Auto Trader cars

Skip to contentSkip to footer

Sustainability Newsletter - November 2023

New report sheds light on net zero readiness while consumer confidence in used electric cars still wavers

Erin Baker

Words by: Erin Baker

Published on 9 November 2023 | 0 min read

This month we look at whether electric cars will really help in capping global temperature increases to 1.5 degrees, and just how hard it is to see the CO2-loving wood for the trees when it comes to carbon reduction.
India is now not projected to reach carbon net zero until 2070, but in China coal consumption is projected to peak in 2025. The significant growth in electric cars worldwide is a success story, but aviation and shipping are lagging far behind in mass adoption of cleaner fuels. Low carbon power projects and the consequent reshaped electricity grids are needed, but often clash with local wildlife and biodiversity projects for increasing “green on green” conflicts between local initiatives and national, or continental, cross-border commitments. Everywhere you look, the picture is mixed, and no more so than in KPMG’s excellent 2023 Net Zero Readiness report, published this month.
One of the biggest issues is many successes in decarbonising energy and switching to renewables have been met with a public backlash over the cost of the new technology, and the impact on already stretched domestic budgets. Everyone wants to save the planet, but hardly anyone has the means or inclination to pay more for it, especially in a cost-of-living crisis. Yet to meet the 2050 world deadline for a net 100 per cent reduction in emissions to limit that temperature increase to 1.5 degrees the UN has also stipulated that a 45 per cent net reduction must be made by 2030. Action needs to come now, whether it hits people in the pocket or not.
Nowhere is this hesitancy, and conflict of consumer interest versus intent, clearer than in the world of electric cars. Prices of new electric cars haven’t come down much at all, but prices of used ones decreased for 13 consecutive months until two months ago, making them in some cases actually cheaper than their three-year-old petrol equivalents. Yet consumers are wary of buying used electric cars, worried about the reliability of the battery, and don’t want to buy new because they’re just too expensive. This hesitancy has at its heart a massive falsehood about batteries. New electric car batteries are covered by eight-year warranties - you don’t get an eight-year warranty on a petrol engine but no one worries about that. There are fewer parts to go wrong, and the latest data from car brands on battery degradation indicates they lose about one per cent of their performance a year, which you’d be hard pressed to notice.
On the other hand, in a sign of how complicated the road ahead is for motorists, an electric car uses on average 53kg of copper against the 22kg in a typical petrol or diesel car, according to the International Energy Agency quoted in KPMG’s report. This is an issue given world’s supply of copper is coming under increasing pressure as we shift from burning fossil fuels to electricity, and massively expanding the wiring of the grid to provide the power. The fact China processes 90 per cent of many of the world’s rare earth metals used in the motors, magnets and batteries for electric cars and wind turbines is also a concern for some.
So, we must be thankful here for our domestic chemical engineering prowess (we invented the lithium-ion battery, for goodness sake) and seek more governmental support for initiatives like Cornish Lithium, as reported in last month’s Sustainability Newsletter. The UK has made great strides thus far. We have cut greenhouse gas emissions by almost half since 1990 according to the KPMG report, while growing the economy by two thirds. Coal is rarely used in our electricity generation, and the National Grid recorded it lowest carbon emissions per kilowatt hour in April this year. But take-up of electric cars is slowing, interest is waning and cynicism is growing. But there is no way back now. Transport is still 25 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint, and we must move to electrification to reduce that. If the public won’t buy electric cars due to price, charging worries and battery anxiety, and the Government won’t offer financial incentives to buy an electric car or make public charging cheaper through a VAT reduction, it MUST put money behind a public information campaign to bust myths that still persist. This could also give people hints on cutting EV charging bills, like switching to a dual energy tariff that has peak and off-peak rates at home. There is much to be done, and too little time to do it.

Previous Sustainability Newsletters:

Sustainability newsletter – October 2023 | Costs for EV batteries fall, funding for UK-sourced lithium project, GM goes renewable and Lynk & Co commits to life cycle CO2 audits
Sustainability newsletter – September 2023 | Erin Baker shares her thoughts on the UK's changing net zero targets and delaying the 2030 ban for new petrol and diesel cars. • Sustainability newsletter – August 2023 | Zapmap reports increased charger installations, Lime's e-mobility revolution and Nissan's autonomous driving • Sustainability newsletter – July 2023 | Public charging network expands, hydrogen back on the agenda and choosing green tyres • Sustainability newsletter – June 2023 | BMW helps electrify the UK’s national parks and Kia ditches leather across its range of cars • Sustainability newsletter – May 2023 | What upholstery will you be choosing for your next car - leather or pleather? • Sustainability newsletter – April 2023 | Polestar’s ‘moonshot’ for a zero emissions car and a look into synthetic fuels as a possible lifeline for internal combustion classics • Sustainability newsletter – February 2023 | Our regular sustainability round-up continues with a look at some new recycled materials this month, all of which could be in your car soon • Sustainability newsletter – January 2023 | Eco awareness is driving more and more car buying decisions for a variety of reasons -here we celebrate those doing it right!