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Government in the “slow lane” on electric car policy

By Charlie Rattigan
06 February 2024
Energy, Transport & Infrastructure
electric vehicle

The House of Lords is not shy about criticising government strategies, and a report released today by its Environment and Climate Change Committee is no different. The report, titled 'Electric Vehicle (EV) Strategy: Rapid Recharge Needed', strongly critiques the government's approach to electric vehicle strategy and rollout.

The cross-party group said in a report that if “significant” barriers to buying an EV are not addressed urgently, “the government’s objective of mass ownership… will not be met”.

In summary, the report sets out four key recommendations:

• Tackle disparity in costs between electric and petrol cars – including grants to support consumers buying affordable models.

• Turbo-charge the charging infrastructure rollout by reviewing outdated planning regulations

• Ensure charging is reasonably priced, convenient, and reliable

• Invest in UK recycling to ensure that recycling is undertaken by responsible operators

Particularly, members on the committee called on the government to enhance initiatives promoting the adoption of electric vehicles, addressing consumer concerns regarding vehicle costs, battery lifespan, and the accessibility of charging infrastructure.

The report urged ministers to intervene to address the discrepancy in initial expenses between electric vehicles and traditional petrol and diesel cars, exploring targeted grants as a means to encourage the adoption of electric cars.

There were also specific concerns raised over the second-hand market noting most vehicles available for resale are sports utility vehicles (SUVs) or cars costing more than £40,0000 sold on by businesses and early adopters of EVs, meaning they are “out of reach of most consumers”.

Regarding electric vehicle (EV) charging points, the committee concluded that the availability of public access points is significantly variable. It pointed to outdated planning regulations as a major barrier impeding a more widespread rollout of EV charging infrastructure. No real shock there.

In fairness, the government has just recently unveiled new initiatives aimed at expediting the deployment of vehicle chargepoints. These include grants for schools, proposals to streamline installation processes, and additional funding allocated to five more local authorities to enhance chargepoint infrastructure.

While highlighting the current practical barriers to industry growth, the committee also took a critical stance on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's negative messaging regarding challenges of emission reduction, noting his vows to end “anti-car measures” and delay the ban on new petrol and diesel car sales from 2030 to 2035.

This rhetoric, alongside conflicting claims and often misinformation, is without a doubt contributing to a cloud of uncertainty over the industry and hindering progress.

Effective communication about the benefits of electric vehicles will help the wider public make well-informed decisions about their choice of vehicles as we enter a crucial decade.

Essentially, the report issues a pressing call to action, urging the government to promptly and comprehensively tackle the several challenges at hand in order to reach net zero targets. The findings not only highlight practical impediments to the electric vehicle rollout but also underscore concerns related to messaging and communication, influencing public preferences.