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Well, maybe

The rise of electric cars will cause an increase in traffic jams across the country, new analysis conducted by the Government shows.

The revelation has emerged as part of research into the benefits of EVs, which are set to account for four in every five vehicles sold in the UK by the end of the decade.

A surge in congestion across Britain’s roads will be fuelled by the reduced running cost of EVs, the Department for Transport found, which will lead to drivers covering more miles.

Given higher purchase costs and lower running costs then yes, we would expect each car to do more miles. But that’s not the only issue here – the higher entry costs to having a car at all might mean fewer on the road. So, the overall effect is unknown.

Of course, once we start taxing EVs properly then even that per mile cost advantage will go away.

22 thoughts on “Well, maybe”

  1. “The report, published late last week, estimates that the cost of congestion will be £78bn over the next 50 years – which is higher than previous predictions of £52bn in March.”

    How does anyone think they can realistically predict this for 50 years? 50 years ago, cars were still rather crappy, everyone thought supersonic flight would be a big thing, most women with children didn’t work.

    Also, what are the chances that this includes any effect of disincentives, that when a place gets more congested, people take the bus, shift their hours or work from home?

    And, how does it rise from £52bn to £78bn in 7 months, other than someone putting their thumb on the scale? This is all about pushing more choo-choos and trams, isn’t it?

  2. More likely that traffic jams will be caused by EVs running out of juice out on junctions and single carriageway roads, causing chaos, as they can’t be pushed to the side of the road. If your Tesla dies in the middle of the Hanger Lane Gyratory it isn’t getting shifted until a lift truck arrives and picks it up.

  3. The milk float scam is over, but this absolutely cannot be acknowledged.

    So total is the clusterfuck, that I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the clear tory desire to lose the election is driven to a considerable degree by the desire not to be around when the shit actually hits the fan (I.e the pretence is no longer sustainable)

    I’d rather have flash eating bacteria than a milk float!!

  4. EVs are currently dearer if you rely on public charging – dearer than a small petrol car per mile and dearer than a large diesel car. Also they depreciate like crazy – see the hundreds of Tesla 3s coming out of 3-year lease deals going for £20k with 40-50k miles on them, down from £50-55 new. They will be worth less than a shit in a hat in another three. But I think the biggest problem is that we can’t get the infrastructure out to the motorway services etc to provide enough kW to support sensible volumes, and even if we did the generation side would collapse, so they will never hit mainstream. They are the playthings of those using the 100% first year tax break for limited companies, who will just buy another in 2-3 years and move back to diesel when they get bored of charging. The technology is just wrong.

  5. Main manufacturers are pulling out of EV’s.
    Ford reducing the number of shifts at their plants for EV making.
    GM making similar noises.
    Toyota never been a fan of them.

    Car makers are losing masses on money on each they sell and have large graveyards of EVs they can’t shift. People just don’t want them.

    Unless something comes along, like Toyota touting it’s solid state battery, there’s just no way people in general are going to shift.
    Too slow to charge, crap range in winter, etc etc

    Instead of not being in power when it all goes tits up, wouldn’t the Tories be better just cancelling it all now and saying “ok, we gots that wrong. We wuz lied to, init.”
    People might actually appreciate some politicos doing that for a change.

  6. Journalism by presser with the byline of journos and who like their own subs don’t read their own paper. The Telegraph had figures from the SMMT the other day which told a different story.

    So whom to believe? Some pasty-faced desk-wallahs notionally in the Dept for Transport but at home in their pyjamas or the people whose business it is to flog cars?

  7. I also reckon changes in technology make this nearly impossible to predict in decades hence. Changes in telecommuting or flexiworking hours could easily completely change the nature of peak-time congestion. But autonomous vehicles, if they don’t end up eternally twenty years away, change everything too. Children can be driven to school or the very elderly, blind etc driven to the shops or to hospital, without the need for someone qualified to drive. That’s more traffic. Depending on the journey type, they may also roam the streets or drive back to their home base rather than try to find a parking space near their destination.

    On the other hand, the lower running costs but high depreciation of autonomous electric vehicles for city driving might push the ownership model much more towards reliance on Robo-Uber rather than the two-car household of today. Certainly with drivers’ wages out of the picture, it would make taxi trips a lot more attractive price wise. It’s not imminent enough to worry about for most purposes, and even when it comes about it will take decades for the full effects to be felt, though I wouldn’t recommend kids to train as taxi drivers. But infrastructure projects using a fifty year or more period for NPV calculations could easily be being decided on totally false premises.

  8. Anon – autonomous cars should eventually reduce congestion as they should talk to each other and therefore be able to safely tailgate and merge at roundabouts etc. But I will hang on for the autonomous personal drone/chopper. I like the one in Inspector Gadget which comes out of his hat. Or maybe some drone thing which sits charging on my solar roof when it’s not being used, then comes down and lets me step onto it before whisking me away in a direct line to my destination. Nurse, nurse! I need more, I can see the end of the bed again!

