Is there going to be a carbon surge as lockdown lifts?


One of the few positive outcomes from the Covid-19 pandemic has been the huge decrease in carbon emissions as cars, trains and planes have remained grounded and immobile.  The impact on air quality particularly in urban centres and cities has been immeasurable and data reveals that daily global emissions of CO2 fell by 17% at the peak of the lockdown.  Nearly half of this decrease was attributed to the change in car usage with surface transport emissions declining by 43%, the same amount as the reduction in emissions from industry and power generation combined.  Interestingly, aviation has accounted for only 10% of the decrease despite the news grabbing headlines and the economic impact on the airline industry.  But with lockdown starting to lift, it looks as if there is now going to be a bumper surge in CO2 emissions says Show Plates Express.

One of the fears amongst environmentalists is that car usage will actually increase to even greater levels than before the pandemic as people are discouraged from using public transport in their effort to maintain social distancing.  Politicians have been encouraging people to walk or take to their bikes to get around  – there has been a huge increase in cycling as a form of exercise during the lockdown – and to avoid buses and trains and environmentalists are lobbying hard that this is the moment to push for a sea change in people’s habits and spark a green revolution.  Coronavirus has provided the kick start and now the UK Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, has pledged £250 million to invest in the cycling and walking infrastructure around the UK – good for the environment and good for waistlines and the UK is not alone in this move worldwide.

But here comes the rub.  It’s one thing walking and cycling for pleasure and exercise but some people simply live too far from their work to make this a viable option for the daily commute.  So, are thousands of people who would have taken public transport now being forced into their cars to get to work in order to maintain social distancing?  Environmentalists fear so and that there is going to be a surge in CO2 emissions which is going to produce levels which are even higher than those seen before the lockdown.

The level of the pollutant, NO2, or Nitrogen Dioxide, has fallen by around 60% in London since the Coronavirus lockdown and Professor Corinne Le Quere from the University of East Anglia has said that the change in people’s driving habits now presents a huge opportunity for change particularly when it comes to electric mobility.  Battery prices are lower and this represents a golden moment for governments around the world to align their green agenda with putting the planet back on its feet economically and getting everyone back to work.  Coronavirus has presented an opportunity to change up the movement on climate change and motoring habits and an open letter from 155 international companies has been penned asking governments to use Covid-19 as their incentive to go from a grey to a green economy.  There are opportunities to help promote economic recovery particularly in motor manufacturing and accelerate the pace of the green revolution, to create a silver lining from the cloud of Covid-19.

Motor industry commentators think that globally the response to Electric Vehicles is going to vary depending on the population and the incentives offered by their government so the worldwide response to Covid-19 from an EV standpoint, is going to differ hugely country by country.  Also relevant is the response from motor manufacturers who, in order to recover from the huge dip in sales caused by Covid-19, are going to focus on the type of vehicles that are most profitable for their business.

Volvo hopes to have half its sales from EVs within five years using Covid-19 very much as a turbocharge to accelerate this market.  However, in the US, some forecasts indicate that EV sales will shrink to just 1.7% of the personal car market in 2021.  General Motors has yet to unveil its two new electric models, the GMC Hummer and the Cadillac Lyriq but maintains that their timeline is unchanged despite the Coronavirus.  This is set against the backdrop of a US President who is a reluctant convert to environmental issues and climate change.  However, in China, the sector is forecast to swell to 8.1% of all sales which represents the largest segment worldwide.

Despite gloomy predictions of a second wave of Covid-19 casualties as lockdown lifts, some experts think that EVs will weather the storm long-term better than their conventionally fuelled counterparts.  Because of the impact Covid-19 has on the respiratory system there is already the argument being propounded that improved air quality will help reduce incidences of conditions like asthma with its consequences for those contracting the Coronavirus.  There is a clear correlation between pre-existing respiratory compromise and an increased chance of a poor outcome for those suffering from Covid-19.

But, at the end of the day, people have to be convinced to purchase an EV and the motor industry will always drag its feet to some degree whilst the public’s appetite for the new technology remains rather lukewarm.  However, data gathered from motorists by Venson Automotive Solutions reveals that Coronavirus is actually convincing people to buy electric cars with 45% of UK drivers surveyed saying they would consider swapping their current car for an EV with its trademark green number plate in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.  The huge reduction in pollution and carbon emissions has sent this message home to the average motorist in a bold and stark way which nothing else has matched previously in terms of environmental awareness.  Who would have thought that it could take a global pandemic to finally convince the world to drive green and that in years to come, people will look back and view Covid-19 as the turning point for change in motoring habits which have endured for decades?

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