EV strategy: rapid recharge needed Contents

Chapter 2: Strategic approach and public messaging

10.Though the EV transition is achievable by the 2035 deadline, it poses major challenges to industry, the UK’s infrastructure and consumer habits of a lifetime. We heard concern about the Government’s leadership on this issue, both in terms of communicating a positive vision to the public and in putting in place the coordination structures that are necessary to deliver success for a project of this scale and complexity.

Messaging and communication

11.The strongest concern about the Government’s approach, which we heard repeatedly, was about mixed messaging. From the outset of our inquiry, even before the target date was changed, witnesses raised concerns about a lack of clear and consistent messaging from the Government, which “provided a vacuum for inaccurate press reporting to fill the void.”14 As we heard from the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, the Government “needs to provide leadership on electric vehicle adoption, but instead there has been a lot of ambiguity. Giving a clear message with clear data helps adoption but also helps the economy by reinforcing the significant investment from UK and international companies.”15

12.Dr Chris Pateman-Jones, CEO of Connected Kerb EV Charging Solutions, told us that the Government announcement pushing back the dates would have a fundamental impact on public perceptions of EVs:

“the message that [consumers] continually get is, ‘It’s really hard. It’s going to be really hard for you, and you’re going to have to sacrifice to adopt an EV’… It would be wonderful if we saw an allocation of time, effort, resource and cash in recognising that this is a big transition for people. It is actually not a hard transition… [but] it is a big mental transition for people … I would like to see government more involved in public discourse on this”.16

13.We heard particular concern about the portrayal of EVs in the media. For example, in recent months, a number of alarming headlines about the fire risks of EVs have appeared suggesting EV batteries are “unsafe”, that EVs have “alarming propensity to burst into flames” and claiming that “we must put a stop to the electric vehicle revolution—before someone gets hurt.”17 However, as the Association of British Insurers told us, the fire risk of EVs does not exceed that of traditional ICE vehicles.18 These reports differ from legitimate concerns, such as those suggesting some EV brands mislead customers about the range of their cars.19 Ford Motor Company suggested that the apparent emergence of a “vocal anti-EV campaign” is due to the Government’s approach being insufficiently consumer-centric.20 Several witnesses told us that media coverage of EVs was inaccurate and portrayed EVs in a disproportionately negative light—noting that even when corrected, fact checks often do not reach as wide an audience as the original article.21 Lauren Pamma, Programme Director at the Green Finance Institute, told us:

“consumers need more information and a trusted source of information. There are so many mixed messages out there and confusion about making the right decision that consumers are worried about what they should do”.22

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told us clear and accurate messaging from Government is crucial, because “any uncertainty leads to consumers sitting on their hands and sends the wrong message.”23

14.Richard Bruce, Director of Transport Decarbonisation at the Department for Transport, told us:

“I do think there has been an impact from a concerted campaign of misinformation over the last 14 months or so that has been pushing consistent myths about EVs that people absorb and which is reflected in their appetite [for purchasing EVs]. There is an anti-EV story in the papers almost every day. Sometimes there are many stories, almost all of which are based on misconceptions and mistruths, unfortunately.”24

15.Several submissions identified common areas of both confusion and legitimate concern amongst consumers, including:

16.Consumers also need clear and accurate information on the full life-cycle emissions of an EV to have confidence that they are purchasing genuinely environmentally-friendly products, particularly following earlier policies that erroneously encouraged the uptake of diesel vehicles under the assumption that they were less damaging to the environment.26 The International Council on Clean Transportation reported in 2021 that full life-cycle emissions for battery electric vehicles in Europe (including the UK) are approximately 66–69 per cent lower than their petrol equivalents and that this is likely to improve with further improvements in battery technology and manufacturing.27

17.At present, according to Government data, the CO2 emissions per kilometre of EV passengers cars in each size range is considerably lower than that of diesel and petrol cars. This is despite the ongoing use of fossil fuels to generate grid electricity (which is set to reduce through plans to decarbonise the UK power system by 2035).28 The table below sets out emissions per car size and fuel type, and accounts for the carbon emissions produced by the generation of electricity used to charge EVs.

