Transport is one of the most significant contributors to the UK’s carbon emissions, accounting for almost a third of all greenhouse gas emissions. If the UK is serious about reaching net zero emissions by 2050, moving away from fossil fuel powered vehicles must be a priority writes Ian Johnston (right), CEO of Osprey Charging.
Last month, a number of reports suggested that the ban on petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles could be brought forward to 2030. Despite being welcomed by environmentalists and authoritative organisations such as the Committee on Climate Change (CCC), several motoring groups and manufacturers have described the ban as “a date without a policy” and suggested that the phase out in the next ten years is unattainable. While a ban on the sale of all new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles by 2030 is ambitious, with the right policies and focus it is more than achievable.
Reaching a fully electric market by 2030
There is no time to waste in the move away from polluting ICE vehicles. Air pollution is thought to contribute to 40,000 premature deaths each year in the UK. This number is comparable to deaths from Covid-19, with the impact similarly disproportionately felt by lower income communities. Petrol, diesel and hybrid cars are key contributors to this. Bringing the ban forward to 2030 sends a clear message to industry and the British public that we must all take action now to transition to cleaner forms of transport. The key issues that must be addressed if we are to meet the ban, include public charging, education, incentives and supply.
Perhaps the most prominent criticism levelled at the new policy is that public charging infrastructure is not yet ready to cope with mass electric vehicle (EV) adoption. However, this is far from the truth. The private sector has been developing and installing a huge number of public-access EV chargers in populated areas and on major motorway and arterial roads. In fact, as of last year, there are more public-access EV charging points than petrol stations.
However, an issue remains. While the more commercially viable road network locations and areas of the country which benefit from higher customer footfall – shopping centres, retail parks, supermarkets, town car parks – have been well served by the private sector, other, more rural, roads and areas of the country with less customer demand naturally deliver less return on investment and are therefore less likely to attract private investment. The result is under-developed infrastructure in these areas. This is where the government can give real substance to its potential new target. By offering direct support to these areas in particular, we can ensure that the rollout of chargers is a strategically managed programme, aimed at enabling mass EV adoption in all areas of the UK.
The charging industry is also rising to the challenge of meeting the needs of the mass market consumer and giving drivers the best possible experience. Changing behaviour and perceptions is challenging in something so fundamental to modern life as driving. So, for mass adoption of EVs to become a reality, consumers not technology must be at the heart of the transition. In recent years, early adopters – those most passionate about EVs – have been willing to accept varying and often unreliable customer experience. The mass market, however, will simply not tolerate issues such as unreliable charge points or the requirement to register before being able to use a public rapid charger. Charging networks that are here to stay must therefore continue to lead the way in delivering top-class charging infrastructure that is easy to use, fully accessible and conveniently located, to give consumers the confidence to make the switch.
Incentivising the public to make the switch
The government must also focus on providing attractive incentives to encourage drivers to switch to EVs. The £3,000 Plug-in Grant and 0% Benefit-in-Kind (BIK) tax have been successful at driving EV uptake in the UK by individuals, businesses and fleets. Further incentives such as the proposed £6,000 diesel scrappage schemewould help get some of the most polluting cars off the road quickly and make the switch to electric a more attractive financial decision for drivers. This will drive the expansion of the EV industry, accelerate the second-hand EV market and make the UK an attractive trading environment for global EV manufacturersto base manufacturing in the UK, further ensuring supply can adequately meet demand.
Dispelling EV myths
The idea that there are virtually no public charging points to cater for EV owners on long drives, and that every re-charge takes several hours, are some of the misconceptions that plague the country’s efforts to develop an established EV market. That’s why a sustained effort to educate the general public on EVs is needed. If the government is committed to achieving the 2030 target, it must take responsibility for dispelling myths including – lack of charging points, misconceptions about charging behaviour, range anxiety etc. – and educating on benefits, including the ease of home charging, lower fuels costs, zero emissions, minimal maintenance and superior driving experience.
Meeting the growing demand
Finally, and perhaps most frustratingly for those wanting to make the switch to EV, there is the issue of supply. There’s no doubt that demand for EVs is skyrocketing.Fully EV registrations in September were up 184% this year; 10% of all new vehicles registered in September were plug-in. This trend is set to continue.Despite this, drivers are often discouraged by long waiting times for new vehicles – something that’s severely inhibiting the growth of this burgeoning market. To tackle this issue, and thus help meet the 2030 target, the UK must cultivate an attractive trading environment for EV suppliers. One effective way to do this is to encourage OEM investment in UK-based supply chains – namely battery Gigafactories. This will keep costs down for OEMs by shortening supply chains for the UK market and make a compelling case for them to prioritise UK EV deliveries over other countries.
The 2030 target won’t be easy, and it is certainly an ambitious goal. The industry has already done much of the hard work but only by continuing to implement meaningful actions and gaining government support in key areas can we give the new target real substance and credibility.