A supply of millions of new electric vehicles (EVs), a market place for buyrs and adequate EV charging sites are cited as the key elements to a full transition to electric vehicles in the UK, according to European clean transport lobby group Transport & Environment (T&E).
While the above requirements for a clean transport transition may seem obvious, it is how to ensure that they are all in place that is the subject of a new submission to the UK government’s zero-emission vehicles and road pricing inquiry in the wake of its 2030 ban on fossil-fuelled vehicle sales.
The UK vowed in late 2020 to bring forward its 2035 ban of new petrol and diesel car sales to 2030, opening an inquiry into the implications of accelerating the shift to 100% zero-emissions vehicle sales.
The UK is not the only jurisdiction to implement such a target. Norway, where at least seven in ten car sales are electric thanks to three decades of policy geared towards an electric mobility transition under its belt, set its own target to ban petrol and diesel car sales by 2025 – just four years away.
For the UK, where EVs as a percentage of sales are now in the double digits, an estimated 2 million electric cars a year need to be sold if it is to achieve its 2030 transition target, and it will be accompanied by a reduction in fuel excise to the tune of £40 billion ($A72 billion) a year.
The UK has already made some progress in ensuring there are enough electric cars to sell, thanks to its (slightly watered down) version of the EU’s strict vehicle emissions regulations.
These regulations have pushed carmakers to promote electric vehicles, which along with the UK’s plug-in car grant (PICG) carrot have pushed EV sales along increasing by 140% from 2019 to 2020.
But while the PICG has been welcomed and effective, there is a mounting cost. T&E notes that the cost of plug-in car grants will reach £1 billion ($A1.8 billion) in 2021 and while this must inevitably give way, some sort of incentive must replace it or risk the market stalling.
T&E’s suggestion is to replace it with a bonus-malus scheme, such as that which France has been operating with success since 2008 and which is also being proposed in New Zealand.
In a bonus-malus EV scheme, buyers of electric vehicles receive a tax break while buyers of petrol and diesel cars have to pay more tax.
This way, taxes not received by the government to encourage electric vehicle adoption are replaced by taxes collected for ICE sales (although only up to a point – presumably by the time EV sales outnumber ICE sales there will be no more need for financial incentives).
But getting people to buy electric cars, and enough cars to be bought, is just one hurdle.
As T&E points out, charging infrastructure must not only be plentiful, it must be appropriately distributed, particularly in cities where a lack of off-street private parking means charging at home overnight is not an option.
While the clean transport group says that the UK already has enough chargers to cater for expected electric vehicle adoption up until 2025,including 8,000 public AC chargers, 21,000 public DC fast chargers and 1,300 “rapid” chargers that operate at over 100kW charge rates.
But more work must be done to ensure networks are distributed evenly in all local government areas, it says, by providing tax breaks to companies installing EV chargers instead of direct funding by government, and developing rules for new buildings to require adequate cabling be installed regardless of the number of carparks.
The submission also deals with the subject of road user charging, to offset the decline in fuel excise – which will reduce sooner than in Australia where “EV taxes” are being touted despite the very small number of EV sales.
T&E argues that lower cost of ownership of electric cars will equate to more money in the pockets of consumers, which will then mean higher VAT returns as it is spent on other goods and services, and also points to a Greenpeace study that forecasts more jobs and a more active economy arising from the ICE ban.
It also says that, unlike in Australia where the states of Victoria and South Australia are looking to penalise private EV and plug-in hybrid owners, it considers a road pricing scheme should first be applied to trucks and vans to test distance-based pricing before applying it to the wider private vehicle segment.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She has been writing about electric vehicles since 2018, and has a keen interest in the role that zero-emissions transport has to play in sustainability. She has participated in podcasts such as Download This Show with Marc Fennell and Shirtloads of Science with Karl Kruszelnicki and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum. Bridie also owns a Tesla Model 3 and has it available for hire on evee.com.au.