Scotland would need to be entirely covered by wind farms in order to power all of Britain’s electric cars, according to a leading academic.
Jack Ponton, emeritus professor of engineering at Edinburgh University, said another 16,000 turbines would be required in order to replace petrol and diesel cars with electric vehicles.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to phase out the internal combustion engine by 2032 – eight years ahead of the rest of the UK.
But Prof Ponton said that, even if the issues of power generation and charging points were sorted out, the National Grid could simply not cope with the increased demand.
He said: “It is a nice idea as electric cars are much more efficient, cleaner and actually simpler devices than the current internal combustion engine vehicles.
“Technically, it is an excellent idea. But the problem starts when you begin to think, ‘Where are you going to get the energy to run them?’.
“I’ve seen three different estimates for the amount of new generating capacity that we would need if were going to have all the cars in Britain running on electricity.
“The most detailed calculation says we’d be looking at five Hinkley nuclear stations to run this. It would be the best way, the most efficient way to get electricity because nuclear power stations can run 90 per cent of the time.
“If you want to do this with wind turbines, you are talking about 16,000 more wind turbines, four times as many as we have at the moment, and I’ve estimated that would occupy some 90,000 square kilometres, which is approximately the size of Scotland.”
The academic – a member of Scientific Alliance Scotland, a group which promotes open-minded debate on issues such as climate change – believes the plan is “unworkable”.
He said Britain’s electricity distribution network was simply not built with such a huge demand in mind and would need replacing at a massive cost and disruption.
Prof Ponton also shot down the idea of providing charging points along the length of the A9, described by transport minister Humza Yousaf as “Scotland’s first electric highway”.
He said: “Motoring in the Highlands cannot be based on average calculations because it doesn’t work like that.
“You get a lot of people in the tourist season but not many for the rest of the year.
“Typically, if you wanted to put a full charge on your car, you’d stop at the service station for half-an-hour rather than 10 minutes.
“There’s certainly enough places to put up charging points but you’d get a lot of queues, which would not do the tourist business any good, and with that you are going to get charger rage incidents.
“And what happens if you run out of charge? How’s that going to work? It has simply not been thought out.”
Last night a spokesman for Transport Scotland said: “This vision is underpinned by our recently published ‘Switched on Scotland Action Plan’ and builds on the range of incentives we already provide to local authorities, businesses and individuals.
“We are also finalising our Scottish Energy Strategy which will consider further the implications and opportunities of electrification of cars and vans.”
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