Committee warns Government has “mountain to climb” on EV switch

The chair of the Public Accounts Committee has warned that the Government has a “mountain to climb” to make all cars and vans sold in the UK low emissions.

In a report published today (19 May) the Committee says Government has set ambitious targets to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and for all new cars to be zero-emission from 2035, but with just 11% of new car registrations for ultra-low emission cars in 2020 it will be a “huge challenge” to get this to 100% in the next 14 years.

Achieving this ambition will require convincing consumers of the affordability and practicality of zero-emission cars, with up-front prices still too high for many in comparison to petrol or diesel equivalents, and addressing the current very uneven take-up across the UK.

Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee, said: “The Government has a mountain to climb to get to all new cars in the UK emitting zero carbon in the next 14 years: to convince consumers and make the cars appealing, to make the car industry environmentally and socially compliant, to build the necessary infrastructure to support this radical shift and possibly biggest of all, to wean itself off carbon revenues. Yet once again what we’ve got is a Government throwing up a few signs around base camp – and no let-up in demand for oversized, petrol- guzzling vehicles.”

Although the number of charging points is increasing rapidly, PAC says many more will be required within a very short period of time to support the envisaged growth in electric cars in the UK, and it is not convinced the government is on track with this crucial infrastructure.

The Committee says that the Department for Transport (DfT) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) will need to do much more to consider the practical application of this large societal change, and put consumers at the heart of it.

PAC has called for both Departments to work closely together noting: “To date the Departments have no clear published plan setting out how they propose to manage these consequential impacts, who they will need to work with, and the timetables for any action.  The onus is on the Departments to show they are on top of all the repercussions and focused on supporting consumers to shift to electric as they work towards the government’s ambitious goal.” 

The Committee wants the Departments to be on top of the other consequences arising from this transition, including the impact on the skills and capabilities required to support the changeover in the UK vehicle fleet; the environmental and social implications of the switch-over both in the UK and across global supply chains; the impact on future power needs; and the impact on the government tax-take due to the loss of fuel duties.

Meg Hillier added: “This isn’t about more targets with no plan behind them inevitably getting missed – it’s about averting the real-world challenges that are bearing down on all of us. The Government needs to get the country behind it and lead the way in the global race against climate change.”

Reacting to the publication of the report, RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes said: “While the 2030 deadline is a huge challenge, the number of drivers choosing electric vehicles is higher than ever and with more new models coming on to the market, the proportion will only grow further. The Government’s plug-in car grant provides some incentive to purchase an electric car but there is no commitment to retain this beyond 2023 at present and we would encourage the Government to continue looking at ways to incentivise take-up. A strong network of fast, reliable and easy-to-use public chargepoints which allow for contactless payment, alongside measures to help those without off-street parking, are undoubtedly vital pieces to the jigsaw of making an electric vehicle become the default choice in the next few years.”

You can read the full report here:

Image: Shutterstock.

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