Table 2: Comparing CO2 emissions of diesel, petrol and EV vehicles by car size

Car Size

Fuel Type

kg CO2e (per km)

Small Car







Medium Car







Large Car







Average Car







Source: Department for Energy Security and Ne Zero, ‘Greenhouse gas reporting: conversion factors 2023’ (June 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/greenhouse-gas-reporting-conversion-factors-2023 [accessed 23 January 2024]

18.Aside from the drop in carbon emissions, many witnesses highlighted benefits EVs offer to public health including improved air quality and reduced noise.29 The Government estimates that the annual mortality of all human-made air pollution in the UK is roughly equivalent to between 28,000 and 36,000 deaths every year30. According to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, road transport is the main source of air pollution from nitrous oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and particulate matter.31 A 2020 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs study found that there “will be unambiguous benefits for air quality arising from the elimination of exhaust NOx32, with significant reductions in ambient NO233 concentrations likely to be experienced at the roadside and in enclosed stations.”34 Electrifying.com and the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations found that the benefits to local air quality resonated strongly with consumers, suggesting that this should be better communicated.35

19.Many witnesses called for an accessible and honest source of information on the EV transition: bringing together government and industry sources, addressing consumer questions, advertising current Government incentives, tackling misinformation and raising awareness about the benefits of EVs with the public.36

20.We heard that there was previous good practice in this area to be built on: witnesses expressed disappointment that the Go Ultra Low website, part of a joint campaign between the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles, energy providers and the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), ended in 2021 (which we were therefore unable to examine).37 Connected Kerb recommended that a new communications campaign should learn lessons from Go Ultra Low, by involving all stakeholders in the EV ecosystem as well as local and central government and consumer groups.38 When the Go Ultra Low campaign ceased, the Government stated it had been “an excellent example of how Government and industry have collaborated to increase the uptake of electric vehicles,” but that the Government would be taking a “more streamlined approach going forward” targeting “relevant audiences” with specific messages.39

21.However, SMMT noted that while the Government and industry have since published further information on EVs, “it is often presented through the lens of … early adopters” who often have the advantage of off-street parking and are able to afford the more expensive EV models currently available.40 They argued “more information and support is likely to be needed for those drivers for whom the benefit of making the transition is more marginal”.41 A number of submissions recommended that Government should partner with trusted bodies and organisations such as the Energy Saving Trust, “seen as credible by the whole population”42, to present honest information about the costs and benefits of EVs in a way mainstream consumers can understand.43

22.We received some evidence concerning the types of information that would be most useful to consumers. A May 2023 Auto Trader survey of over 4,000 consumers explored what information they would need to consider buying an EV. It identified the below concerns (in order of priority):

(1)that the batteries will last (61 per cent)

(2)that charging will be convenient (52 per cent)

(3)that charging will be quick enough (51 per cent)

(4)that range would always be sufficient for any necessary journey (49 per cent)

(5)that EVs are as green as reported (35 per cent)

(6)that EVs will have decent resale value (30 per cent)

(7)the driving experience (26 per cent)44

23.We also heard calls for further information on the cost benefits to consumers of EVs, more accurate information about the longevity and performance of batteries, transparency of charging data and more detailed information on the vehicles themselves.45 Citizens Advice Bureau noted that if the EV transition is to be successfully communicated to the whole population, messaging should be subject to extensive user testing to take into account different needs, such as low literacy, British Sign Language needs and digital exclusion.46 Zapmap, an app which helps EV drivers search for available chargepoints, suggested that financial incentives and disincentives are more effective than environmental benefits in influencing the majority, and that communication should therefore focus on these.47

24.Richard Bruce told us that the cessation of Go Ultra Low had been led by “a sense that we were moving into the mass market, and it was no longer the Government’s job to be putting out some simplistic myth-busting information.” He noted, however, that since then there had been “a very concerted campaign of mistruths and myths.”48

25.Mr Bruce told us that the Government’s Plan for Drivers, published in October 2023, includes a “commitment to look again at communications materials.”49 The Plan states that the Government will “continue to champion the transition to zero emission vehicles, by addressing common misconceptions and showing how they can be a practical option for most drivers.”50 However, there is no further detail on how this will be achieved.51

26.Anthony Browne MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State in the Department for Transport, stated that the Government has “concerns about a certain amount of misinformation that is going on.”52 However, he also suggested that while that a joint campaign between industry and Government had been valuable in the past, “there is now enough information out there from other sources.”53 The Department for Transport also wrote to us to confirm that 100 per cent of the central Government car fleet will be zero emission by the end of 2027. Latest available data indicates that from September 2022, 25.5 per cent of all central government cars were ultra-low emission vehicles.54

27.The Minister told us that the Government was concerned about misinformation and the Director of Transport Decarbonisation at the Department for Transport stated that there had been a “concerted campaign of misinformation” about EVs in recent months. This echoed concerns from a broad range of witnesses, from individual members of the public to car manufacturers.

