British Government’s electric car subsidies are offered under its Plug-in Car Grant.

The Plug-in Car Grant started on January 1, 2011, and is available throughout Great Britain. The program reduces the up-front cost of eligible cars by providing a 25 per cent grant towards the cost of new plug-in cars, capped at £5,000 ($A9,000).

High cost

The program has now been running for eight years, and has cost taxpayers well over $1 billion.

Additionally, the British Government has subsidised the building of charging stations around Britain, as well as subsidising home and business chargers for electric vehicles.

The level of these subsidies is substantial. Because most electric vehicles are charged overnight, it is recommended that electric vehicle owners have a home charger. Home-base overnight charging also has the advantage of being, in most cases, the cheapest time to recharge.

The Government provides financial support to install a charge point at home through the Electric Vehicle Home­charge Scheme (EVHS), which covers up to 75 per cent of the total costs, capped at £500 ($A900). Businesses are also subsidised to install electric chargers at work.

The effect of these subsidies on purchasing decisions was reported in a study released last year by the Pacific Research Institute in the United States.

It said: “The changes to purchasing decisions in response to changes in EV subsidies confirm that these subsidies are significantly distorting people’s decisions.

“For example, after Hong Kong eliminated its tax break for EVs in April 2017, registrations of new Tesla electric cars in Hong Kong fell from 2,939 to zero.

“Similarly, after Georgia [U.S.] eliminated its $5,000 EV subsidy in 2015, EV sales fell 89 per cent in two months.

“These drastic sales reductions are an indication that the demand for EVs is based solely on the distortions created by government subsidies.”

Even with the purchase subsidy of up to $9,000 per car in Britain, electric vehicles are still substantially more expensive to buy than the equivalent petrol car.

Proponents of electric vehicles argue that the vehicles are much cheaper to run. This may be true, but electric vehicles still have a limited range, and require hours to charge fully.

What is truly extraordinary is that, despite lavish subsidies, the number of electric vehicles is so small, comprising less than 1 per cent of all cars sold in Britain in 2018. Despite the subsidies, electric cars are beyond the financial reach of most buyers. Those who do buy them are generally wealthy.

Carbon-dioxide reductions an illusion

An issue that is rarely considered is that the source of their energy is not the battery, which simply stores electricity downloaded from the power network. The source of energy for electric cars is the power station where the electricity was actually generated.

As most of the power generated in Australia and most other countries comes from coal, electric cars are mainly powered by coal, in a process which is a great deal less efficient that the burning of petrol or diesel oil.

In terms of so-called “carbon pollution” – a complete misnomer when the emitted gas is carbon dioxide – electric vehicles are not as eco-friendly as proponents claim. Arguably, their energy source produces more carbon-dioxide emissions than petrol or diesel cars.

When other inefficiencies are considered – including power loss in the electricity grid (typically about 6 per cent), power loss in storing mains-electric power in a battery (40 per cent typically), energy losses in converting battery-stored power back to electricity (20 per cent) – and the low range of electric vehicles, the supposed advantages quickly disappear.

Electric cars are basically coal-powered vehicles, with some hydro, nuclear, gas and renewable energy thrown in.

Without lavish subsidies like those in Britain, the uptake of electric vehicles in Australia has been slow, with former Minister for the Environment and Energy Josh Frydenberg recently estimating there are just 4,000 on the nation’s roads, equating to just 0.1 per cent of new vehicle sales.

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