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Conservatives outline fresh £500 million pledge for electric vehicles, new infrastructure in 'Green Revolution'

Image: Conservative Party.

Image: Conservative Party.

A new Conservative government would plough an additional £500 million into EV charging infrastructure and new electric vehicles, ensuring there was a chargepoint within 30 miles of each home in England and Wales.

That was the central pledge within Conservative leader Boris Johnson’s latest election speech, delivered late Wednesday afternoon, alongside increased investment in R&D and a ramp-up of offshore wind development.

Campaigning for next month’s General Election started in earnest this week, with Johnson delivering a speech at the London Electric Vehicle Company’s manufacturing facility in the West Midlands, a speech billed as one highlighting the Tories’ proposed ‘Green Revolution’.

“Here in the West Midlands - the home of the first industrial revolution - we are seeing a new industrial revolution, a green industrial revolution, creating thousands of jobs of environmentally sustainable technologies and thousands of jobs,” said Johnson.

Much of the talk centred on the damage Brexit hesitancy has caused for the energy sector and more broadly investment, saying “we have to get Brexit done because it is also the best thing for the economy.”

While not explicitly mentioned within Johnson’s speech, further detail supplied by the Conservative Party detailed an additional £500 million of funding for electric vehicles and associated infrastructure, coming on top of the £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund (CIIF) that is up and running.

No further details have yet been provided about how the rollout of infrastructure would happen however, including the nature of that finance and whether or not it would be established in a similar way to the CIIF. Indeed, that funding will also contribute toward the Plug-in Van Grant Scheme and “research and development into low and zero emission technology", the Tories said, with no breakdown provided into how that finance would be divided.

There would also likely be numerous challenges such as low profit margins for private investors and aged electrical infrastructure in rural areas.

Analysis: Liam Stoker, editor in chief, Current±

An additional £500 million for all things electric vehicles, on top of the existing £400 million CIIF, is a solid - if unspectacular - acknowledgement that if the transition to EVs is to be successful, more needs to be done, especially in engaging rural communities where charger utilisation rates stand to be lower. But, without seeing the actual meat of the policy, it's difficult to determine just how beneficial that extra funding stands to be.

In truth, there are probably other policy decisions in relation to electric vehicles that could be far more significant - bringing forward the ICE phase out date from 2040 to 2035 at least immediately springs to mind - and a failure of that to be mentioned could be a hint that it's not on the agenda.

The overwhelming lack of detail relating to energy and the environment announced by the Conservative Party so far is leaving the industry twitchy. A speech billed as introducing the Tories' vision of a "Green Revolution" proved to be not particularly green, and not remotely revolutionary, and until a manifesto is seen this is what the clean economy must judge the Conservartive Party on.

Johnson also pledged to increase the amount of offshore wind in the UK, increasing the amount previously committed to in the Offshore Wind Sector Deal from 30GW to 40GW by 2030. It’s hoped that this will create 9,000 jobs, as the party commits to working with private partners to remove barriers and increase support. As part of this they will look at floating wind turbines.

Carbon Capture and Storage will also receive a boost the party has said, with a £800 million investment to help with the transport and storage infrastructure needed.

Following the news that Tesla will open its first European Gigafactory in Germany, Johnson touched on the prospect of a new battery Gigafactory in the UK, to help with EV rollout and general electrification.

“In ten years time, scientists [will be] starting to reap the huge rewards from our plans to double funding for research and businesses as well from space to AI to the Gigafactory for batteries we are going to build in the next three years.”

Johnson has said that the party would double R&D funding if re-elected in the General Election on 12 December. It would reach £18 billion in 2024-25, which would be twice the amount seen in 2017, and approximately 0.62% of GDP. This would place it higher than the OECD average of 0.6% and up from just 0.43% currently, he said.

“I am announcing today that this government, if we are elected, will not only invest more to support electric vehicle technology, we will double funding for research and development to £18bn in the next parliament – the biggest ever increase in support for R and D and we proudly back businesses across this country.”

The party has said that this funding will replace that currently provided by the EU. While welcoming increased investment, some scientific research groups have also express concern, as this could signify less collaboration with EU partners.

Venki Ramakrishnan, the president of the Royal Society said: “The promise of increasing investment in science is a very welcome contribution. However, successful science is not based on money alone and we will also need to maintain full participation in European funding schemes and the collaboration that they promote, rather than trying to replace them. We will also need to overhaul our immigration system to truly support the international exchange of people and ideas that has always been a bedrock of the success of UK science.”


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