The report shows that if Michael Gove and his government were to bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2030 Britain could reduce its oil imports by 51 per cent in 2035 compared to current projections
Electric cars have come a long way, both literally and figuratively, in the past few years. I remember when the green-minded father of a school friend bought a G-Wiz, the dinky electric car that blazed a modestly-paced trail among early adopters. In 2007 Top Gear named it the worst car of the year and co-presenter James May described it as "the worst car for this year - and indeed for every year whilst we have breath in our bodies." They blew one up later in the episode.
It's amazing to think that 10 years later, Tesla's Model X, a seven-seater, electric SUV would be beating a Lamborghini Aventador in a quarter mile drag race and UK Environment Minister Michael Gove would be announcing that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars would be banned in the UK by 2040. It's probably fair to say the beleaguered G-Wiz and its descendants have had the last laugh.
The rise of the electric car has given us a tantalising glimpse into a world of clean city air, free from choking vehicle fumes, cheaper running costs (as the many moving parts in the complicated combustion engine won't need fixing), not to mention a reduction in our national carbon emissions.
But a new report published today shows that electric vehicles will also dramatically improve Britain's energy security by reducing its dependence on foreign oil as well. The study, by the Green Alliance in conjunction with organisations such as WWF, Greenpeace and Christian Aid, shows that if Michael Gove and his Government were to bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel cars to 2030 Britain could reduce its oil imports by 51 per cent in 2035 compared to current projections.
Considering the world's biggest oil producers include such delightful regimens as Russian, Iran and Saudi Arabia it seems obvious that we would want to spare ourselves having to rely on countries with such questionable human rights records as these, not to mention being wedded to potentially volatile and unreliable trading partners. When combined with the other benefits of electric vehicles it seems like a no brainer.
Bringing forward the era of new electric vehicles would see the UK starting to catch up with other countries which are already ahead of the curve. Norway has nearly ten times more charging points per head of the population than the UK and 29 per cent of new cars and vans sold there in 2016 were electric, compared to 1.4 per cent in the UK.
The report comes before the launch of the Government's plan, which will set out how the UK plans to cut its emissions and boost the nation's low carbon industries. Laura Taylor, Head of Advocacy at Christian Aid, said: "The UK Government's long-overdue Clean Growth Plan needs to prove that this government is serious about speeding up the low carbon transition, not slackening the pace."
That pace may well come faster than we expect. Technology advances often accelerate at surprising speed. The Daily Telegraph's Juliet Samuel recently told the story of consulting firm McKinsey, which was asked in the nineties to predict what the global market for smartphones would be by 2000. It guessed just under 1 million - wrong by a factor of 109. She concluded: "The decarbonisation of energy is coming. It's time for governments, investors and industry to plan for it, rather than sticking their heads in the sand."
Likewise, if the British Government is to put the UK in the fast lane for the coming low carbon vehicle revolution then it needs to publish a truly bold and transformative Clean Growth Plan next month.
Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid and a New Voices contributor at the Ecologist. He is on twitter @wareisjoe