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Government must speed up electric vehicle roll out or risk missing net zero target

(Alamy)

4 min read

Electric Vehicle (EV) policy has been high on the agenda in recent months with the Prime Minister’s announcement back in September delaying the phase out of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 to 2035 and the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate coming into force in early 2024.

The mandate set out incremental percentages of new zero emission cars that manufacturers will need to sell between now and 2035, when all new vehicles sold will need to be emission-free. The question the Environment and Climate Change Committee examined was whether people are ready to adopt those EVs and – given the importance of them doing so to both reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality – what more the government needs to do to help them to do so.

As the highest CO2 emitting sector in the United Kingdom, it is crucial that surface transport is decarbonised and the transition to EVs is a critical part of that. But for many consumers the cost of purchasing a new EV is unachievable, especially when compared to petrol and diesel equivalents. That fact, despite the lifetime costs of EVs likely being cheaper than petrol and diesel cars, is a major barrier.  

Like other European countries with good levels of EV uptake we are calling on the government to introduce grants to help with the upfront cost of a targeted range of EVs until the market matures and EV prices come down.

Our inquiry also found that second-hand EVs may be unaffordable for the large majority of prospective buyers. This matters as far more cars are sold second hand than new. We have recommended that the government investigate approaches to incentivise the purchase of second-hand EVs including options such as grants or interest-free loans.

Up to 40 per cent of UK households are unable to install home chargers and are entirely reliant on the public charging network which in many areas of the UK is insufficient. The government has missed its own targets for the number of EV chargepoints at motorway service stations and the provision of public chargepoints across the rest of the UK is variable.

To get back on track, the government needs to turbo-charge the rollout of public charging. This will mean further supporting local authorities to deliver charging equitably across the regions of the UK, including extending the Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure [BPE1] funding for three more years. We also recommend implementing new powers to direct Local Authorities with low chargepoint distribution to prepare EV strategies, as well as reviewing and updating planning regulations to support chargepoint installation.

The government must also address the fairness issue – public charge points are charged at a higher rate of VAT than those using home chargers. We recommend that VAT rates are equalised so that EV drivers without access to home chargers are not unfairly discriminated against.

The transition to EVs is a complex challenge which requires a sustained and coordinated approach, led by government across a number of industries and sectors, including Local Government, car manufacturers, charging operators, waste management and the National Grid. Government needs to work with them to overcome the barriers we highlighted if they are to make a success of the EV revolution. As well as address the misinformation out there about EVs, through accurate information which also sets out the many benefits of EVs.

Only three per cent of cars on UK roads are currently electric. It’s going to be a challenge to deliver the EV revolution and it’s not helped by pronouncements by the PM that achieving net zero “is going to be hard”.

Meeting the 2035 target for emission-free cars requires a rapid recharge of the current government strategy. A failure to act on our recommendations will mean the UK will not reap the benefits of better air quality and will be stuck in the slow lane on its climate change targets.

 

Baroness Parminter, Liberal Democrat peer and chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee 

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