Without getting into the pros and cons of electric vehicles (EV) at this early point in this revolutionary concept that is set to remake the future of transport, the government’s new grants scheme announced on Wednesday contains a few peculiarities.
Firstly, at this stage of the game, EVs are only as green as the energy used to both build them and run them, and in Cyprus, electricity still comes mainly from fossil fuels. This may change but it’s going to take a while yet so any virtue-signalling that comes with owning an EV right now is a bit meaningless.
Still, it’s probably a start and sometimes transitions can be difficult and not without their problems until markets develop and the changes become easier and cheaper. Having 7,000 beneficiaries in the first scheme was impressive and the new scheme should add another 2,000 or so.
What seems unfair with these EV grant schemes that are designed to get old bangers off the roads, is that older cars are generally owned by people in lower-income groups because that is what they can afford.
At the moment, only those who can afford it, with or without the grant, are investing in EVs. Someone with an old car, even if they qualified for a grant, may not be able to pay a loan to make an EV purchase and so will not apply for the subsidy in the first place.
This means that not only is taxpayer money being given out to people who can afford one way or another to change their vehicle to an EV, but also it does not do a whole lot to reduce the number of bangers out there.
In terms of the latest scheme, what is also odd, is that the subsidies will be given out in a draw, which does not make sense. Surely applications should be examined on the basis that the oldest cars are taken out of circulation first, or is the government just in a rush to meet EU targets?
That aside, one of the incentives on offer is the chance to scrap an old vehicle in exchange for bus tickets or buying an electric bike.
It’s really hard to see anyone choosing to give up even an old banger that can get them to and from work, in exchange for free bus tickets that could add an extra one or two hours to a daily commute given the current state of public transport.
Ditto for a bike, electric or not, grant or not, where there is no proper infrastructure for cycling and where danger lurks at every turn. Four cyclists were killed on the roads in 2022, according to police.
Considering that the number of people who use a bike as their main mode of transport and not just as a hobby on designated cycle lanes, is an ultra-tiny minority of road users, this figure is relatively high. Without making the roads safer, more cyclists will mean more deaths.
It’s one thing to want to come top of the class in rolling out new green technologies. It’s another to do it right.