Nicola Sturgeon’s plans to phase out all new petrol and diesel cars in 15 years’ time have been branded unachievable and potentially damaging by a leading engineering expert. Jack Ponton, senior honorary professorial fellow of engineering at the University of Edinburgh, warned that there were huge problems with the proposal and potentially insurmountable hurdles to overcome. The first minister announced this month that she wanted Scotland to have phased out all diesel and petrol vehicles by 2032 – eight years before the UK commitment of 2040. The Scottish government does not have the power to ban all petrol and diesel engines but Ms Sturgeon wants to make the infrastructure so efficient and available that no one would want anything but an electric vehicle. Ms Sturgeon said she would “massivel y expand” electric charging points and set up pilot projects to encourage uptake of electric vehicles. She said that the A9, the main road between Perth and Inverness, would be Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled road. She also said an innovation fund would be set up to encourage climate change solutions such as charging vehicles in areas with a high level of tenements. However, Professor Ponton, writing in The Times today, said the plan begged the simple question: where is the electricity to run them to come from? According to Professor Ponton, if all Britain’s cars were electric, the country would need another five nuclear power stations – at a cost of at least £100 billion – just to cope with demand. Even if the electricity generated were to come from wind energy, such a massive switchover would mean covering a quarter of Scotland’s land mass in turbines just to power the country’s electric vehicles.
Times 15th Sept 2017 read more »
The news that China will follow the UK and France in phasing out fossil-fuel powered cars by 2030 was met by a spike in lithium prices this week, as markets digested another sign that the future of auto will be lithium-ion powered. Coverage of this shift has been largely positive, not least in the context of the race to make our cities cleaner. But there is a potential imbalance between the environmental benefits to developed markets and the social and environmental costs in the developing world where the raw materials for batteries are mined. We at RCS Global addressed the challenges associated with cobalt in a recent report and they have been well publicised over the past 18 months including in this newspaper and by Amnesty International. But lithium-ion producers and buyers must acknowledge that cobalt is not the only challenge they face. As we note in a new report this month, the spike in demand risks amplifying the social and environmental risks associated with the industry’s five key raw materials: cobalt, lithium, nickel, manganese and graphite. Approximately two-thirds of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where there are severe issues ranging from environmental damage to human rights abuses including child labour. Cobalt remains the most difficult battery raw material to source ethically.
FT 14th September 2017 read more »