28.The Government’s concern at the scale of misinformation, however, has not been matched by commensurate urgency in tackling it. A joint consumer information campaign between Government and industry that was praised by several witnesses was ended in 2021. We heard the decision to end the campaign was led by a belief that EVs were moving into the mass market, and misconceptions were dissipating. This is not supported by the evidence we received.

29.The Government should take a more proactive and leading role in communicating a positive vision of the EV transition to consumers, and promoting comprehensive, clear, authoritative, accurate and balanced information. The Government should develop a communication strategy in collaboration with industry partners and consumer organisations to provide clear, authoritative and trustworthy information. This could build on previous successes such as the Go Ultra Low website.

30.We welcome the Government’s commitment that the central Government car fleet will be zero emission by the end of 2027. To communicate this commitment more visibly, all cabinet members should be driven in EVs by the end of 2024.

Political priority and Government coordination

31.We also heard repeated concern that the scale of the challenge which the Government has set both itself and the country has not been matched with the requisite coordination between Departments and prioritisation at the highest levels of Government. Several submissions highlighted a perceived lack of an overarching, long-term approach to strategy and delivery.55 We note that since the 2030 target was set in November 2020, there has been a churn in leadership, with the UK having had three Prime Ministers and three Secretaries of State for Transport. Witnesses stressed that the key policy challenges are interconnected, and the Government’s response must therefore be holistic. The Urban Transport Group, the UK’s network of city region transport authorities, told us: “The Government has made decarbonising vehicles a policy priority … However, there is a need for greater cohesion of national policy with less fragmentation.”56

32.We heard particular concern that the rollout of EV charging infrastructure is not keeping pace with the number of EVs due to enter the market under the ZEV mandate.57 These concerns are discussed in more detail in Chapter 4. The Government notably intends to set binding targets for EV production through the ZEV mandate, but there are no binding targets for chargepoint installation. The Institution of Mechanical Engineers told us that the ZEV mandate “cannot drive this transition unless coupled with a suite of other policies to make [EVs] more attractive to consumers.”58

33.Witnesses raised concerns about delays to major projects, including the rollout of major Government chargepoint funding schemes and crucial upgrades to the grid distribution network.59 Mike Hawes noted “we can and have put these cars on the market … but you cannot compel sales of them. You need to pull every single lever to make that trajectory a reality. What we see is no levers being pulled.”60 Ford argued that “delayed policy delivery and inconsistencies damages industry and seeds doubt with the media and the public.”61 The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) told us that consumer anxiety stemming from negative press reports is “compounded by delays to major policy announcements including the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, and the perception of Government disunity on its scope and timeline.”62

34.A successful EV transition will involve sustained coordination across Government, particularly given the range of Government departments which have a role in the EV transition. Stellantis, the automotive manufacturer whose brands include Citroen, FIAT, Jeep, Peugeot and Vauxhall, called for “a joined-up, holistic cross-Government departmental plan”, noting that it had been “working with or provided inputs” to the Office for Zero Emissions Vehicles (which works across the Department for Transport and the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero), the Department for Business and Trade, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Environment Agency.63 Electrifying.com told us the Government “needs to take a more holistic approach … looking across the sector instead of from within silos.”64 Several submissions praised the more “integrated policy” approach of some other countries leading the transition, such as the Norwegian government.65

35.We heard calls for the Government to facilitate structures or forums for cross-industry and Government coordination, with the transition championed as a Prime Ministerial priority.66 Electrifying.com, an electric car-focused research and sales platform, argued that action from Government departments “needs to be collective, with buy-in from the very top—leading by example can be very powerful.”67

36. There is some previous good practice to draw on in this area: Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, praised the now-disbanded Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce68 for its success in bringing together “industries that had not traditionally had to work together … I think some of us feel its loss and that maybe some version of that needs to be recreated to bring together the different parties.”69

37.The Minister, Anthony Browne MP, agreed that the nature of the challenge was cross-departmental.70 He and Mr Bruce told us that all relevant departments were committed and enthusiastic in working towards the transition.71 Mr Browne added that he would monitor progress closely:

“If it is not working, if things are disjointed, and if I get complaints from industry—or, indeed, from local authorities—and they do not know where to go, I am happy to look at arrangements and advise the Secretary of State and the Prime Minister on whether we need to do something to bring things together. At the moment, on day eight in the job, I have not seen that.”72

38.The challenges involved in the EV transition cover a wide range of departments and policy areas, and joined-up cross-Government coordination is essential. The Government must also work closely with industry to monitor progress in the uptake of EVs and the rollout of charging infrastructure. Unfortunately, we heard persistent concerns about a lack of consistent cross-Government progress on interdependent policy areas, and delays to major projects.

