Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Road - A wee correction


In the previous post it was suggested that the Covid19 pandemic had "nothing to do with" Mitsubishi's decision to withdraw from the UK (and European) market. That's not strictly true of course, as the sudden drop in sales right across all automotive markets merely exacerbated an already worrying retail trend. All manufacturers were already well advanced with plans to reduce output and share under-used production facilities and all the while planning mergers to form stronger financial units. The arrival of the Corona virus merely added a further degree of urgency to boardroom decisions.

There is already an over capacity in the world's assembly lines hence the number of deals being done between 'rival' manufacturers to share facilities allowing them to shut down loss making plants and reduce capacity.

But before we go criticising the manufacturers we have to look beyond their own problems. They are being told by the world's governments to switch production to electricity, and they want it done quickly. The problem here is that if the UK had to switch overnight from petrol/diesel to electricity, the country would grind to a halt. That's because there is insufficient generating capacity and not enough chargers to go round. Also, battery technology is not quite there yet to store all the stuff that's generated.

That means there has to be compromise, i.e. a gradual phasing out of combustible fuelled devices in favour of the new 'green' power alternatives.

Admittedly the situation is getting better. The latest generation of electric cars are enjoyable to drive and 'range per charge' is improving all the time. More importantly the public is rather more willing to accept them, but that is still a slow and gradual process.

The global pandemic has certainly accelerated the adoption of electric, hybrid and plug-in cars in the UK and Europe, with diesel and petrol vehicles losing traction as a result. That change is already underway, albeit slowly, but speeded up by the pandemic. Although new car sales fell in June by nearly 34%, the number of electric cars sold was more than double the number sold in June a year ago.

There are currently just over 40 million petrol/diesel vehicles on UK roads, so there is no way that situation can change overnight, just as there is no way to enforce change. The switch over from manufacturing current engines to electrical motors will also require changes to the raw materials source and supply chain as well as alterations to production lines and manufacturing methods. Not to mention the massive design challenges that this will place on engineering and R&D departments.

Government and society are keen to promote alternatives to our reliance on the private car, but that is a long term wish. Already the country's major cities are trying to ban cars from their centres and charging more for car parking - even at work! One only has to look at the squandering of £776 million in introducing trams to Edinburgh to see how well their 'alternative' options are progressing!

Of course, change is underway, but is it the right change? There are hydrogen powered heavy trucks being run in various countries across the globe plus hydrogen powered buses and cars, but will it ever make mainstream production? Who knows? At the moment the world's governments seem hell bent on electricity.

And then of course, what to do with all the redundant petrol and diesel machinery? This will need to be recycled. So too will batteries, and this will be an expensive process too as some of the more exotic materials used in their construction will need to be handled carefully - and expensively.

There is no such thing as 'cheap' power any more. And it will be the end users who will have to pay for it all. That's us by the way.

Puts a whole new meaning to the phrase 'on yer bike', eh?

No comments:

Post a comment