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Why do we need electric vehicles?

Barry Faichnie from Glasgow Clyde College looks at how increasing electric vehicle (EV) ownership is helping to tackle the climate emergency, and why colleges are well positioned to meet the demands of training and upskilling that comes with the move to EVs.

Charging electric vehicles

The past decade has seen its fair share of rapid transformations, and many of them have been brought about by innovation in the digital space. No sector has been untouched by this revolution which extends through smartphone technology, consumer-driven social media, intelligent manufacturing, ever-present connectivity - and, soon, EV cars on a much larger scale. Today, our electricity system is on a similar, life-changing, fast-paced trajectory as it responds to the expectation that by 2050 almost every householder will have the ability to charge an electric vehicle.

Electric vehicles will play an important part in meeting Scotland’s goals on climate change, and they feature prominently in mitigation pathways that limit warming to below the 2C or 1.5C which would be in line with Paris Agreement targets. In short, governments have started to set out measures for climate reduction and are looking to the electrical industry as a major player in helping them to achieve their ambitions. Accordingly, World EV Day 2020 underlined the industry’s commitment to cleaner air, lower emissions, and a more sustainable future.

Let’s take a look at some of the reasons we need electric vehicles. The big ticket issue is that transport currently contributes to a fifth of UK greenhouse gas emissions – an unsustainable amount. The UK government has a target of being net zero by 2050 (2045 in Scotland) and petrol and diesel cars will be phased out by 2035, by which time up to 16 million vehicles in the UK are to be zero emission. There are already four low emissions zones (LEZs) in the UK (London, Glasgow, York and Leeds).

As well as the green benefits, motorists are being drawn to EVs by low mileage costs (around 4p per mile) and the availability of grants and funding for the installation of charging points. And, with electric vehicles now capable of an average 200 miles per charge - almost ten times the distance of the average journey - the fear of running out of power is much diminished. These factors have made electric vehicles attractive to the point where an estimated two thirds of drivers are considering an EV as their next vehicle.

So, part of a vast and varied future for the electrical industry will be a huge demand for electric vehicle charging technology and in turn training and development. Electrical contractors will need to both expand their existing skills and to continually develop new ones. Education and training are no longer a once-and-for-all experience, they are something people will need to keep going back to throughout their working lives. Electric vehicle charging highlights that the future is not about being educated once but is about the ability to constantly move between education and work.

With their proven ability to adapt and innovate and with close links to businesses, further education establishments in Scotland are well positioned to provide the lifelong training and upskilling that will underpin the electrical industry of the future.

Barry Faichnie, Lecturer in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at Glasgow Clyde College - 18 Sep 2020