The Transport Committee has called on the Government to increase efforts to make electric car ownership more attainable for Britain’s drivers, in a new report released this morning.
The group of cross-party MPs outlined demands that ministers provide assurances the grid can cope with the surge in demand for electricity as EV sales rise – and that the public charging infrastructure is easy and cheap to use, as well as accessible for all drivers across the country.
These were the headline requests made in the committee’s report, which has also called for a zero emission vehicle mandate, requiring manufacturers to sell an increasing volume of electric cars in Britain before 2030.
MPs call for a boost to EV plans: The Transport Committee has published a new report calling on government to provide assurances the National Grid can cope with a boom in EV sales and public charging infrastructure will be up to scratch ahead of the 2030 ban on ICE cars
The committee says government needs to put in place a ‘clear policy framework’ to ensure that industry can deliver the vehicles and charging infrastructure required in the years leading up to the ban on sales of petrol and diesel passenger cars from 2030.
In the ‘Zero emission vehicles‘ report, MPs outlined recommendations to boost the production and purchase of electric vehicles as the net zero deadline of 2050 approaches.
Headlining the list of demands was assurances that the National Grid will be able to manage under the strain of millions of electric cars plugging into the network.
MPs suggest that in its current state it would be unable to cope, meaning the network either needs to be strengthened, or the Government forces a change in charging habits via electricity providers to avoid blackouts across the country.
The latter would be achieved by ensuring the industry introduced a pricing structure that rewards a ‘little but often’ charging approach to reduce the burden on the grid.
The report said: ‘The Government must mandate that industry uses price as a lever to move consumer behaviour away from conventional refuelling habits towards ‘a little but often’ approach.’
Huw Merriman MP, chair of the committee, added: ‘Unless the National Grid gains more capacity, consumer behaviour will have to alter so that charging takes place when supply can meet the additional demand. The alternative will be blackouts in parts of the country.’
Back in December, National Grid’s transport decarbonisation director, Graeme Cooper, said he was confident the grid can support the extra demand for electricity the transition will create.
‘There is definitely enough energy and the grid can cope easily,’ he explained at the end of last year.
However, he said smart chargers – which alter the amount of electricity sent to a car depending on overall demand – will play a crucial role in managing electricity demand at peak times.
‘The growth in renewable energy means this is not static and smart metering will make this more efficient,’ he added.
‘For example, the growth in wind power from the extra offshore wind farms being developed will adequately meet the future demand for electrifying transport – an extra 100 terrawatt hours from our current 300 terrawatt hours consumed.
‘Preparations have been underway for a while, as we’ve been discussing how best we can work towards the green transport changeover with government, electricity distribution companies, who transport the energy from the grid to homes and businesses, service station operators and charge point providers for over two years.’
MPs said the National Grid either needs to be upgraded to cope with the surge in EV demand, or industry pushed to introduce incentives that promote ‘little and often’ charges to reduce the strain on electricity network
MPs are concerned about a public charging infrastructure postcode lottery that will make EV ownership less convenient and more expensive for drivers without off-street parking – and for those living in remote and rural areas
MPs are also concerned about ‘whether the Government’s current plans are enough to deliver the public charging infrastructure needed across all regions of the UK and whether it will benefit everyone’.
Their report comes less than a week after the Competition and Markets Authority raised its own concerns over the slow roll-out of nation’s public charging network and an existing postcode lottery of chargepoints.
It called for an increased roll-out of rapid devices so that charging an EV could be ‘as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel’.
The Transport Committee’s paper provides a raft of recommendations to improve the public charging network in Britain, amid fears that there will be an infrastructure postcode lottery, with drivers in rural and remote areas and those without off-street parking having limited access to devices.
It wants the Government to make public charge provision a requirement of local development – and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure.
It also calls for protection for drivers from excessive costs and to tackle the tax discrepancy between charging at home and using a public device.
What is a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate?
Read our report explaining how a ZEV mandate on car makers could operate in Britain.
Currently, just 5 per cent VAT is incurred for home charging, while those using on-street devices face the full 20 per cent rate.
The report also called for a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate by 2035 to boost both the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles, requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most.
These credits could then be used to cut the purchase price of a new electric car.
MPs on the committee said that ‘shifting the subsidy from the taxpayer to the manufacturer will incentivise those who deliver the fewest electric vehicles in our showrooms to up their game’.
The AA raised its own concerns over the committees call for a zero emissions vehicle mandate to improve EV uptake, instead asking for VAT to be exempt for purchases of EVs
Mr Merriman, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, added: ‘As car usage returns to pre-pandemic levels, we must keep our sights locked on the target: all new cars and vans should be electric by 2035 at the latest.
‘To help consumers see their route to a zero emission world, choosing to run an electric vehicle must be as seamless as possible.’
Transport Committee’s six recommendations
1. Work with the National Grid to map national coverage to eradicate ‘not-spot’ areas and identify locations where the Grid will not cope with additional usage
2. Make public charge provision a requirement of local development and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure
3. Protect the consumer from excessive charges and multiple accounts when charging in public
4. Address the discrepancy between the 5% VAT incurred for home charging and 20% VAT for on-street
5. Insist that industry uses price to change consumer charging behaviour to a ‘little but often’ approach and at times when the National Grid can meet total demand
6. Boost the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles by requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most; such credit to then be used to reduce the purchase price of electric vehicles (the ‘ZEV Mandate’)
Responding to the new report, Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said the committee was right to highlight the issues faced by drivers without off-street parking to charge their EVs and called for the addition of an independent body to ensure the public network provided an affordable solution to these motorists.
‘For most drivers, the opportunity to charge an EV in their garage, on their driveway or in a dedicated parking space offers cheaper running costs,’ he explained.
‘However, for the 30 per cent of homeowners with no access to dedicated off-street parking or workplace charging, they have no choice but to pay the rates set on the public charging network.
‘On the road to electrification, we cannot allow one group of drivers to benefit while others struggle – in effect, a two-tier system of have and have-nots.
‘An independent body overseeing the fees being charged on the public network would help reassure drivers that they are paying a fair price.’
The AA was less supportive of a ZEV mandate, instead calling for government to cut the purchase prices of EVs by making them VAT exempt.
‘Rather than focusing on tying manufacturers up in red tape to meet EV sales targets, we need to improve the incentives offered to consumers to buy electric vehicles,’ Cousens added.
‘Scrapping VAT would be the most influential policy to help spark the electric revolution.’
The Transport Committee says this is the first in a string of new reports around EV adoption, with another looking primarily at road pricing due to follow.