39.The Government should focus first on

(a) targeted actions that can be taken now to remove simple blocks in the system such as amending planning and waste management regulations and accelerating delays to the rollout of public chargepoint funding schemes, then

(b) setting out the actions that will be taken over the next 10 years of the transition in order to map out a long-term approach.

This roadmap should be published to enable scrutiny and support consumer confidence.

40.We welcome the Minister’s commitment to monitor cross-Government work on the EV transition closely, and advise the Secretary of State and Prime Minister if changes to coordination structures are required. However, we heard strong calls for this to happen now.

41.OZEV must be resourced as a delivery unit within Government to achieve this and/or a new body such as a Ministerial Taskforce should be set up to provide direction for the wide range of Government departments, sectors and stakeholders involved.

14 Written evidence from Green Alliance (ELV0099)

15 Written evidence from Lancashire Enterprise Partnership (ELV0073)

17 ‘‘A fire-breathing monster’: Electric cars don’t work, says Richard Madeley’, The Daily Express (4 August 2023): https://www.express.co.uk/comment/columnists/richard-and-judy/1798806/electric-cars-fires-dangers-environment [accessed 11 January 2024], ‘We must put a stop to the electric vehicle revolution—before someone gets hurt’, The Telegraph (18 October 2023): https://www.telegraph.co.uk/columnists/2023/10/18/electric-cars-ev-sleepwalking-into-disaster-battery-fires/ [accessed 11 January 2024] and ‘Electric vehicle fires: The little-known but terrifying reality about EV batteries’, The Daily Mail (17 September 2023): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-12516565/Electric-vehicle-battery-fire.html [accessed 11 January 2024]

18 Written evidence from the Association of British Insurers (ELV0080)

19 The Verge, ‘Tesla EVs are apparently overestimating range when fully charged—on purpose’ (27 July 2023): https://www.theverge.com/2023/7/27/23809751/tesla-ev-range-estimate-anxiety-algorithm-full-charge [accessed 11 January 2024]

20 Written evidence from Ford Motor Company (ELV0086)

21 Q 60 (Ken Byng), written evidence from Salvage Wire Limited (ELV0011), Nodum Industries Ltd. (ELV0036), the Electric Vehicle Association (EVA) Scotland (ELV0039), Greenpeace UK (ELV0040) the British Vehicle Renting Leasing Association (BVRLA) (ELV0054), Electrifying.com (ELV0075) Phill Jones, Chief Operating Office at Motors.co.uk (ELV0109) and Warwick Manufacturing Group (ELV0124)

23 Ibid.

25 Written evidence from Salvage Wire Limited (ELV0011), Anthony McClennon (ELV0012), Allen Gilbey (ELV0027), HEVRA (Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance Ltd) (ELV0033), Electrifying.com (ELV0075) and Warwick Manufacturing Group (ELV0124)

26 BBC News, ‘Why officials in Labour government pushed ‘dash for diesel’’ (16 November 2017) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-41985715 [accessed 11 January 2024]

27 The International Council on Clean Transportation, A Global Comparison of the Life-Cycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Combustion Engine and Electric Passenger Cars (July 2021): available at: https://theicct.org/publication/a-global-comparison-of-the-life-cycle-greenhouse-gas-emissions-of-combustion-engine-and-electric-passenger-cars/ [accessed 11 January 2024]. See also written evidence from EDF (ELV0115), SMMT (ELV0117), and the Faraday Institution (ELV0047).

