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Put the pedal to the metal for the transition to electric vehicles

Ralph Palmer, Electric Vehicle and Fleets Officer | Transport & Environment

3 min read Partner content

The Zero Emission Vehicle mandate, starting in January 2024, means virtually all cars sold by the early 2030s will be electric helping cut emissions and support British jobs 

70% of transport’s greenhouse gas emissions in the UK comes from cars and vans. At heart, there are two approaches to cutting these emissions – stop people using their cars and vans or make those vehicles zero emission. The UK has chosen the latter and from January 2024, a rising share of new cars and vans sold will need to have zero tailpipe emissions.  

Starting at 22% share in 2024, the proportion of zero emission vehicles sold will rise quickly to over 80% by the early 2030s. This will make it uneconomic for mass market car makers to stick with selling petrol or diesel cars by the early 2030s. This one policy is the biggest single measure the UK has to cut greenhouse gases.  

The ZEV mandate means that the decision by the Prime Minister to push back the formal end date for sales of new petrol and diesel cars will have only minimal climate impact. Most car makers already have their own targets, with Jaguar, Stellantis (owners of Vauxhall) and Ford, all committed to 100% electric by 2030. And virtually all car makers recognise that going electric makes the most sense for their business models. 

But the Prime Minister’s pushback could make it harder for car makers in the short-term, adding to the feeling of uncertainty about electric cars that some media outlets are keen to create.  

At a time when the public needed to be reassured that the transition was not only good for the climate but for drivers too, the Prime Minister sent confusing mixed messages. Research from Auto Trader has found that 7 in 10 people mistakenly believe that the phase out will also apply to used vehicles. They also found that the announcement from the Prime Minister has delayed when people would intend to make their first BEV purchase.  

But the pace of electrification among new private car buyers is slow – the Government cannot afford to think it can take a backseat once the ZEV mandate is in place and hope that the market delivers. The Government should be seeking to build public confidence and accelerate the transition; that means tackling misinformation and knowledge gaps among the general public around BEVs and removing barriers for charge point operators to scale up the charging network, and exploring ways to support middle and lower income households to make the switch in the coming years. 

The transition to electric vehicles should be a win-win for climate and UK industry. The UK already produces almost every component required to manufacture zero emission vehicles –from batteries to power electronics to software. The ZEV mandate is world leading but creating doubt and uncertainty undermines both investor and consumer confidence. The lack of a clear industrial strategy for electric vehicles adds to this. Now is not the time for hitting the brakes, politicians and policy makers need to put the pedal to the metal and champion the transition to clean, green transport as part of the UK’s industrial and climate strategy. 

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