A new report released by the Environment and Climate Change Committee has called on the government to update its EV strategy with the technology’s adoption falling behind in the race to net zero.
With the government having scaled back its vision for the decarbonisation of transportation, namely the delay in the ban of sale of internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEs) to 2035, questions have been raised as to whether the government is doing enough to incentivise the transition to electric transportation.
Indeed, it is worth noting that UK’s EV market passed a new milestone by reaching over a million battery electric vehicles (BEV) on the roads in January 2024, as researched by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). But this is still behind where the UK must be in decarbonising transportation, with just 3% of all cars currently being electric.
EV prices continue to dissuade potential adopters
There are a variety of reasons as to why the EV sector is stalling. The Committee’s report delves deeper into some of the trends and perhaps one of the prominent reasons is due to the prices of EVs.
According to the report, EVs are still more expensive than their petrol and diesel counterparts, leading to disparity between those that can adopt the clean mobility solution and those that cannot. This is referenced in the report with the Committee stating that “significant barriers exist for the remaining majority of drivers—particularly those on lower incomes”.
The early upfront cost appears to be the biggest stumbling block amongst prospective buyers with an Auto Trader poll indicating that, of 4,000 people, 56% see this as the biggest barrier. As such, registrations of new EV cars are also behind the UK’s neighbouring countries. Between January and November 2023, the proportion of new car registrations that were EVs stood at 16.3%.
In contrast, France had an adoption rate of 16.4%, the Netherlands had 29.9%, Germany had 18% and Norway, one of the leaders in the EV space, stood at 83.3%.
Cost again is one of the main drivers of this growing disparity. The report reads that “two issues underlie this. First, there is a smaller range of affordable EVs than ICE vehicles in the UK market. Second, even EVs at more affordable prices are typically more expensive than their ICE equivalents (primarily due to the costs of producing batteries)”.
Highlighting this issue, the Committee stated that the number of EV models that were below a price range of £30,000 fell from 11 at the end of 2022 to nine at the start of September 2023. In comparison, there were a total of 87 new ICE models available for under £30,000 in the same month. Add to the less urgent need to transition to an EV due to the delay on the ICE sale ban and many have been turning their attention to the more affordable fossil-fuel powered vehicles.
It is worth noting that a second-hand EV market appears to be growing in the UK and could make EVs more affordable to the wider population. This topic was explored on Current± last year and can be found here.
EV charging infrastructure remains a barrier
EV charging infrastructure also continues to be a major barrier for potential EV adopters and the decarbonisation of the UK transportation sector. According to the report, insufficient access to reliable charging is one of the major barriers to drivers considering an EV with 56% of What Car? readers having cited the EV chargepoint network as a reason for not transitioning the electric cars.
Although it is recognised that EV charging infrastructure is indeed growing in the UK at a fast rate, it, unfortunately, is not maintaining the same pace as EV adoption and thus could spell issues for the future. Witnesses to the Committee’s report stated that there needs to be more of a focus on the geographical spread instead of main urban areas. There also needs to be a provision of an appropriate range of chargepoint types at different locations.
In this regard, it makes little sense to have an ultra-rapid charger in an area that does not need it, such as shops and other areas. Instead, these should be focused on motorway corridors and transportation hubs for drivers to access for a quick drop off.
The geographical disparity of EV chargers is another topic that has been explored by Current and can be found here.
Other key barriers preventing the wider adoption of EVs includes a lack of clear communication and leadership from the government as well as the scale of misinformation that has engulfed the sector, something that the government expressed to the Committee.
Key recommendations to solve main EV barriers
To help rectify the issues plaguing the EV sector, the report outlines a number of key recommendations. This includes tackling the disparity in upfront costs between electric and petrol and diesel cars by introducing targeted grants to support consumers buying affordable models.
As well as this, the government should “turbo-charge the charging infrastructure rollout” by reviewing outdated and disproportionate planning regulations, and tackling delays in the rollout of key public funding programmes and also ensure ensure charging is reasonably priced, convenient and reliable by equalising VAT rates for domestic and public charging.
The final recommendation calls on the government to invest in UK recycling to ensure that recycling is undertaken by responsible operators, and that the UK is able to recoup as many of the critical materials contained in EV batteries as possible for its own domestic production.
It is worth noting that the government launched a consultation to look at ways to speed up chargepoint installation across the country yesterday (5 February). The government stated that the proposals would give EV chargepoint operators the right to carry out street works using a permit rather than a licence and thus work can be carried out a much faster rate.
UK government steps up EV charging at schools, nurseries and more
In other news, the UK government unveiled new measures yesterday to help drive the rollout of EV charging infrastructure at various buildings such as schools, nurseries and more.
A new grant is set to be introduced providing up to 75% of the cost to buy and install chargepoints, up to £2,500 per socket, up from the previous £350. The grant forms part of the Workplace Charging Scheme and is available for state-funded schools, colleges, nurseries and academies to boost the chargepoint facilities for staff and visitors.
In doing so, this could help schools to generate revenue by making their chargepoints available to the public.
The government is also set to deliver the £381 million Local Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (LEVI) Fund to local authorities across the country. The government disclosed that the first capital payments for charging projects have been approved to three local authorities from East Sussex to North Yorkshire, and two London boroughs, bringing the total funding for these areas to more than £14.2 million.
The funding will support the installation of thousands of new chargers, ensuring the rollout continues at pace to support drivers in every area of the country and thus tackles one of the major areas discussed in the Environment and Climate Change Committee’s report.
Commenting on the announcement, Technology and Decarbonisation minister, Anthony Browne, said: “We’re getting on with delivering our Plan for Drivers, and this latest set of measures will mean EV owners everywhere benefit from easier and more convenient access to chargepoints.
“This government has already spent over £2 billion to ensure a smooth switch to EVs, and we’re committed to supporting drivers as we transition towards net zero in a proportionate way that doesn’t burden working people.”