The impending transition to an electric motoring landscape has been on the horizon for years. However, the increased conversation surrounding the climate crisis coupled with the UK’s Road to Zero initiative has brought it to a head this month. PM Boris Johnson announced that the ban on traditionally fuelled and hybrid vehicles will take effect in 2035— five years earlier than originally proposed.
What is the ban and why is it being implemented?
It is a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles, that has expanded to include hybrids and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Considering the direct impact traditionally fuelled vehicles have on the environment, it is no surprise that the goalposts have been moved on the ban.
A staggering one third of CO2 emissions are generated by vehicles in the UK. For the UK to reach its ambitious Zero Carbon status by 2050, pressure is on the Government to provide a superior electric vehicle system that rivals our European counterparts. The ban would certainly help to improve the climate on both a local, national and global scale. Cars (including taxis) continue to be the lead contributors to highly toxic Nitrogen Dioxide (NOx) levels in cities and urban areas, which means the progression to electric will boost the air quality providing a healthier environment for us all.
Regardless of the environmental impacts, there are growing concerns from the automotive industry surrounding the lack of planning behind the ban. On a practical scale, there are factors that need to be considered to support the switch to electric vehicles with affordability and infrastructure being two of the main concerns.
Affordability and Infrastructure
The demand for electric vehicles has increased rapidly, however, this environmental choice comes at a greater cost than the petrol or diesel counterparts. Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) stated, “Look at what our best-sellers are: Fiesta, Corsa and so forth. There isn’t an electric model that’s down in that price bracket. The price needs to come down, and then you can broaden the market.”
The Nissan Leaf, the UK’s most popular electric car, costs £26,000 for a basic model—not budget friendly for those with tighter purse strings. The price of electric vehicles relates directly to the expensive raw materials and engineering needed to manufacture them en masse. It is discouraging to see that although the Government understands this, they will scrap the £3,500 Plug-In Car Grant in March 2020, thus reducing the incentive for customers to invest in ultra-low emission vehicles.
Another obstacle to overcome is the UK’s charging network, which has been criticised for being woefully inadequate. There has been greater investment in public chargers and wireless charging schemes, however, in order to support the impending national electric fleet, the speed of installing charging points will have to radically improve. It is estimated the UK will need 25 million charging points for electrical vehicles to cope with the demand; at present the number stands at approximately 11,000.
Currently no plans have been disclosed on how those without off-street parking or who live in apartments will be able to charge their vehicles easily. There will also be demand for more rapid-charging points, for those on longer journeys, who haven’t charged overnight and those who have hired vehicles.
AA President, Edmund King, has raised concerns surrounding the current infrastructure and the pricing of electric vehicles, stating, “We will also need a package of grants coupled with comprehensive charging infrastructure at homes and in towns, cities and motorways and rural locations. At the very least, the Government should take up the AA demand to cut VAT on new EVs to boost sales and make vehicles more affordable to those on lower incomes.”
The inevitable change to motoring due to the ban on traditionally fuelled and hybrid vehicles will only spur manufacturers to invest in electric technologies to meet the demand for affordable, fully electric vehicles. The future regarding the hiring of vehicles and what this will mean for our customers is currently unclear, however, we will continue to keep you updated on new developments surrounding the ban and the changes to electrical vehicles.