Survey results: Infrastructure key to ambitious UK electric vehicle sales

27 July 2018


27 July 2018 The UK needs to build its electric vehicle infrastructure if it wants to achieve ambitious targets for ultra-low (ULEV) and zero emission vehicles, readers of the Autovista Group Daily News Brief have said. As part of its Road to Zero paper, outlining how the UK will move towards its goal of banning the sale of traditional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040, the country’s government has set a target of 50% of car sales being ULEV by 2030. This means sales of around 1.25 million units within 12 years, whereas in 2017 sales were just 45,000. Therefore, much needs to be done to entice drivers to the technology. But Autovista Group wondered which area the government should concentrate on. The clear leader in our survey was expanding the electric vehicle infrastructure, with 50% of the vote. Currently, there is only one charging point in the UK for every ten vehicles that require one, either pure electric (EV) or plug-in hybrids (PHEV). There are also fears that increasing capacity will overload the country’s electrical grid. However, oil company BP has recently suggested it will install charge points at all its service stations as a result of its acquisition of Chargemaster, while regulator Ofgem has said that encouraging drivers to charge in non-peak times would help the grid. Financial incentives for ULEV purchases came next in the Autovista poll results, with 17% of respondents choosing this option. This is a plan that has been very successful in Norway, which is the leading European market in sales of vehicles in this category. However, the country is spending vast amounts of money in order to achieve this, and recent proposals to end incentives and apply tax to ULEVs were met with fierce opposition and were subsequently dropped. For the UK however, such incentives could be posted as a scrappage scheme, encouraging drivers of older, more polluting vehicles to consider a ULEV. There are already tax breaks in place, with no vehicle excise duty (VED) to pay on electric vehicles. However, from 2017 there is a standard rate of £140 (€158) chargeable every year for hybrid vehicles. Finally, three options garnered 11% of the vote, with research into electric vehicle batteries, development of fast charging and improvements to a hydrogen vehicle infrastructure all achieving this result. The UK is aiming to be a leader in EV technology and has established technology centres to develop new batteries that will boost the range of electric driving. Additionally, the country is also researching hydrogen fuel cells, which offer drivers the convenience of petrol and the environmental credentials of electric cars. Building the infrastructure will encourage sales of hydrogen vehicles, which are under development by a number of manufacturers. However, no respondents felt that hydrogen development in the UK would be an appropriate course of action to improve ULEV sales.