MPs criticise government’s “vague and unambitious” electric vehicle plans

A new report by the cross-party Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee claims that UK plans to phase out sales of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040 are vague and unambitious, and calls on the government to ban sales of new fossil-fuelled vehicles by 2032.

UK government EV plans
The report calls for greater investment in charging infrastructure. Image: Nissan

The report Electric vehicles: driving the transition argues that one of the key barriers to growing the UK EV market is the poor provision of charging points, and calls on the government to support local authorities and drive the installation of a network of nationwide charging points.

Chair of the committee Rachel Reeves MP said: “For all the rhetoric of the UK becoming a world leader in EVs, the reality is that the government’s deeds do not match the ambitions of their words.  If we are serious about being EV world leaders, the government must come forward with a target of new sales of cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032.”

Commenting on the charging infrastructure issue Reeves said: “We cannot expect consumers to overcome ‘range anxiety’ and switch to electric vehicles if they cannot be confident of finding convenient, reliable points to regularly charge their cars. The government needs to get a grip and lead on coordinating the financial support and technical know-how necessary for local authorities to promote this infrastructure and help ensure that electric cars are an attractive option for consumers”.

The report also claims that the current fiscal regime for EVs provides inconsistent messages about the Government’s ambitions and recommends that it aligns new fiscal changes with the zero emissions target. It calls on the government to ensure that business and individuals benefit from preferential car tax rates and to maintain plug-in grants for new electric vehicles at current levels, rather than cutting them from November (as announced by the Department for Transport on 11 October).

The reports also calls for a refocusing of the UK’s industrial activities and notes that rather than trying to play catch-up on technology areas such as battery-manufacturing (where other countries have taken a substantial lead) the UK would be better off aggressively targeting high-value aspects of the EV and battery supply chains where it already holds comparative strengths.

While a tightening of low-carbon ambitions will be welcomed by environmental campaigners, the response from industry itself has been less than enthusiastic, with the car sector’s trade body SMMT claiming that industry is already moving as quickly as it can. “Government’s 2040 ambition was already extremely challenging, said Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, “so to fast-track that by eight years would be nigh-on impossible. We said we need world class infrastructure and world class incentives to have any chance of delivering so the recent cuts to the plug-in car grant and lack of charging facilities – both of which are severely criticised by the committee – show just how difficult it would be to accelerate this transition.