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Tue, 4 August 2020

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Mass uptake of electric vehicles is crucial to meet our commitment to Net Zero

Mass uptake of electric vehicles is crucial to meet our commitment to Net Zero

Beatrice Bigois, MD for Customers | EDF Energy

3 min read Member content

EDF Energy’s Managing Director for Customers, Beatrice Bigois, discusses why it’s important to maintain momentum as electric vehicles begin to make their mark on the mainstream.

The race is on to create a clean and sustainable future where our reliance on fossil fuels is reduced and electricity is produced in a low-carbon way. We support the Government’s ambitions to reach Net Zero. To succeed however, entire systems, including transport, are going to need to be electrified which will completely transform how and where we use electricity.

The electricity sector has already made significant progress in reducing emissions by moving to a lower-carbon generation mix. Over the last two decades emissions from the sector have reduced by around half. In contrast, transport is the highest emission industry. We must now apply the same determination we had in transforming where our electricity comes from to the cars that we drive.

The ‘Attenborough effect’ has helped prompt more people to seek out the opportunity electric vehicles (EVs) will bring. In Norway, EVs made up nearly half of all new car sales last year. Here in the UK, the figure was around 2%. Clearly, there remains a lot of work to be done to convince motorists to make the switch, which is why it is critical that policymakers continue making EVs as attractive as possible.

Even though many drivers want to reduce their emissions, some are put off by fears about range, charging points and cost.

These are all challenges that we can overcome. Costs will fall as technology develops and there are now more public electric charging stations than petrol in the UK. Additionally, recent research we published showed that typical drivers could save around £40,000 in their lifetime on fuel if they switched to an EV.

In order to accelerate the transition and acceptance of EVs, we need to see current purchase incentives retained, such as upfront grants for cars and chargers or tax relief for business. Without them, uptake will be slow and ownership of EVs will be just for the wealthy. Incentives are already having a positive impact on registrations of 100% electric vehicles; sales are up 93% in year-to-date registrations compared with the same timeframe last year.

These incentives must be retained. Smart charger costs, for example, can be significant but the current level of incentive is helping to make these more affordable. Integrating these chargers into the network in a smart way will be important for the grid stability. Where these chargers work in both directions - charging car batteries or returning power to the grid - we can easily imagine how they could also help manage times of high demand.

As incentives continue, investment increases, technology improves and costs come down. One could argue that, mainly thanks to incentives, domestic solar panels have now become attainable for a vast number of people compared to two decades ago.   

The road to the mass uptake is clearing as obstacles are being removed and public understanding turns to the many benefits EVs can bring. They will form a key part of this country’s commitment to be Net Zero and we must ensure the transition works for all drivers so we can all play our part in a cleaner future.


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