An influential Commons select committee has called on the Government to bring in a clear and precise target for sales of new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032.
The recommendation, included in the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s (BEIS) Electric Vehicles: Driving the Transition report, would replace the Government’s 2040 targets for zero emission cars, which are “vague and unambitious”.
Rachel Reeves MP, chairman of BEIS, said: “For all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the Government’s deeds do not match the ambitions of its words.
“The IPCC report was clear on the need to encourage changes in consumer behaviour, including increasing the switch to electric vehicles, to help decarbonise our economy.
“But the UK Government’s targets on zero-emissions vehicles are unambitious and vague, giving little clarity or incentive to industry or the consumer to invest in electric cars.
“If we are serious about being EV world leaders, the Government must come forward with a target of new sales of cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032.”
The report found that the poor provision of charge points is one of the greatest barriers to growing the UK EV market.
The committee called on the Government to ensure charge points are provided nationwide and help local authorities access greater technical and financial support to develop charging infrastructure across the country, including in remote and rural areas.
Reeves added: "Our EV charging infrastructure is simply not fit for purpose. We cannot expect consumers to overcome ‘range anxiety’ and switch to electric vehicles if they cannot be confident of finding convenient, reliable points to regularly charge their cars.
“The Government cannot simply will the ends and leave local government, or private companies, to deliver the means.
“The Government needs to get a grip and lead on coordinating the financial support and technical know-how necessary for local authorities to promote this infrastructure and help ensure that electric cars are an attractive option for consumers".
The report also found the current grant system for EVs provides inconsistent messages about the Government’s ambitions for EVs and recommends that the Government align new fiscal changes with the zero emissions target.
The Government last week announced that the plug-in car grant would be cut by £1,000 to £3,500 for zero emission cars and no longer apply to hybrid cars with a range of less than 70 zero emission miles, from November 12.
It said the reduction in funding was a sign of the scheme’s success and also reflected the “recent reductions in the price of electric vehicles”.
In all, just 19 cars will be eligible for the plug-in car grant, with 20 models no longer qualifying under the new rules.
However, Reeves said the Department for Transport’s slashing of the plug-in grant scheme drives the incentives of buying an electric vehicle into reverse.
She added: “Cutting support is a perverse way to encourage drivers to move to non-polluting cars.
“This is only the latest sign of the Government’s inconsistent approach to developing the market for electric vehicles.
“The Committee on Climate Change has made clear in their judgements on the Clean Growth Strategy and the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy that these plans do not go far enough to tackle transport emissions, putting the UK's long-term carbon reduction targets at risk.
“A more joined-up and consistent approach is needed from Government if the UK is to seize the business opportunities of electric vehicles and deliver carbon emissions reductions."
Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “Government’s 2040 ambition was already extremely challenging, so to fast-track that by eight years would be nigh on impossible. We said we need world class infrastructure and world class incentives to have any chance of delivering so the recent cuts to the Plug-in Car Grant and lack of charging facilities – both of which are severely criticised by the Committee – show just how difficult it would be to accelerate this transition.
“Zero emission vehicles make up just 0.6% of the market meaning consumer appetite would have to grow by some 17,000% in just over a decade. This is unrealistic and rejects the evidence put forward by SMMT on behalf of the industry, which is investing billions into these technologies but which recognises consumers need greater confidence and support if they are to buy these vehicles in the numbers we all want.”
BVRLA chief executive Gerry Keaney said: “The Government’s electric vehicle strategy needs to move from one based on visions to one based on actions.
“If India, China and Scotland feel able to set a target of banning new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, then the UK should be brave enough to meet that challenge as well.
“As the purchasers of more than 50% of all new vehicles sold in the UK each year, the vehicle rental and leasing industry is more than capable of delivering this transition to zero emission transport – if the government can provide the right supportive environment.
“The Government needs to do a lot more than just boost the roll-out of electric charging points.
“We need a comprehensive and joined up set of national and local incentives for electric vehicle users, plus a clear roadmap for how they will be taxed.
