The UK’s Electric Car Pledge – Are We Doing Enough?

Since 2010 some 90,000 plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) have been registered in the UK as of September 2016. The growth of all-electric of fossil fuel and electric hybrid powered cars is accelerating year by year; in 2015 registrations increased by over 90% more than 2014 giving EVs a market share of 1.1% of all new cars sold – up from half that during the previous year.

Battery power: a less positive reality?

So it would seem that the electric power option for vehicles is looking bright with demand increasing sharply as more vehicles come onto the market, and the growth of the infrastructure for charging the car batteries. Modern purchasing options such as business and personal leasing makes electric power a viable option despite the higher retail prices compared to fossil fuelled cars.

The reality to this rosy picture is somewhat different. The Department for Transport (DfT) predict that by the end of this decade the take up of electric vehicles will be less than half of the 9% target for achievement by 2020.

Clean air targets aren’t being hit with some 38 of 43 clean air zones exceeding the targeted levels of nitrogen oxide. The government’s environmental audit committee don’t expect them to be met until 2020 at the earliest.

Despite the seemingly spectacular levels of EV take up, it seems it’s not enough.

The steps being taken

More choice of EV – motor manufacturers are certainly embracing electric power; from just five models available in 2011 over 30 are on sale now – a figure set to rise.

Government grants – the government’s Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) for those buying an EV will continue until at least the end of March 2018. Grants of £5,000 have been available so helping to offset the higher original purchase price.

For those looking to install a charging point at home, grants via the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS) can cover up to 75% of the costs.

Charging infrastructure – over 4,000 various locations in the UK from car parks to roadside services offer electric charging points with more coming on stream all the time.

So why is EV take up not better?

Inadequate government policy – some say the government should be more specific in its emission targets and write them into UK law. Parliament’s environmental audit committee would like to see a clear target of two thirds of the UK’s cars and vans to be ultra-low emission types by 2030.

There are fears that, after the Brexit vote, EU air quality targets may not be part of UK law and the DfT have been criticised for putting economic concerns above air quality when working with transport authorities to instigate sustainable transport projects.

Grants reducing – the PiCG and EVHS grants have both been reduced by the government. The PiCG is being revised so EVs fall into different grant categories with the maximum award reducing from £5,000 to £4,500.

The EVHS has been reduced from a cap of £700 to £500.

More to be done?

While growth of EVs has, on the face of it, been steep over a very short period of time, it’s clear certain campaigners and Parliamentary bodies don’t consider it enough. That said, the DfT point out that the 9% figure for EV take up is not actually a government target but a Committee on Climate Change endorsement; the government’s proposal is between 3% and 7% of vehicles to be zero emission by 2020 – a figure that (at the lower end) is likely to be met.

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