  9. @Ted One of the things that would probably come out of an autonomous, call when needed, pooled vehicle fleet would be a considerable reduction on vehicle sizes. Most journey’s are made with 2 or less occupants. So there’d be no reason for the entire fleet to have a capacity of more. Or for the load space currently being driven around empty. You’d order your vehicle up for your specific needs.
    Another interesting thought is how much of vehicle design is around providing the human equivalent of peacock feathers. Most of the designs are for status not utility. Much of the body shells are designed to optimise aerodynamics for speeds the vehicles rarely reach, at a considerable weight penalty. Removing ownership of the tail feathers will likely considerably change vehicle use & design.

  10. Seems to me that joe public has at last cottoned on to the net zero scam and realised that he/she is paying for it

    JP has also realised that as soon as goverment largesse (grants/tax treatment) is taken out of the equation (by effectively transferring £shedload from poor people paying inflated energy bills to the virtuous) the realtive cost advantage of the virtue chariot over ICE is debateable

    Its balancing higher purchase price (definite) against resale value (dubious, not much data yet and dependent on how much risk a buyer is planning to take with a used battery) while taking into account running costs (fuel – cheaper at the moment but subject to change and unlikely to reduce; insurance – no better and possibly getting worse in view of EV battery fires and potential collateral damage; maintenance – fewer moving parts but more specialist training and diagnostics); and support infrastructure( a cost again being borne by the long suffering taxpayer, not by those who benefit)

    I think we are now at peak EV hype – the levels of derision fired at media types telling us of their intrepid safaris in £100k+ virtue barges with their families is instructive

  11. If memory serves, cars per household plateaued out around 2010, and annual miles per year, per vehicle, has been falling from around the same time.

  12. I did consider putting the autonomous helicopter taxi in the last post but thought it would make me sound like I’m talking total pie in the sky stuff. But they’re also a genuine possibility for some purposes within the lifespan of many modern infrastructure projects.

    I think @bis is right that the designs might change to something more practical if fleets of vehicles get constructed for taxi duties. I wonder if the pros of robovehicles being able to drive more smoothly and communicate more effectively with each other will get outweighed by the cons of them stopping every time a pedestrian walks in the road – which is going to encourage far more people to walk in the road.

  13. @Chernyy Drakon

    “Wouldn’t the Tories be better off cancelling…..”

    Manifestly, and the fact that they won’t even consider it tells you all you need to know. Ditto labour, but neither sees the electorate as anything other than livestock to be exploited.

  14. Congestion itself, travel time including loss of productivity and parking issues pretty much dominate already is my guess. Who the hell drives in London if there’s a viable alternative. Maybe some unrevealed demand in areas with excess road and parking infrastructure but in those cases it’s only incremental cost already.

  15. I followed a brand new EV bus today, and noticed a “Supported by UK Government” logo on the side. I’m hoping someone will come up with a few “Supported by UK Taxpayers” stickers to cover up and correct this blatant bit of Eco bullshit. I wonder how long we’ll have to wait before the local rag reports on the first one to catch fire and burn to a cinder…

  16. A while back some journalist did a test with a hybrid and a diesel Jeep Patriot, had 2 families and they swapped so had similar usage. Any motorway driving swiftly nullified the hybrid advantage and both families preferred the Jeep which was also cheaper than the hybrid . No way anyone would run that test and dare publish a result that wasn’t favourable to EV’s

  17. Ducky’s point is similar to what I read about the Netherlands – increasingly high rates of car ownership possibly joint highest in Europe, but the vehicles get used less and less. It’s just nice to have a car as back up I suppose or for when there’s a group outing. Most days you can do without, but you don’t want to do without having it.
    I wonder if there’s been public transport strikes in NL that have changed buyer behaviour – off to google. Certainly feel that in UK, you can’t trust the unionised system to be there for you.

  18. I did consider putting the autonomous helicopter taxi in the last post but thought it would make me sound like I’m talking total pie in the sky stuff. But they’re also a genuine possibility for some purposes within the lifespan of many modern infrastructure projects.

    Assuming the aeronautics can be sorted, the ‘autonomous’ bit is far simpler than for cars – just need to crack take-off and landing, the in-flight bit is largely proven tech. I think Andrew Orlowski in the Telegraph recently reported that all the ‘self-driving’ cars in California have to be carefully (and expensively) ‘trained’ on the limited set of streets they’re allowed to operate in, i.e. it’s still mostly smoke and mirrors.

  19. Who the hell drives in London if there’s a viable alternative.
    I did for several decades.
    It may come as a surprise,but far less than half of the jobs done in London are desk jockey. (Although why it should be a surprise… Everybody can’t be administrators) A lot of people work outside the 9-5 pattern, so public transport at one end of their day or other is sparse. Most London transport routes are radially biased & the orbital’s are shite. And like me, not everyone goes to work with just the contents of their pockets. My average vehicle load was over half a ton. These are the people who keep your city functional.

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