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Public Accounts Committee emphasises risk of missing 2030 petrol and diesel sales ban

The Public Accounts Committee has said that the government faces a “huge challenge” to meet the target of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. It warns that there is ‘no clear plan’ to increase the number of charging points and bring down the cost of EVs to make the transition a smooth one.

The body, which examines the value of the public money that government projects represent (they must be busy…), states that to get from the 2020 figure of 11 per cent of new registrations being EVs, to 100 per cent by the end of the decade, will require a multi-faceted approach.

In its report, it states: “Achieving this ambition will require convincing consumers of the affordability and practicality of zero-emission cars, with up-front prices still too high for many in comparison to petrol or diesel equivalents, and addressing the current very uneven take-up across the UK.”

No punches are pulled when it comes to the treasury and HMRC’s part in moving towards net zero, say that they’re “stuck in a bygone era”. Chair of the Committee, Meg Hillier MP, said that that government’s biggest challenge is to “wean itself off carbon revenues” and that it has a “mountain to climb”.

And it’s not like the government is already on the path to the top, with Hillier stating: “What we’ve got is a government throwing up a few signs around base camp – and no let-up in demand for oversized, petrol-guzzling vehicles.”

The committee highlights several main factors that the government needs to address in order to convince consumers that EVs are the way to go; affordability, enough charging points and practicality. The last of those three factors is very much led by the first two, with affordability having taken a significant hit since the government put a cap on the PiCG and reduced the amount on offer.

When it comes to charge points, think-tank, Policy Exchange reckons that 35,000 per year need to be added to the UK’s network to meet demand by 2030. However, Joel Teague of Co Charger, which helps private individuals share their home chargers with those in their community who don’t have one, thinks there’s a wider opportunity here: “Research has clearly shown that for most motorists only bookable, affordable charging while at home or at work is sufficient to enable the switch to electric motoring. We currently only have 35,000 public chargers available, compared to over 400,000 home chargers. If even a small fraction of these chargers are shared via Community Charging then electric vehicle ownership can be accelerated quickly and cheaply.”

Obviously, Co Charger’s model depends on the public stepping up to fill the gaps where other charging infrastructure – such as that funded by government – is inadequate.

In response to the report, the government released a statement stating it: “…has a highly ambitious and world-leading approach to increasing the uptake of zero-emissions cars. Progress we’re making in this area will help us meet our targets.”

Some £1.3bn has been allocated between now and 2025 to support the installation of charging on motorways and main roads, as well as at private dwellings and businesses. The government also pointed out that the cost of EVs will naturally come down in time as production – and choice – increases.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The automotive industry shares government’s ambition for an electric revolution, a transformation that has already begun. However, as the Public Accounts Committee has made clear, we need a comprehensive and holistic plan to get us there in time. That plan must convince consumers to make the switch, it must provide the incentives that make electric cars affordable for all, and it must ensure recharging is as easy as refuelling – which means a massive and rapid rollout of infrastructure nationwide. Now is the time for government to match its world-leading ambitions with a world-class policy package.”

What’s for certain is that with the PiCG not guaranteed after 2023, there is going to be huge pressure on the government to maintain financial incentives after this date. However, the lack of a clear plan – not just on industry and consumer concerns, but also on future taxation (something we covered recently) – is brought up by the Public Accounts Committee: “To date the Departments have no clear published plan setting out how they propose to manage these consequential impacts, who they will need to work with, and the timetables for any action.”

It remains to be seen whether the government will act on the committees concerns or brush them off and continue on its current path.

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