The UK Government is being urged to bring forward the ban on new petrol and diesel cars by eight years.
MPs on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee believe the government’s current 2040 target to phase out the sale of new “conventional” petrol and diesel cars and vans and to require new vehicles to be “effectively” zero emission are “vague and insufficiently ambitious” to deliver on its long term goals.
They are, therefore, calling for a “clear, precise target” for new sales of cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032 instead “if the government is genuinely committed” to leading the electric vehicle (EV) transition and achieving its decarbonisation targets “at least possible cost”.
The Committee cites international market trends that suggest the price of electric cars and vans will be equivalent to international combustion engine (ICE) vehicles by the mid-2020s and EV sales will overtake petrol and diesel vehicles by the late 2030s.
Its report also found poor provision of charging points for EVs is one of the greatest barriers to growing the EV market in the UK – it is therefore calling for more technical and financial support to help local authorities develop charging infrastructure across the country, including in remote and rural areas.
Chair Rachel Reeves MP said: “For all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the government’s deeds do not match the ambition of their words.
“The IPCC report was clear on the need to encourage changes in consumer behaviour, including increasing the switch to electric vehicles, to help decarbonise our economy. But the UK Government’s targets on zero emission vehicles are unambitious and vague, giving little clarity or incentive to industry or the consumer to invest in electric cars. If we are serious about being EV world leaders, the government must come forward with a target of new sales of cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032.”
On government slashing grants for EVs and hybrids
The call follows the government’s announcement to slash grants for EVs and hybrid cars from November 2018 – however, the MPs recommend financial support for buying EVs should be maintained at October levels “for the time being” and more generally until the cost of EVs nears price parity with conventional ICE vehicles.
They believe the current fiscal regime for EVs provides “inconsistent messages” about the government’s ambitions for cleaner cars.
Ms Reeves adds: “Cutting support is a perverse way to encourage drivers to move to non-polluting cars. This is only the latest sign of the government’s inconsistent approach to developing the market for electric vehicles.
“The Committee on Climate Change has made clear in their judgements on the Clean Growth Strategy and the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy that these plans do not go far enough to tackle transport emissions, putting the UK’s long-term carbon reduction targets at risk. A more joined-up and consistent approach is needed from government if the UK is to seize the business opportunities of electric vehicles and deliver carbon emissions reductions.”
Battery technology and skills
The report notes other countries have already taken a “substantial lead” in the manufacturing of batteries and suggests seeking to catch-up “would leave the UK on the back foot”.
While the Committee welcomes policies set out so far to support battery technology such as the Faraday Challenge, it says they are not sufficient to enable the UK to overtake existing world leaders in battery production.
The report states: “Longer term, 10-year support with a strategic focus on high-value niche areas where we already hold a comparative advantage is the best approach to help the UK take a leading edge in battery supply chains. The government should explore potential to develop UK expertise in nascent areas such as EV and battery disposal and recycling.
“The current shortfall in EV skills is increasing the running cost of EVs, deterring dealerships from entering the EV market and putting workers’ lives at risk. We recommend the government develop EV-specific qualifications for mechanics and engineers.”
The Department for Transport (DfT) said its Road to Zero Strategy outlined its ambition for the UK to be the “best place in the world” to build and own an electric vehicle.
A spokesperson added: “As part of this, we want between 50% and 70% of new car sales to be ultra-low emission by 2030 and for all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.
“And we also outlined measures to bring forward a major uplift in electric vehicle charging infrastructure, paving the way for the widespread adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles.”