UK ICE Ban is Ill-Conceived

While UK headlines are full with green-movement organizations praising the nation’s government bringing forward an ICE ban, not everything has been thought through.

This week the government confirmed that the sales of new gasoline and diesel powered cars will be banned by the year 2030 as part of its green industrial revolution. Personally, I view the policy as a very blunt instrument that might look good for now on a politician’s curriculum vitae, history may show it for the sham it is. Nearly three-quarters of the world’s electricity needs are still met by burning fossil fuels and using it to charge BEVs, themselves currently with a heavier carbon footprint than ICE cars, will only accelerate global warming and raise other negative issues.

One such voice of concern has been raised by road infrastructure specialist Roadmender Asphalt pointing out the huge impact BEVs will have on the network maintenance budget. That’s because, like-for-like, BEVs are much heavier than their ICE counterparts.

The organization points out that, to match the power and get closer to the current range of modern cars, electric cars need very large battery packs. According to VEHQ.com, some battery units can weigh as much as 1,200lbs, compared to 770lbs for a typical large, diesel V8 engine. This means that BEVs produce additional wear on the roads, tires and load-bearing components.

Anyone who lives near highways that have to cope with heavy trucking activity will testify that road surfaces are broken down quicker than on roads with light domestic traffic. Road repairs are more frequent and costs involving infrastructure escalate. Roadmender points out that this can be compensated by using more resilient materials but that, too, could a add to extra maintenance costs.

However, Harry Pearl, CEO of Roadmender Asphalt, said innovations may help explaining: “After a decade of austerity, councils have naturally gravitated towards innovation and have helped launch R&D hubs, working with innovative SMEs. Pothole repairs were traditionally filled with the same materials made to build roads. Now, however, we can fill potholes with materials made specifically for the job, that may prove to be significantly more efficient and cost-effective.” Naturally, while materials innovation may offset some of the repair costs, a 40% hike in the average weight of vehicles because of heavy batteries is certainly going to result in a hefty rise in infrastructure maintenance costs.

Polluting with weight

Of course, another concern with heavier vehicles is over urban air quality which too many people confuse as sharing the same interest as reducing global warming. Throughout Europe, we have seen a rise on automotive CO2 emissions because of city clean air worries has led car buyers to shun diesel powertrains which are better for climate control, having much less greenhouse gases than gasoline, but pollute urban environments with carbon particulates.

Yet, many forget that only 40% of a modern vehicle’s overall emissions come from the tailpipe with the remaining majority emitting from tire and brake wear. These microplastics, like carbon particulates, can be breathed in by city dwellers close to busy traffic. Worse still, while the carbon on the streets will wash away harmlessly, microplastics will enter the water supply surviving intact and ending up in the food chain with, as yet, undefined future health issues for creatures from marine life to humans.

At the same time we see automotive giant Bosch stressing the importance of keeping ICE technology in the armory during the battle to reduce global warming. Using existing and emerging bio fuels, the supplier claims its engines will drive past current air quality monitors without registering any tailpipe emissions.

Let’s face it and accept that BEVs will not, and possibly never will, suit many car owners’ present, or even future, requirements so let’s reconsider ICE as a vital element in bringing down global warming in the here-and-now. Let’s then also leave the BEV brigade to dream and strive towards achieving that 600 mile range between charges until a later date.

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_


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