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With the Government committed to banning new petrol and diesel sales from 2040, it’s safe to say the future of motoring is very much electric.

But how will the move towards electric vehicles (or EVs) affect our lives, from our day-to-day commutes to the state of our towns and cities?

To give you a sense of what we might expect, we answer some of the key questions around the impact of electric vehicles here in the UK.

Will electric cars reduce air pollution?

electric-vehicles-impact-environment-lives-pollution

 

Walk along a busy road in your town and you’ll get a good idea of just how much air pollution a line of traffic can belch out. But that could be a thing of the past when we make the switch to EVs.

EVs produce zero direct emissions (that’s emissions straight from the exhaust), a fact which should drastically improve air quality in and around main routes and sensitive locations, like schools and hospitals. 

In terms of indirect emissions, that really depends on how the electricity powering the cars is generated. A car using solar power will produce fewer indirect emissions than one whose energy comes from coal or gas. 

However it’s not only exhaust fumes that pollute the atmosphere. Brakes and tyres also contribute to harmful emissions.

Every time you drive a car, tiny fragments of particulate matter such as dust are released into the air from brake and tyre wear, as well as from the road surface. These particles enter the airstream and can have a damaging effect on people’s health. Plastic particles from tyres can also harm marine wildlife if they get deposited into water through sewers.

The Government wants to pass legislation to improve standards after a recent report by the Air Quality Expert Group said dust from car brakes and tyres will still pollute the air, even when cars are all-electric.

That being said, it's very difficult to measure the impact of these types of particulate emissions in isolation; and EV owners can still be confident that their vehicle is producing much less potentially harmful emissions than a vehicle with a combustion engine.

How will electric cars affect noise pollution?

It’s not just air pollution that EVs will help cut – the roads will also be a lot quieter once the electric revolution hits, as zero-emission cars make very little noise when compared to their internal combustion counterparts.

This might not sound that important, but replacing the current roar of a main road filled with petrol and diesel cars with the light whirr of EVs will make a huge difference if you live on or near one.

However, it will mean we’ll need to change our habits. Quiet cars mean other road users won’t be able to simply listen out and trust their ears anymore, so pedestrians will have to remember to stop and look properly before crossing the street.

In fact, changes to the law have recently come in to protect vulnerable road users for this reason. From July 2019, all manufacturers must now install a system in new quiet electric and hybrid electric vehicles. 

Sound generators will produce a specified level of noise when they are reversing or running below 20 km/h(about 12mph). But don’t worry, these sound emitters are almost always much quieter than a roaring exhaust pipe.

Will electric cars impact our towns and cities?

electric-vehicles-impact-environment-lives-chargers

 

Yes, and not just by making them quieter and cleaner. The most obvious way is the electric charging points that’ll soon be appearing on our streets and in supermarket car parks to ensure motorists stay charged at all times. 

We'll see petrol stations start to disappear as well. EV owners want to charge their cars somewhere that they'll be stationary for a little while, so petrol stations set up on busy, urban transit routes won't be as popular. The forecourts will remain, but the sites will surely be inhabited by other businesses once the petrol and diesel vehicles they were built to serve become less common.

Our streets and buildings will look cleaner, too! Soot from exhaust fumes sticks to buildings, making them increasingly dirty over time but as EVs don’t emit fumes these buildings (once cleaned) will retain a fresher look.

How will electric cars affect climate change?

Hopefully in a positive manner. With no direct emissions, EVs do not contribute to greenhouse gases when being operated, which should help the UK meet its 2050 target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions.

However, there are concerns about indirect impacts, such as how the electricity is produced in the first place and the amount of energy and resources used to make electric car batteries – which includes the mining of rare materials. 

But as technology advances and the production of EVs develops and becomes more efficient, it’s possible that some of these issues will be mitigated against, and help us tackle the effects of climate change. 

Will electric cars affect the cost of electricity?

From a personal finance perspective, it’ll largely depend on how you charge your car. If you can charge at home, you’ll be able to take advantage of cheaper off-peak tariffs but if you’re using a public charge point, you might have to pay out more.

The impact on electricity prices remains to be predicted. However, in recent months, concerns have been raised about whether the UK’s power grid is ready for the increase in EVs, although with technology evolving all the time, worries over potential blackouts are likely to be premature. 

How will electric cars affect my commute?

Probably not as much as you think. Just because cars are turning to electric power instead of petrol or diesel doesn’t mean there will automatically be less traffic on the road, and levels could well stay the same.

A 2019 report by the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions claimed electric cars will not address traffic jams, urban sprawl or wasted space for parking – and called on the Government to do more to reduce car use. 

How will electric cars affect road tax?

electric-vehicles-impact-environment-lives-parking

 

Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) is essentially a tax for using the roads, so there shouldn’t be much change – but we may see other charges when we switch to EVs to cover fuel tax.

The tax brings in around £29 billion for the Treasury every year, but with fuel no longer on sale, experts have suggested the Government could introduce a nationwide road toll for all drivers. That means we may soon have to pay a new 'road toll' of around £700 a year to cover the shortfall.

Will electric cars mean fewer jobs?

On one hand, electric cars have fewer moving parts meaning they are less likely to require maintenance and repair by mechanics – so it’s possible there will be fewer mechanic jobs in the future. 

However, should the UK continue to develop its EV industry and its manufacture of greener vehicles, it’s likely more jobs to support this will be created in factories around the country.

The switch to electric cars shouldn’t have too much impact on delivery and transit jobs, although car plants producing petrol and diesel vehicles will need to adapt to the new law.  

Source: rac.co.uk

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