“At the moment, we have a misguided strategy that is withdrawing incentives and raising taxes for electric vehicles at the exact time we are trying to drive uptake.
“The coming Budget offers a perfect opportunity for the Government to address these glaring policy gaps.
“The whole automotive industry is speaking with one voice on this, but no-one in Government appears to be listening.”
RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “We understand the rationale behind wanting to bring forward the end of the sale of conventionally fuelled vehicles to 2032, but this would have to be matched with bold and decisive action from the Government that actually makes hitting the new date possible.
“There are still significant barriers that are putting drivers off alternatively fuelled vehicles – these include the upfront cost, access to charging infrastructure, and ease and time to charge a vehicle.
“Recent government announcements, in particular the recent decision to cut the plug-in car grant for alternative-fuelled vehicles, could have the unfortunate effect of discouraging motorists from opting for one.
“We think the Government should look again at this decision, given pure electric cars are too expensive for most people when compared to petrol or diesel equivalents.
“There is also an argument for reduced VAT rates on the sales of the cleanest vehicles to stimulate greater interest, alongside local policies such as free parking for owners of such vehicles.
“It is unfortunate that the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act for example, did not go further in requiring more locations to provide charging infrastructure.
“We would like to see a much more ambitious programme to roll out charging infrastructure in more locations, including within new housing developments, at shopping centre car parks and on-street.”
Renewable Energy Association
Daniel Brown, policy manager at the Renewable Energy Association, said: “If we want to build EVs in the future, as the Government has outlined, then we first need to build markets for them.
“To do so requires consumers feeling confident that they can reliably access chargers at a range of locations, including at home, on street, and in hubs.
"One key way to support the range of EV charging developers is to ensure that there are enough vehicles on the roads using their charge points.
“Benefit-in-kind rates for electric company cars are currently heading in the wrong direction, up to a frustrating 16% next year, and should be reduced to 2% in the Autumn Statement to bring us in line with Germany, the Netherlands and Ireland.
"We are supportive of the committee’s views that the Government should take a more direct role in coordinating a ‘whole systems’ approach to ensure the strategic provision of charging infrastructure and introduce a strategy to support local authorities who are at the front lines of much of the development of our charging network.
“Rural charging could be a difficulty to deploy in some situations and it is key that we find ways to tackle this potential market failure, possibly through the previously announced Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund."
David Martell, chief executive of BP Chargemaster, said: “We welcomed the invitation from the BEIS committee to present evidence to its enquiry and we are pleased to see many of our concerns are addressed in its findings.
“In terms of charging infrastructure, while the committee endorses the provisions in the Automated and Electric Vehicle Act 2018 to ‘ensure interoperability’, it ignores the fact that this ease of access already exists thanks to the Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017, which mandate ‘ad hoc’, pay-as-you-go access to all public charging points – so the aim of interoperability has already been achieved with existing legislation.
“The committee’s finding that EV charging infrastructure is ‘not fit for purpose’ does not correlate with the overall customer experience and appears to be based on outdated information, and figures relating only to publicly-funded charging points, ignoring the fact that the majority of new infrastructure is being privately-funded.”
Morten Thaysen, clean air campaigner at Greenpeace said: “The IPCC made it very clear that we’re now playing catch up to limit irreversible damage from climate change.
“UK emissions from transport have reduced just 2% since 1990, and a growing chorus of advisers in climate, energy and industry are saying a phase out date of 2040 is too late.
“We need 100% electric car and van sales by 2030 if the government is serious about meeting its obligations under the Paris agreement."
ClientEarth spokesman Simon Alcock said: “To tackle the dangerous and illegal levels of air pollution in this country we need far more ambition from the government.
“Calling time on petrol and diesel sales earlier would be a fine example of this but we need immediate action to tackle the air pollution that’s currently seriously damaging our health.
“It beggars belief that the government is making it more expensive to buy cleaner vehicles when we have illegal levels of pollution in our towns and cities by slashing the Plug-in Grant scheme. This is another example of the government failing to protect the people of this country from breathing dirty air.”