Electric vehicles at a spaghetti junction

If you think you had a bad Tuesday, just think of the UK’s environmental reporters.

Yesterday marked the release of Her Majesty’s Government’s Net Zero Strategy, alongside a swathe of other green-fingered documents. The total page count? 1,868, and counting (h/t to Simon Evans for putting that sheet together). That’s longer than Thomas Mann’s epic Joseph and His Brothers, which took over 17 years for the German author to write, and is marginally a better read.

A cynic might suggest that such a document dump is designed to avoid scrutiny. After all, who has the time, or the concentration level, to read anything longer than a Tweet nowadays? But if that were the case, the government probably wouldn’t be committing chart crimes so early on in its flagship 368-page report. (Or maybe they simply thought no one would get that far – it’s on page 67, to be exact.)

Now, we know electric vehicles are a key part of the government’s Net Zero Strategy, with £620m being set aside for grants and EV infrastructure, such as street charging, larger fire hydrants to help extinguish battery fires and earbuds so you don’t have to listen to owners bang on about how they’re saving the planet.

As with all industrial policy, there will be both positive and negative second order effects. For instance, more EVs means potentially more stress on the grid at peak charging times, which could induce more investment in greener electrical capacity, leading to further decarbonisation. Or, it could simply lead to blackouts. (Place your bets!)

But what you might not know is that these feedback loops could be expressed in perhaps the messiest chart we’ve ever seen:

What are the odds an associate at one of the big 10 consulting firms made this monstrosity? And, to that point, was it made in MS Paint? Either that, or someone spent hours crafting those uneven shaped boxes for each caption which, like an electric car with a 100kw+ battery, doesn’t strike us as particularly efficient.

Still, at least it’s a sign that there’s still some joined up in thinking in government. Even if it’s hard to follow.


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