We have the glorious news today that if only everyone drove electric cars then everyone driving an electric car would save loadsamoney. It isn’t actually true though, electric cars won’t save drivers anything at all, not one single red penny:
Electric cars could cut the UK’s oil imports by 40% and reduce drivers’ fuel bills by £13bn if deployed on a large scale, according to a new study.
An electric vehicle surge would deliver an average £1,000 of fuel savings a year per driver, and spark a 47% drop in carbon emissions by 2030, said the Cambridge Econometrics study.
The paper, commissioned by the European Climate Foundation, said that air pollutants such as nitrogen oxide and particulates would be all but eliminated by mid-century, with knock-on health benefits from reduced respiratory diseases valued at over £1bn.
But enjoying the fruits of a clean vehicle boom will require an infrastructure roll-out soon, as the analysis assumes a deployment of over 6m electric vehicles by 2030 – growing to 23m by 2050 – powered by ambitious amounts of renewable energy.
And who, might we ask, has to pay for that infrastructure? Ah, yes, of course, that’s us, the general taxpayer, isn’t it? So, we’re asked to dig into our pockets to make driving cheaper for other people. And given that it’s not the poor who are going to be buying expensive electric vehicles that’s us, the general taxpayer, subsidising the better off, isn’t it? Not quite the way this is meant to work.
However, there’s another problem with this. Which is that electric cars aren’t going to save drivers any money at all, not in the long term. For petrol driven cars, if petrol were untaxed, are still very much cheaper than electric cars. Sure, for environmental reasons that might mean that a bit of subsidy to get the new technology rolling might be worth it (not that we agree but we’re willing to accept the possibility at least). And that tax on petrol does raise some £27 billion for the Treasury, at least it did last time we looked.
Politicians are not simply going to acquiesce at having £27 billion less of our money a year to play with and dispose of as they wish. Thus, as electric cars become a larger portion of the fleet so taxation of electic cars will rise in order to replace that revenue lost from taxing petrol. That £27 billion is still going to be extracted from drivers whatever else happens.
So given that the savings from electric vehicles are entirely tax driven, and the tax system will not, as soon as the revenue loss becomes noticeable, stay static then we cannot say that the widespread adoption of electic cars will save drivers money.
In fact, given that the electric car untaxed is still more expensive than the petrol car untaxed, yet the political imperative will be to make sure that tax revenues do not fall, we will find out that electric cars cost drivers more than petrol driven. Because, once electric cars become popular, they will have to carry the costs of their inefficiency and also that same tax burden.
This idea that drivers will, in the long term, save money by having electric cars is thus a con. It simply won’t happen: not when politicians so enjoy spending the money they raise through the taxation of driving.