A select committee of UK MPs has urged the UK government to bring forward its ban on new petrol and diesel car sales by eight years to 2032.

The committee said the government’s 2040 targets for zero emission cars are ‘vague and unambitious’. In its report, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said the UK government should ‘bring forward a clear, precise target for new sales of cars and vans to be zero emission by 2032’.

Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee said the UK government’s targets on zero-emissions vehicles are unambitious and vague, giving little clarity or incentive to industry or the consumer to invest in electric cars. “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,” she said.

She added that the UK’s charging infrastructure is “simply not fit for purpose”.

“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,” she said.

The report finds that the current fiscal regime for EVs provides inconsistent messages about the government’s ambitions for EVs and recommends that the Government align new fiscal changes with the zero emissions target.

The UK government recently decided to slash grants for EV and PHEV purchase.

“The Department for Transport’s slashing of the Plug-in Grant scheme drives the incentives of buying an electric vehicle into reverse,” Reeves said.

Government called to work on investment environment

The committee’s report also recognises the importance of the British car industry and the need to ‘move ahead with the transition to electric vehicles if the automotive industry is to remain globally competitive’. The report calls on the UK government to work to create an attractive investment environment that will encourage manufacturers to locate new EV facilities in the UK.

On battery manufacturing, the report notes that other countries have already taken a substantial lead in this area and suggests that seeking to catch-up on this activity would leave the UK on the back foot. The report says that the UK can better capitalise on industrial opportunities if there is an aggressive targeting of high-value aspects of the EV and battery supply chains where the UK already holds comparative strengths. There also needs to be a focus on reskilling the existing car industry workforce so they are equipped to help lead the transition to mass use of electric vehicles.

SMMT response: 2032 ‘nigh on impossible’

The SMMT noted that the 2040 target for all vehicles sold to be zero emission was challenging, so bringing that forward by eight years appears unrealistic, the trade body said.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive said: “Government’s 2040 ambition was already extremely challenging, 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.

“Zero emission vehicles make up just 0.6% of the market meaning consumer appetite would have to grow by some 17,000% in just over a decade. This is unrealistic and rejects the evidence put forward by SMMT on behalf of the industry, which is investing billions into these technologies but which recognises consumers need greater confidence and support if they are to buy these vehicles in the numbers we all want.”

However, LeasePlan UK’s Managing Director, Matt Dyer drew attention to the need to be ambitious as the industry transitions to electric. “If the UK is to be a leader in low-emission driving, then we need to be ambitious and today’s report is a reflection of this,” he said.

“According to our own research, the UK is the fifth best European country in which to own an electric vehicle. If we are to get to number one and accelerate the road to zero, changes must be made, such as improving the necessary infrastructure. Today’s report criticises the lack of charging points and, whilst it has certainly improved in recent years, range anxiety has been replaced by charging anxiety. To encourage mass take-up of EVs, there needs to be more access to chargers across the country – at homes, offices and service stations – so wherever drivers are, they have access to charge points.

“There is also the issue of supply and demand. Manufacturers need to do more to provide electric alternatives. The number of EVs available on the market compared with their combustion engine counterparts are minimal. In short, it’s time for the manufacturers to provide electric alternatives for every model they make so consumers have enough choice to make the switch to electric.

“Finally, the government needs to be consistent. Last week’s OLEV change was a blow for the industry. If we are to be a world-leader in electric motoring then we need to encourage a behaviour change, and have policies in place to support rather than hinder it. So, let’s be ambitious and reward early adopters to benefit not only our environment, but our industry too.

“As a founding member of the EV100, LeasePlan has already started working towards our ambition of a net zero emission fleet by 2030. We look forward to working together with the UK Government to encourage the uptake of electric vehicles and fully realise a carbon neutral future. As an industry, we are tackling the zero-emission challenge and this investment from the Government further expresses Britain’s intent to join the charge for lower emission vehicles. It is now time for the UK to join Norway and the Netherlands as leaders in this field.”

See also: 

UK gov to ban ICE vehicles from 2040

2040 ICE ban an issue for UK powertrain production

UK government outlines ‘road to zero’ strategy

EVs no silver bullet and ICEs will stick around for decades – BP