'Postcode lottery' of charging access and costs undermining UK's EV revolution plans, MPs warn
The UK's 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales is not yet being supported by adequate plans for improving access to electric vehicle (EV) charging or for improving electricity networks, MPs are warning.
Amid growing calls for the Government to announce better plans to support the 2030 ban, designed in line with the UK’s legally binding net-zero target for 2050, the fresh warning has been issued in a new report from the Transport Select Committee.
According to the report, current plans will not deliver the level of charging infrastructure needed to support the level of EV adoption needed for the UK to meet its climate targets. Moreover, infrastructure would not be fairly distributed across all regions of the UK and be affordable and accessible.
Of particular concern is the fact that home charging is subject to 5% VAT and on-street charging is subject to 20% VAT. By some estimates, 16% of homes in rural areas and 60% of homes in town and city centres do not have a driveway or garage, meaning they cannot charge at home.
The report calls for this VAT discrepancy to be addressed, as well as for the introduction of new requirements for property developers to provide public charging points at new projects. The Future Homes Standard requires housebuilders to provide home EV access but does not come into effect until 2025 and does not cover public charging points.
In terms of funding for EV charging infrastructure itself, Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan was published last autumn and promised £1.3bn for charging infrastructure. The Transport Select Committee is recommending that at least £90m of this funding is ring-fenced for local authorities, enabling them to hire experts to develop local charging infrastructure strategies.
The priority with all of the funding, the Select Committee’s report states, should be enabling sub-national bodies to deliver “sufficient and well-maintained charging infrastructure solutions tailored to local needs”.
The Government’s overarching ambition on EV charging is to ensure that drivers are never more than 30 miles away from a rapid charging point.
Back in 2019, a study by The Guardian found that at least one-quarter of councils in England and Wales had no plans to increase the number of charging points in the next 12 months. Funding was cited as the main barrier. More recently, a 2021 study by Centrica found that local authorities across the UK will only host, on average, 35 on-street chargers by 2025.
The Transport Select Committee’s chair Huw Merriman MP said: “Putting guarantees in place on infrastructure is crucial but one report after another flags concerns to Government about the provision of electric car charging infrastructure. Let ours be the last: it’s time that ministers set out the route map to delivering a network of services for everyone across the UK.”
Capacity and carmaker concerns
During its inquiry into zero-emission vehicle uptake in the UK, the Select Committee heard not only concerns about infrastructure provisions, but about the electricity grid’s ability to cope with increased demand from vehicle electrification, and the ability of automakers to pivot.
To the former, the MPs heard evidence that, unless consumer behaviour changes so that charging takes place when demand will not outstrip supply, there could be “blackouts in parts of the country”. As such, the Committee is recommending that the Government builds on a commitment to mandate that all new private charge points should be equipped with ‘smart’ functionality. It is floating the idea of incentives for drivers to charge at times when there is less demand on the grid and to charge “little and often”.
National Grid has stated that it is working with the Government to map where critical grid capacity is needed. The business is understood to be looking at both physical capacity additions and smart technologies that unlock flexibility.
To the point on carmarkers, the report welcomes proposals for a zero-emission vehicle mandate to be introduced, as detailed in the recently published Transport Decarbonisation Plan. Such a mandate would require manufactures to ensure that an increasing proportion of their portfolios and sales are zero-emission, through to 100% by 2030.
Other supporters of a zero-emission vehicle mandate include thinktank Green Alliance, Energy UK, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), former Ministers Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom.
The Select Committee’s report states: “A healthy used EV market is critical to ensuring that EVs are not the sole preserve of people who can afford new models. The Government’s position is that current incentives to stimulate the sale of new EVs are sufficient to support the development of the second-hand EV market. However, EVs that will be traded on the second-hand market in three to five years’ time are likely to be more expensive to buy upfront than comparable ICE models. To drive mass consumer uptake of zero-emission vehicles, the Government must ensure that the market facilitates the supply of affordable new and used EVs.”
A separate report from insurance comparison website GoCompare this week states that the battery technology needed for mass EV adoption in the UK will not be available at an affordable price point by 2030.
That report states that, while lower-cost models are reach a real-world range of 300 miles per charge this decade, which should alleviate concerns around range anxiety, they will still not come to price parity with petrol models by this point.
GoCompare, like the Select Committee, also raises concerns about charger access. Its analysis found that the UK currently hosts just one public rapid charger for every 205 EVs, with the ratio set to reach 197 EVs per public rapid charger by 2030 under current plans.