The ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid vehicles in the UK may be brought forward – again – to 2032, despite the previous announcement only a few days earlier that the previous 2040 deadline would be changed to 2035.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 5 Live that the ban would happen by 2035 “or even 2032”, bringing England and Wales in line with the current 2032 target in Scotland.
With climate change and local air quality being key issues, moving to EVs makes complete sense, but there are a few pieces of the jigsaw that aren’t in place at the moment…
‘Hybrids’ were included in the recent announcement about the 2035 date, and it has since been confirmed by the Department for Transport that this will include plug-in hybrids, despite plug-in hybrids such as the new BMW X5 having an official electric range of 54 miles. The DfT says that plug-in hybrids will be included in the ban because they can still be driven on petrol or diesel power, and they’re heavier than cars with just a petrol or diesel engine, so the emissions can be worse if not driven on electric power. This is all correct, but the risk is that motorists will be even more confused and overwhelmed about whether their next car should be petrol, diesel, hybrid or electric.
So it’s looking likely that only pure electric cars will be on sale in 12 years’ time. There’s a wide range of new battery electric vehicles coming to market this year, and sales of pure EVs are growing quickly, but they still represent only a small percentage of overall vehicle sales: there will have to be a rapid transition to EVs over the next 12 years. This change will accelerate in April this year when Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax reduces to zero percent for pure EVs. And today’s company car will be tomorrow’s private car.
Mike Potter, Managing Director of DriveElectric, comments on the announcement: “We’re pleased to see further commitment to encouraging electric cars from the UK government. Making the switch to electric vehicles is easier than people think and we believe the market would go electric naturally in this time frame – and possibly by 2030 – as electric cars are so much better to drive, cheap to maintain and the fuel cost is 80% lower. And of course to kick-start this change we have the added incentive of 0% Benefit in Kind (BIK) company car tax for pure EVs from April 2020 – so the figures really do stack up in favour of EVs.”
The next issue is charging. Although there are now more EV charge points than petrol stations in the UK, access to charge points needs to be much more user-friendly. Early EV adopters may be prepared to struggle with membership cards and apps for different charge point networks, but the 99% of motorist who are yet to make the switch to EVs will simply not put up with any level of hassle with ‘refuelling’.
And almost half of homes in the UK don’t have off-road parking, making home charging a challenge. Although EV charging hubs are being rolled out, it will be more expensive to charge at these than at home.
And then there’s the plug-in car grant. No details have been confirmed about the continuation of the grant, which is due to end very soon – this seems to be a huge oversight for the government – if it genuinely wants to encourage private motorists as well as companies to buy EVs then it needs to continue to offer incentives, for the moment at least.
And if the government wants every new car on sale in 2032 to be an EV, what is it doing to help the UK economy benefit through encouraging the UK automotive industry to build EVs? Just the opposite appears to be happening: investment in the UK automotive industry has crashed since the Brexit referendum, and the UK automotive industry was hardly mentioned in the recent election campaign. So it looks like we’ll all be in cars that are better to drive and have no emissions, but the UK won’t be building those cars.