Mixed response to government’s net zero plans

The government has announced its net zero strategy, which includes substantial investment in the automotive industry to support an accelerated switch to electric vehicles.

As part of the drive to establish a zero carbon economy by 2050, the government will invest £620m in grants for electric vehicles and street charging infrastructure. An extra £350m has also been pledged to help the automotive supply chain go electric, while vehicle manufacturers will be mandated to sell a proportion of BEVs each year.

However, the plans have received mixed reviews from the industry.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “The automotive industry is putting zero-emission vehicles on Britain’s roads at pace beyond all forecasts, such is the choice and appeal of these new models.

“A well-designed, flexible regulatory framework could help maintain or even increase this pace to ensure we deliver on our shared decarbonisation ambitions.

“Consumers need choice and encouragement, irrespective of where they live or what they drive. The additional targeted funding for electric vehicles is welcome and will help ensure affordability for certain models. To ensure we have the reliable, accessible and nationwide chargepoint network this transition needs, however, requires a similar regulatory approach.

“The announcement of additional funds for on-street residential charging must energise much-needed private sector investment but consumers will only have confidence in the future if there are commensurate and binding requirements on the infrastructure sector. Combining regulatory commitments with financial ones is the key to a successful transition to zero-emission road transport.”

Meanwhile, Ian Plummer, commercial director, Auto Trader, said: “The £620m investment in grants for electric vehicles and street charging points is welcome, but Ministers should consider how that investment is targeted. Our data shows that interest in electric vehicles is coming almost exclusively from wealthier postcodes. The comparatively high up-front cost of EVs is proving to be a massive barrier for people on average or below average incomes. The government and industry simply has to grasp this nettle if it is to supercharge mass adoption.

“That might mean introducing some kind of means testing. Incentives are needed to bridge the gap between traditionally fuelled cars and EVs for those who simply cannot afford the green premium.”