Will Electric Vehicles ever be ready to power the Caravan and Motorhome Industry? The unsuitability of EVs for heavy vehicles highlights the need for continued development of the Internal Combustion Engine.
The Green Car Congress (Ref. 1) has highlighted a new open access paper (Ref. 2) published by 37 globally recognised scientists stressing the continued importance of the internal combustion engine, including hybrids, and how it can be developed for increased efficiency and near zero emissions. The UK government has set an arbitrary target of 2040 for a ban on new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the hope that technology we don’t yet have will be available – a risky strategy. This is a huge challenge for tow vehicles and heavy motorhomes compared to passenger cars because the extra weight significantly impacts range of a vehicle already made much heavier by the batteries.
The Tesla Model X can tow a fairly hefty 2250kg, but when tested with a small, lightweight 680kg caravan it spent 3 out of 5 hours charging and the range was reduced by half (Ref. 3). Evaluated in the 2020 Caravan and Motorhome Club Towcar of the Year Awards (Ref. 4), the new Jaguar i-Pace EV has a towing limit of only 750kg, managing 108 miles with around a 50 mile range remaining for solo use. Not particularly impressive given its £76,530 price tag. The equally expensive Audi e-tron and the Mercedes-Benz ECQ can both tow a maximum of 1800kg. There are some small all-electric campervans, but no motorhomes, which in diesel form weigh 3500kg or more.
ABD Environment spokesman Paul Biggs said: “Electric vehicles are not zero emissions either in use or manufacture, plus they use finite non-renewable resources such as Cobalt, Neodymium, Lithium and Copper. The level of emissions from battery manufacture is dependent on how the country of origin generates electricity – the likes of China, Germany and Poland are heavily reliant on coal. The same is true for battery charging. The tyres and brakes of both EVs and ICE vehicles also produce particulate matter in larger quantities than in modern exhaust emissions. Whilst EVs are a good or the best option for many drivers, they have obvious limitations in both usefulness and sustainability. The rush to ban petrol and diesel vehicles may yet prove to be premature.”
Leading scientists in the UK (Ref. 5) have calculated the resources required to replace all cars in the UK with electric vehicles: 200% the current total annual Cobalt production, 100% of Neodymium, 75% of Lithium and at least 50% of copper. A 20% increase in UK electricity generation would also be required.
It is also a concern that 40,000 children paid 8p per hour are used to mine Cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the world’s largest supplier of Cobalt (Ref. 6).
Notes for editors:
(1) Green Car Congress – International automotive researchers emphasize the importance of continued development of the internal combustion engine: https://www.greencarcongress.com/2019/10/20191009-ijer.html
(2) International Journal of Engine Research (IJER) editorial – The future of the internal combustion engine: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1468087419877990
(3) Practical Caravan Blog – Towing with electric cars: https://www.practicalcaravan.com/blog/139156-towing-with-electric-cars
(4) Winners of Towcar of the Year Awards 2020: https://www.caravanclub.co.uk/whats-on/awards/towcar-of-the-year/2020-winners/
(5) Natural History Museum – Leading scientists set out resource challenge of meeting zero emissions in UK by 2050: https://www.nhm.ac.uk/press-office/press-releases/leading-scientists-set-out-resource-challenge-of-meeting-net-zer.html
(6) Daily Mail – Child miners aged 4 living a hell on Earth: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4764208/Child-miners-aged-four-living-hell-Earth.html