They may be run on recycled cooking oil – surely a marketing opportunity for an enterprising chip shop owner – but the use of generators is an obvious stop-gap measure that exposes just how much needs to be done across the country to create the necessary infrastructure for the rapidly rising number of electric cars.
And for overseas delegates who consider the UK a leader in the fight against climate change, it sends a message that they may not need to try quite so hard to keep up and undercuts the symbolism of the cars themselves.
Colin Howden, of sustainable transport group Transform Scotland, said the generators revealed “the complete lack of preparedness for the wholesale switch away from fossil fuel cars that we require”.
Apart from cost, the main reasons holding people back from buying an electric car include ‘range anxiety’ and concern that they will not be able to find a charging point, potentially ending up stranded with a flat battery.
The former concern is diminishing as the range of many electric vehicles (EVs) increases. In June, a poll of 7,000 drivers in the UK and eight other European countries found that EV drivers were actually driving further, with an average of 8,825 miles a year, than their petrol and diesel counterparts, who clocked up 8,451 miles.
However, the need for charging points is a pressing one. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, the UK needs to install 700 new ones every day to cater for the increasing popularity of electric.
Of course, many people will simply charge their cars at home but this is a new and growing source of demand for electricity that the UK will need to meet – and quickly – if it is to avoid an even greater problem.
Generators to power a few hundred cars for Cop26 is not ideal; but half the nation driving around on electricity produced in coal or gas-fired power stations would be a disaster for the fight against climate change.