Increasingly this year, we’ve been hearing a lot of hype about electric cars, which I’ll call EVs from here on, taking over Maltese roads, with Prime Minister Joseph Muscat going so far as to say that, “Malta’s changeover to electric cars will be as drastic as the time when the country changed to euros.”

Which is all very well and good.

Unlike many petrolheads and car nerds, I’m a big fan of EVs, have been for a while, and am all in favour of switching our dependence on cars running on fossil fuels in favour of cleaner alternatives.

For example, this almost $200,000 Tesla Model S Shooting Brake by Dutch coachbuilder RemetzCar is my favourite electric car ever and I would do *anything* to own one.

However…

To anyone who knows the slightest thing about EVs, this kind of talk from our PM is going to ring hollow and sound like pointless, hollow, vacuous bullshit which doesn’t really mean anything.

To anyone who likes to think things through with logic, what the PM said will strike them otherwise, namely misguided, unschooled, and dangerous.

Here’s why:

1 – Our electrical grid is still dirty

The electric car is an amazing vehicle in that apart from the environmental toll it creates during its production, it could, theoretically, be entirely carbon neutral to drive every day.

But that’s provided you’re charging the car from a carbon-friendly source of electricity, which we in Malta have precious little of. Remember we still burn oil in our power stations.

So, this talk of cleaning up the environment by taking away the internal combustion vehicles on the road is by and large, hokum, not if we aren’t ready to overhaul the entire electrical grid first.

And since we’re on the subject of charging….

2 – Exactly where will we charge all our electric cars?

Let’s face it – the Maltese now OVERWHELMINGLY live in apartments, not in quaint semi-detached terraced houses with garages and car ports.

Therefore, the Maltese overwhelmingly CAN NOT reliably charge their cars.

Of course, I can still see people dangling extension cables from windows and balconies to charge their EV, but that’s because it’s Malta, and not because it’s recommended or safe to do so.

Remember also that for the quickest charging, 240V won’t be enough. You will need Three Phase power, which requires applications with ARMS and, you guessed it, mo’ money.

But wait, we have free public charging spots don’t we?

Yes we do! There’s 225 of them, but you can’t use those, because they belong to GO2, somehow, even though they’re on public parking spots.

Otherwise, there are free ones, I believe 2 per village, but the best info I can find is from 2013, which parades the fantastic number of 20. Let’s assume it is 2 per village; that’s still nowhere enough to regularly charge even 20 vehicles, let alone 2000.

3 – What about all the new petrol stations?

Surely the fact that we’re allowing so many petrol stations to be built on Outside Development Zone land runs counter to our ambition to be an electrical car nation, no?

I don’t even have anything to add to this.

4 – Who will service all these EVs?

I’ve looked into getting a Tesla for many years, and for years to come, I won’t be able to afford one.

Money aside though, one of the biggest pitfalls is servicing.

EVs need FAR LESS servicing than internal combustion engine cars, but it is FAR MORE specialised. It needs special training, special tools, and has its own special dangers.

Yes, for the most part you’ll only be servicing consumables such as brakes and tyres, BUT in the case of more substantial repairs, which will happen if EVs become the dominant mode of transport, we will need ARMIES of skilled and trained EV mechanics.

5 – Where will the batteries go?

Batteries have a lifetime, and once expended will need to be disposed of.

And I don’t think I’m hurting anyone by saying that we Maltese can’t manage our own garbage. We have Magħtab as testament to that, 45 years of waste-made-mountain.

We can’t even properly recycle our plastics, nor can we collect organic waste without the scheme being hare-brained and half baked.

We don’t even have a proper, clear, KNOWN-BY-ALL policy for little batteries like the 9V above, or the one in your phone or camera, let alone something that’s about two hundred times the size of your laptop battery, for ONE ELECTRIC CAR.

So forgive me for not trusting the same people who allow the Civic Amenity sites to become dangerous junkyards with correctly and safely disposing of hundreds of toxic, dangerous EV batteries.

6 – This stinks of shirking responsibility

We’ve been here before you know.

Remember the PV heyday, and I don’t mean Axis and Coconut.

I mean photovoltaics, and the heady-days when Government decided it’s a fantastic idea for it to foist the responsibility of at least attempting to pretend to meet EU clean energy targets onto the people.

How?

By subsidising photo voltaic cells, relaxing planning around them, guaranteeing cheaper bills, or you could even sell electricity back into the grid.

They did that so YOU would be in charge of lowering carbon emissions for the country, and they wouldn’t have to get into the headache that is rebuilding a country’s entire electrical supply within the reasonable deadlines the EU gave us. Let’s not forget that “Enemalta Corporation conceded that three of its four plants at Marsa exceeded their 20,000-hour life span, a concession granted to Malta before EU accession in 2004 to allow the plant’s phasing out.”

How is this the same?

In the absence of a mass transit masterplan, something which any city half the size of Malta should have, this is a shifting of responsibility from Government to the private individual.

It is Government’s responsibility to plan how the increased population of this country moves around, goes to work, and does so in the best, most efficient, and environmentally friendly methods possible.

It is not my responsibility to do that for them.

My responsibility is to the environment and my fellow humans, and to my pocket. Government is barely able to motivate us to go EVs on the pocket part of that equation, let alone anything as altruistic as environmental or humanistic concerns.

Since the days of yellow and orange buses belching noxious fumes, nothing has changed.

No one is really planning out a solution to decrease the traffic; no one is thinking in terms of socially how our society is idiotically bound to the car; no one seems to realise that we have it all wrong and that we shouldn’t be widening roads – we should be planning mass transit solutions that actually work; and no one can think of anything better than some EV water to chuck onto this fire. Which will not go out.

Mark

Mark

Mark runs a digital marketing agency, which is as far as you can get from nerding out on cars. That hasn’t stopped him from spending afternoons underneath cars pretending to know what he’s doing, before calling a knowledgeable friend. He doesn’t understand SUVs, and will try convince you, unsuccessfully, that you’re better off with a fast wagon.