Electric vehicles are coming. The only question is: When?


It was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who is quoted as saying: “Change is the only constant in life.” I wonder what he might say today if that was how he saw things more than 2,500 years ago?

There is, however, no doubt the pace of change continues to accelerate in all our lives. I was reflecting that it was only in the June edition of Cabletalk that I was talking about the need for more storage of electricity and the place batteries might play.

Since then, the Government has announced a £246 million investment in battery technology, as it aims to position the UK as a world leader in the sector. The first phase of its investment will support the Faraday Challenge, a programme of competitions aiming to boost both the research and development of expertise in battery technology, mainly for electric vehicles.

At the same time, it seems clear that the electric vehicle revolution has gone up a gear with a number of other announcements. Among these are Volvo committing to electrifying all models by 2019, Tesla launching its new Model S car and the French government planning to ban all petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040.

In a separate initiative, The London Taxi Company has changed its name to The London EV Company and a new plug-in hybrid taxi began to roll off the production line on 1 August.

Finally, while diesel engines will continue to be at the centre of the heavy truck market for the foreseeable future, many big players already have fully electric prototype trucks on trial.

So there really is only one direction of travel for the use of electrical vehicles and that is sharply upwards. Latest UK figures simply confirm that the public is warming to EVs, with sales increasing by well over 30% year on year.

But what are the likely implications for SELECT Members and the electrical industry generally?

Well, clearly there will be a bit more installation work for charging points, but there could well be much more work on infrastructure.

The existing electricity networks are already under pressure and the strain will only increase as the growth in electricity demand rises rapidly on the back of the predicted number of plug-in cars, vans and trucks growing a hundred fold over the next 10 to 15 years.

SELECT Members will need to keep an eye on developing standards around these issues, not least the proposed requirements for improved safety of EV charging stations that the next amendment to BS 7671 might deliver.

SELECT Members will undoubtedly also need to consider their own approach to electric vehicles, especially those that operate mainly in an urban environment where economic or legislative pressures will increasingly encourage EV use.

Interesting, if rapidly changing, times!

Newell McGinness Managing Director, SELECT

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