Government has set ambitious targets to phase out new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 and for all new cars to be zero-emission at the tailpipe, the rear section of the exhaust pipe, from 2035. Progress has been made by increasing the number of ultra-low emission cars on the road, with the Department for Transport estimating that just under 11% of new car registrations were ultra-low emission in 2020. However, getting from this level to 100% as new petrol and diesel cars are phased out is a huge challenge, and there will still be existing petrol and diesel cars on the road for many years after 2030. There are several barriers that need to be addressed including the ease of charging electric cars. The number of charging points is increasing rapidly, but many more will be required within a very short period of time to support the envisaged growth in electric cars in the UK.
The Departments for Transport and for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy will need to do much more to consider the practical application of this large societal change and must put consumers at the heart of their considerations. 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. We are not convinced that the Departments are doing enough to ensure all communities have access to the appropriate charging infrastructure, for example in rural areas or urban areas without access to off-road charging.
The Departments will need to be on top of the other consequences arising from this transition, including the impact on the skills and capabilities required to support the changeover in the UK vehicle fleet; the environmental and social implications of the switch-over both in the UK and across global supply chains; the impact on our future power needs; and the impact on the government tax-take due to the loss of fuel duties. To date the Departments have lacked a 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. The onus is on the Departments to show they are on top of all the repercussions and focussed on supporting consumers to shift to electric as they work towards the government’s ambitious goal.