Why the UK needs to hurry up in the shift to Zero Emissions Vehicles

To meet the UK’s decarbonisation target, the government has committed to banning the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030 and only allowing the sale of zero-emission vehicles by 2035. This is no doubt highly encouraging, but we must consider what legislative changes need to be made in order to get there. After all, it isn’t the case that we will wake up one morning in 2030 and someone will have flicked the ‘electric cars only’ switch!

What the UK desperately needs is a zero-emissions vehicle mandate. This means that we must proactively encourage manufacturers to ramp up their efforts to design, manufacture and sell zero-emission vehicles. To put the importance of this into perspective, transport is the highest emitting sector, contributing over 31% of our total emissions, so the earlier we are able to achieve this, the more likely we are to meet our decarbonisation targets.

This kind of ‘top-down’ legislative change will be required of our leadership, as efforts from manufacturers themselves have been somewhat patchy. In fact, until 2020 when the EU’s regulatory CO2 emissions target came in, between 2016-2019 tailpipe emissions were still increasing gradually year-on-year. We see it as a do-or-die situation: either the UK seizes the golden opportunity to be a worldwide hub for battery electric vehicle technology or we fall behind and drift into irrelevance for the foreseeable future.

So, say we were able to pull off a faster transition to zero-electric vehicles. What would the consequences be? Well, apart from the increase in productivity, we’d see greater advances in technology. We’d create jobs, boost our exports to the EU and worldwide, and attract the greatest talent. The UK has a real opportunity to be a powerhouse in this sector. In fact, our Prime Minister recently stated in his ten-point plan that he wanted zero-emissions vehicles to be the “most visible incarnation of our ability to simultaneously create jobs, strengthen British industry, cut emissions, and continue travelling”.

“Zero emission vehicles can be our most visible incarnation of our ability to simultaneously create jobs, strengthen British industry, cut emissions, and continue travelling.”

Boris Johnson, UK Prime Minister

By being at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution, the UK has an opportunity to race ahead of Europe, where significant traction is not expected until the late 2020s. The creation of jobs also helps us out greatly in the short-term, especially considering the role it could play in our recovery from the pandemic. We would see greater competition between manufacturers, more products would be brought to market and we’d see sharp increases in the quality and quantity of electric vehicles on our roads.

Impact on the used car market

Another key benefit to increasing the sale of new zero-emission electric vehicles at this stage is that they would then form a larger proportion of the used car market further down the line. As things stand, electric cars are more expensive to buy than conventionally fuelled cars, but are cheaper to run, but if things stay the way they are, uptake of used electric cars will be much slower. At least 40% of the UK exclusively buy from the used car market, where cars are significantly cheaper to purchase. It has been found that buyers of second hand ZEVs can save £700-£2,300 over the cost of ownership, and third hand owners could save as much as £3,500-£5,600!

Plug-in Hybrids are definitely not the solution!

PHEV vs. BEV – Manufacturers need to focus on zero-emission vehicles over plug-in hybrids if we are to meet out targets.

Studies have found that in real-world conditions, plug-in hybrids are actually emitting only marginally less CO2 than their petrol and diesel counterparts. Real world emissions are significantly higher than test conditions, due to a number of reasons including that owners are not plugging in their vehicles as often, or driving their vehicles on the electric motor only. In fact, it can be seen how plug-in hybrids might confuse consumers into thinking they are emitting far less CO2 than they actually are. Therefore it is unfortunate, but plug-in hybrid vehicles are simply incompatible with a net-zero future!

It is of huge importance that we ramp up our efforts, as current figures suggest that with our current rate of progress, we are due to miss our 2030 CO2 emissions target by around 40%! A zero emission vehicle mandate is the answer to this problem. By incentivising manufacturers to bring more zero emissions vehicles to market, and increasing this gradually between now and 2030, we are effectively planning out a roadmap to meeting our emissions targets. Similar programmes have been implemented around the world successfully, including parts of the USA, Canada and China. If the UK wants to stay relevant in the race to zero carbon, we really need to get a move on!

Contact our team now if you would like to understand more about how you can ensure your business is ready for the zero emissions vehicle revolution.

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