My charge to help the planet has been a rocky road so far

Torbay Weekly

I don’t know about you – but I am seriously confused with the electric car malarky. I went to a presentation at the Hampton Hilton the other day on electric charging for cars.

I came out excited and with the clear ambition of changing my car for an electric model. I was enthused and going to help save the planet in my small way.

As it is still a relatively new concept by most standards, I decided I should go for the gold star level. This is an excuse of course, as I just love cars and relish any excuse to change and experience something new. So, I opted for the Tesla X series with gull wing doors – flash or what!!

I searched on the internet to find a demo model for sale, and found what looked like a really good purchase and contacted the garage for further details. They, of course, were delighted to hear from me, and it was no problem for them to bring the car from north London down to Torquay whenever I liked.

However, I then went into the whole process on a deeper level – like where was the best place to get the car serviced should I buy it. This was a shock. The nearest Tesla servicing facility is in Bristol and the nearest super-fast charging unit is at Dart Farm just outside Exeter. They don’t make it easy.

However, I am not easily deterred, so I now think I should try another brand, Mercedes maybe and so I arrange a test drive. Then I had a meeting with people more informed than me, who pointed out that electric cars are probably not the silver bullet everyone seems to think they are.

There are a lot of questions to answer. The batteries don’t actually last that long and the making of them and, the seriously underestimated, disposal of them, has huge impact on the environment. In fact, more than my driving my current petrol car. The other critical problem is, that there are nowhere near sufficient chargers across the UK and, rather importantly, not enough technicians trained to service electric cars.

This is a huge dilemma for the ill-informed public, who want to do good things and help the environment, but are clearly not getting the full picture from the government. No change there I can hear you cry.

Since then, I have investigated further, and it appears that motor manufacturers are already looking at an alternative to electric cars – the next big thing is going to be cars run on hydrogen. I also find out that this is not an entirely new idea as hydrogen cars, or hydrogen fuel cell cars, were first introduced by Toyota in 2014 and are making a strong case for changing the way we power our travel.

In many ways, hydrogen seems to be the better option, as cars would be powered by electricity they produce internally through chemical reactions between hydrogen and oxygen. The only tailpipe emissions are water, since the by-products of the chemical reaction which powers the hydrogen fuel cell are just heat and water.

The electricity generated by hydrogen cars, either powers the vehicle directly, or charges a battery which stores the energy until it’s needed. This traction battery is significantly smaller and lighter than the battery of a fully electric car.

One of the significant benefits is also that Hydrogen cars’ high-pressure tanks can be refilled in around five minutes with a fuel pump at a filling station. The hydrogen fuel is then stored in a high-pressure tank and can be refilled in much the same way as petrol and diesel.

As the government shifts the timeframes on the end of combustion engines to meet zero-carbon targets, I think I have nine years to make my mind up but the motor trade and the Government need to sort out exactly what the best option is with great haste. Frankly, I haven’t got a clue what to do, so I am still seeking more information on every alternative.

In the meantime, all the motor traders I contacted in my quest to save the planet won’t leave me alone! Importantly, if you would like to find out more on this subject, please come to the presentation at the Hampton Hilton on Friday 19th November at midday – coffee will be served and you can ask as many questions as you like. All dependent on if you can park of course!