‘Use VED to push car buyers’ towards electric cars

The reduction in total carbon emissions from cars necessary to meet the UK’s climate change goals could be achieved without drivers travelling less overall but would require big changes in other areas, according to new data. Because of this, experts from the RAC Foundation have called on the Government to take action to help the UK hit targets for its net zero goals and electric car uptake.

According to the Climate Change Committee, the UK needs to cut CO2 emissions from cars by a staggering 40 percent between now and 2030.

This can still be achieved in a number of ways, but will rely on the take up of electric vehicles, the proportion of car-driven miles accounted for by EVs and the rate of departure of petrol and diesel cars from the UK’s fleet.

Two major events in the coming seven years will have an enormous impact on whether the UK reaches its climate change aims.

This includes the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2030 and the Zero Emission Vehicle mandate in 2024.

The ZEV mandate requires a specified percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emission each year from next year.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “From the point of view of the planet the next car people buy is critical.

“For those thinking of going electric but wavering, perhaps put off by the up-front price, there is a case for pausing to see how things play out in the next year or two, rather than falling back to petrol.

“People sticking with petrol or diesel should go for the greenest, cleanest model they can, remembering that every fossil-fuelled car bought today is going to be with us for at least a decade and probably far longer.”

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The latest Government data shows there are currently 33.2 million cars licensed in the UK of which 548,000 (less than two percent) are pure battery electric.

In 2022, according to the SMMT, 1.6 million new cars were sold in the UK, 267,000 (17 percent) of them pure battery electric.

Mr Gooding added: “Despite the challenge of austerity if the Chancellor was canny he could use VED to push car buyers more firmly towards electric options, encourage petrol-car purchasers to choose models offering the best-in-class fuel-efficiency and in doing so actually raise some cash he could then use to cut the costs of electric motoring.”

Modelling from the RAC Foundation shows that if the total number of car-driven miles stays steady or continues to grow, then EVs would potentially have to account for some 35 percent of the total car fleet in 2030.

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This is around 13.5 million electric cars compared to a projected 38.6 million cars in total, and these would have to account for at least 27 percent of all car miles driven.

Another threat to net zero is the average age of vehicles on the road, which continues to grow year-on-year.

In 1994, the average age of cars on the road was six years and two months, whereas the end of 2021 showed the average to be eight years and four months.

The UK Government is pushing ahead with its plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles from the end of this decade. 

In addition to the 2030 petrol and diesel car sales ban, between 2030 and 2035, new cars and vans can be sold if they have the capability to drive a significant distance with zero emissions.

Petrol, diesel and hybrid HGVs over 26 tonnes could be banned from 2040, subject to a Government consultation.

Steve Gooding concluded, saying: “Based on current trends getting the car fleet up to 35 percent pure battery-electric by 2030 without reducing driven miles looks like a monumentally steep challenge, like climbing Everest on a bad day.

“Bearing in mind that annual mileage per-car was already falling way before Covid, maybe planning for a reduction in total car mileage wouldn’t be as contentious as some fear, particularly if accompanied by complementary policies, such as support for public transport.”

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt is expected to deliver his Spring Statement on March 15, with many watching what he decides to do with fuel duty and car tax.

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