28 Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, ‘Plans unveiled to decarbonise UK power system by 2035’ (7 October 2021): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plans-unveiled-to-decarbonise-uk-power-system-by-2035 [accessed 29 January 2024]

29 Written evidence from Zouk Capital LLP (ELV0044), Peter Newson (ELV0008), the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (ELV0045), the Urban Transport Group (ELV0063) and Warwick Manufacturing Group (ELV0124)

30 The Office for Health Improvement and Disparities, ‘Air pollution: applying All Our Health’ (28 February 2022): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/air-pollution-applying-all-our-health/air-pollution-applying-all-our-health [accessed 11 January 2024]

31 Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, What are the causes of air Pollution: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/What_are_the_causes_of_Air_Pollution.pdf [accessed 19 January 2024]

32 Nitrogen oxides

33 Nitrogen dioxide

34 Air Quality Expert Group, Impacts of Net Zero pathways on future air quality in the UK (June 2020), p 15: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/cat09/2006240802_Impacts_of_Net_Zero_pathways_on_future_air_quality_in_the_UK.pdf [accessed 11 January 2024]

35 Written evidence from Electrifying.com (ELV0075) and the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (ELV0045)

36 Q 15 (Lauren Pamma), Q 18 Professor Tim Schwanen; Written evidence from Carbon Copy (ELV0041) and Zouk Capital LLP (ELV0044), the Centre for Climate Change and Social Transformations (ELV0045), Connected Kerb (ELV0064), Electrifying.com (ELV0075) Warwick Manufacturing Group (ELV0124)

37 Written evidence from SMMT (ELV0117) and Connected Kerb (ELV0064)

38 Written evidence from Connected Kerb (ELV0064)

39 Fleet News, ‘Updated: Go Ultra Low campaign to close after funding cut’ (February 2021): https://www.fleetnews.co.uk/news/latest-fleet-news/electric-fleet-news/2021/02/04/go-ultra-low-campaign-to-close-after-funding-cut [accessed 16 November 2023]

40 Written evidence from SMMT (ELV0117)

41 Ibid.

42 Q 18 (Professor Tim Schwanen)

43 Q 15 (Professor Tim Schwanen), written evidence from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) (ELV0054), Electrifying.com (ELV0075), the Urban Transport Group (ELV0063), the Warwick Manufacturing Group (ELV0124) and Salvage Wire Limited (ELV0011)

44 Written evidence from Auto Trader (ELV0094)

45 Written evidence from HEVRA (Hybrid and Electric Vehicle Repair Alliance Ltd) (ELV0033), Greenpeace UK (ELV0040) and Zouk Capital LLP (ELV0044)

46 Written evidence from Citizens Advice Bureau (ELV0116)

47 Written evidence from Zapmap Limited (ELV0102)

49 Ibid.

50 Department for Transport, The plan for drivers (2 October 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/plan-for-drivers/the-plan-for-drivers [accessed 1 December 2023]

51 Ibid.

53 Ibid.

54 Department for Transport, Office for Zero Emission Vehicles and the Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, ‘Government charges ahead in car fleet transition to electric vehicles’, (19 January 2023): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-charges-ahead-in-car-fleet-transition-to-electric-vehicles [accessed 19 December 2023]

55 Written evidence from Stellantis (ELV0038), the Urban Transport Group (ELV0063) and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (ELV0088)

56 Written evidence from the Urban Transport Group (ELV0063)

57 Written evidence from the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (EVL0088)

58 Ibid.

59 Written evidence from Ford Motor Company (ELV0086) and Connected Kerb (ELV0064)

61 Written evidence from Ford Motor Company (ELV0086)

62 Written evidence from the British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) (ELV0054)

63 Written evidence from Stellantis (ELV0038)

64 Written evidence from Electrifying.com (ELV0075)

65 Written evidence from Stellantis (ELV0038); we note the difference in the size of the Norwegian and UK car fleets. Norway had 2.9 million passenger cars registered in 2022, while the UK had 33.58 million cars registered at the end of September 2023 .See: Statistisk sentralbyrå: Statistics Norway, ‘Table 01960: Registered vehicles, by type of vehicle’, available at: https://www.ssb.no/en/statbank/list/bilreg [accessed 23 January 2024] and RAC Foundation, ‘Mobility’: https://www.racfoundation.org/motoring-faqs/mobility [accessed 23 January 2024]

66 Written evidence from Green Alliance (ELV0099) and Electrifying.com (ELV0075)

67 Written evidence from Electrifying.com (ELV0075)

68 From 2020 to 2022, the Electric Vehicle Energy Taskforce brought together senior stakeholders from the energy, infrastructure, automotive and transport sectors to advise industry and Government at Ministerial level. For further information, see: evenergytaskforce.com, ‘EV: energy taskforce’: https://evenergytaskforce.com/ [accessed 17 November 2023]

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