The government faces a “huge challenge” to ensure the UK is ready for the ban on the sale of all combustion engined cars by 2035, but lacks a plan to ensure a smooth transition, according to a group of MPs.
The Public Accounts Committee (PAC), which is tasked with evaluating the value of various government programmes and services, has published a report into the government’s “ambitious targets” to phase out sales of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, with an exemption for a limited number of hybrid vehicles until 2035.
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With zero-emission vehicles accounting for 11% of total UK car sales in 2020, the PAC said ensuring that the UK is ready for that mass changeover will involve “convincing consumers of the affordability and practicality of zero-emission cars”. The report noted that upfront prices of EVs remain “too high” in comparison to combustion engined cars, and that there was uneven take-up across the country.
The PAC also said that, while the number of charging points is increasing rapidly, “many more will be required within a very short period of time” to support the predicted growth in EV sales. It added: “The PAC is not convinced the government is on track with this crucial infrastructure.”
The PAC also called on the Department for Transport to do more to consider the practical application of such a “large societal change” in a way that put “consumers at the heart of it.”
The report cites the requirement for the UK workforce to develop new skills and capabilities to support the changeover in the UK vehicle fleet, the environmental implications including on global supply changes, the impact on future power needs and the implications on government tax income due to the loss of fuel duties.
The PAC notes that “to date the Departments have no clear published plan setting out how they propose to meet these consequential impacts.” It said the onus was now on the government “to show they are on top of all the repercussions” of the switch.
The demand by the PAC for the government to publish a clear plan echoes a similar call from Ford recently.
Committee chair Meg Hillier, the Labour MP for Hackney South and Shoreditch, said that “the government has a mountain to climb to get to all new cars in the UK emitting zero carbon in the next 14 years”, but added: “What we’ve got is a government throwing up a few signs around base camp – and no let-up in demand for oversized, petrol-guzzling vehicles.
“This isn’t about more targets with no plan behind them inevitably getting missed – it’s about averting the real-world challenges that are bearing down on all of us. The government needs to get the country behind it and lead the way in the global race against climate change.”
Mike Hawes, the chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “The automotive industry shares government’s ambition for an electric revolution, a transformation that has already begun. However, as the Public Accounts Committee has made clear, we need a comprehensive and holistic plan to get us there in time.
“That plan must convince consumers to make the switch, it must provide the incentives that make electric cars affordable for all, and it must ensure recharging is as easy as refuelling – which means a massive and rapid rollout of infrastructure nationwide. Now is the time for government to match its world-leading ambitions with a world-class policy package.”