Electric cars: the good, the bad and the costly | Letters

Green number plates to encourage the take-up of electric cars are welcomed by Stephen Smith, but Rachel White doubts whether electric vehicles are the answer. Plus letters from Dr Howard Mason and Fiona Howarth

In response to the latest research from King’s College London that an increase in air pollution in cities is increasing heart attacks and strokes, the government must announce a national emergency within the UK and introduce radical measures.

The shocking research is the latest in a long line of studies to show the devastating damage of poor air quality – some showing that an average of 100 people die every day.

Results from the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in London have just been announced, showing that toxic gas emitted by diesel engines has been cut by a third – a significant improvement for the millions of people breathing London’s air. Radical measures such as ULEZ are vital and more must be done to incentivise low emission alternatives. The government must act in the interests and health of its people and implement higher taxes for gas-guzzling vehicles, increases in education and subsidies for electric vehicles, and invest in safer cycle routes around major cities. We have to act now to avoid sleepwalking further into a health catastrophe.
Fiona Howarth
CEO, Octopus Electric Vehicles, London

• The government should be applauded for its plan to issue green number plates to encourage electric car ownership (Report, 22 October).

Your article also indicates that the government might mandate charging points for all new houses that have parking spaces. There is another potential government intervention – a communication standard for electric cars – that would enable home charging for all electric car owners whether or not they have a home parking space. Within a few years electric cars will be able to drive themselves on known routes – eg to night-time charging stations. Drivers will need a way to tell their cars how much charge they need by when, and cars will need to be able to negotiate their time of arrival with the neighbourhood charging station.
Stephen Smith

• Your article about green number plates overemphasises the role electric vehicles (EVs) can play in the UK’s zero-emission revolution. While they are an important part of the solution to reach the UK’s legal target of net zero carbon emissions, the government should not rely on a single technology. In fact, building a battery pack for an EV is incredibly energy-intensive, and it takes significant mileage before the EV has worked off the CO2 released during its manufacture.

In addition, they will play little part in cleaning up toxic air which plagues our cities and towns. Particulate matter is one of the greatest threats to human health, with no safe levels. And research shows that 45% of it has been attributed to tyre and brake wear in London. Furthermore, they will not make our streets safer, less congested or more attractive places to move around.

Rather than focusing on EVs, the government should be doing everything it can to shift people away from driving, to healthy, clean alternatives such as walking and cycling for shorter journeys. This is the best way to reach a zero-carbon future. The government needs to put an end to building more roads for cars and instead make walking and cycling the easiest and most convenient options for more people. Pedestrians and people on cycles should have priority and networks of protected cycle lanes on main roads should be the norm so that everyone feels more confident travelling around.
Rachel White
Head of public affairs at Sustrans

• Perhaps a better plan to encourage motorists into electric cars than green number plates would be to make the cars affordable.
Dr Howard Mason
Chorlton, Manchester

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