UK industry calls for government clarity on EVs
Lack of clarity on the ZEV mandate and more flakiness on 2030 targets rings industry body alarm bells
Battery electric cars accounted 20.1pc of new car registrations in the UK in August, according to UK-based Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). But the organisation warns that a delay on details for the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, due to come into force at the end of the year, is spooking the market.
And the current UK administration is compounding these fear by talking about more loopholes it might open in the planned ban on sales of new ICE cars by 2030. This particularly concerning in the wake of a willingness of the country’s opposition Labour Party, odd-on favourite to be the largest party at the next national election next year or very early in 2025, to shy away from reducing the carbon footprint of UK road transport for fear of losing support to an ever-increasingly populist incumbent.
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“The automotive sector is committed to Net Zero but the diminishing time threatens the ability of the market to move,” says the SMMT. “With a new ZEV mandate due to come into force in less than 120 days, manufacturers still await the details,” warns its CEO Mike Hawes.
“Businesses cannot plan on the basis of consultations, they need certainty. And now, more than ever, government must match action to ambition, ensuring there are the incentives and infrastructure in place to convince drivers to make the switch.”
As EV market share hits record highs, with a combined 38pc of new registrations being fully or partially electric cars, the industry has likely largely served the bulk of enthusiastic early adopters, leaving a stiffer challenge to convince wider markets to invest in EVs. The SMMT is particularly keen for incentives directed at consumers to encourage EV switching — highlighting that current policy incentivises production of EVs but does less to stimulate, particularly private owner, demand.
“Demand from both business and private consumers must be boosted still further if ambitions are to be met,” it says. “But while businesses benefit from fiscal incentives to switch, there is no similar package for the private consumer market.”
The SMMT calls for greater clarity come days after Michael Gove, UK Secretary of State for Housing, Levelling Up, and Communities appeared to walk back on a blanket commitment to his government’s 2030 ICE sales ban deadline.
“The ambition to get rid of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 is not a modest one,” he told a panel at the Financial Times Weekend Festival on Sunday. When quizzed about whether the mandate was “ironclad”, Gove responded that it was not.
“As you are developing those goals and driving progress towards them, there will be, in a practical feedback loop, a need to recognise where there are exceptions and exemptions”, says Gove, adding that this level of flexibility is necessary in order to avoid “populist backlash against any measures to improve the environment”. The minister gave no indication of the scale or nature of exceptions that he thinks are needed.
Making something of a mockery of this pusillanimity, new UK BEV registrations numbered 17,243 in August — an increase of 72.3pc year-on-year — with 193,221 new BEVs registered in the UK in 2023 to date.