Paving Road to Zero demands £16.7bn EV investment by 2035, says SMMT

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called for a Government incentives and binding charge point infrastructure commitments to boost electric vehicle take-up on the ‘Road to Zero’.

A survey of 2,185 UK motorists, completed by Savanta ComRes on behalf of the industry body, found that almost half were not ready to switch into an alternative fuel vehicle (AFV) and that the Government’s target of a 2035 ban on the sale of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars was too soon.

And new SMMT analysis compiled with the help of Frost & Sullivan revealed that spending of at least £16.7 billion was required to get the UK’s public charging network ready for mass EV market, with 507 new charge points needed every day to 2035 to drive buyer confidence.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: “Car makers are leading the charge to zero emission motoring, with massive investment in new models fueling huge consumer interest but they can’t transform the market alone.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes“To give consumers confidence to take the leap into these technologies, we need government and other sectors to step up and match manufacturers’ commitment by investing in the incentives and infrastructure needed to power our electric future.

“Manufacturers are working hard to make zero and ultra-low emissions the norm and are committed to working with government to accelerate the shift to net zero – but obstacles remain.

“Until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and operate as conventional cars, we risk the UK being in the slow lane, undermining industry investment and holding back progress.”

A study completed by Castrol revealed a “tipping point” at which EVs would prove more attractive to potential customers, with a priced of £24,000, an average 30-minute charge time and range of 282 miles on potential buyers’ wish lists.

The SMMT highlighted that the issues no longer lie with a dearth of suitable vehicles, however.

Audi etron at plug-in EV charge pointOver the last 12 months, the number of plug-in hybrid and full electric models has leapt from 62 to 83.

The SMMT has laid out a series of recommendation that, it believes, would boost adoption and help Government meet the CO2 emissions reduction commitments laid out in its Road to Zero strategy.

The recommendations are:

  • Government to drive uptake through incentives, including grants for all zero emission-capable vehicles and tax breaks, in place for at least six years.
  • A national strategic plan delivered locally to uplift the number of charge points and ensure the right type of chargers are in the right places.
  • Support for local authorities, with guidance on planning permission and technical standards, and a requirement to adhere to national standards.
  • A multi-sector strategy and roadmap with targets for incentives, infrastructure and energy provision, alongside positive consumer messages on all technology choices.
  • All public charge points to be available for all users, including rapid and ultra-rapid types, with credit/debit card access and/or network roaming.
  • Progress to be reviewed at regular intervals, with key enabling metrics reported annually to track against plan.
  • A bold strategy to support the UK’s industrial transition, to retain, grow and transform auto manufacturing in the UK and attract new investment, including upskilling the workforce, battery gigafactory investment, supply chain development and strategic R&D investment at a globally competitive level.

The SMMT’s call was made as more than 20 leading car brands came together at the Millbrook Proving Ground for a special EV driving event to highlight the growing range of new technologies already on the market.

EVs are rapidly growing in popularity, with demand more than doubling over the last year thanks to massive industry investment worth some £54 billion in 2019 alone, according to the SMMT.

Savanta ComRes’ survey findings identified key motivating factors in car buyers consideration of an EV included lower running costs (41%) and a chance to improve the environment (29%).

The survey found the biggest factors holding buyers back are higher purchase prices (52%), lack of local charging points (44%) and fear of being caught short on longer journeys (38%).

While, encouragingly, a third (37%) are optimistic about buying a full EV by 2025, 44% don’t think they’ll be ready by 2035, with 24% saying that they can’t ever see themselves owning one.

Today’s publication of the UK’s new car registrations for August showed that pure EVs had increased their market share from 3.4% to 6.4% year-on-year last month.

A statement issued by the SMMT today said: “Despite these reservations, most barriers can be overcome with the right strategy.

“SMMT is calling for a long-term commitment to incentives, including the continuation of the plug-in car grant (PICG) and its re-introduction for plug-in hybrids – a technology critical to the transition, giving higher mileage drivers reassuring flexibility and delivering environmental benefits now.

“This commitment, alongside VAT exemptions for all zero emission capable cars, would reduce the upfront price of a family car by an average £5,500 for battery electric cars and £4,750 for plug-in hybrids, and for an SUV by £9,750 and £8,000 respectively – vital given the high cost of producing this advanced new technology.

“This would bring them more in line with petrol and diesel equivalents and potentially drive some 2.4 million sales over the next five years, with an estimated 28% market share by 2025 compared with 8% today.”

It added: “Extensive analysis by SMMT and Frost and Sullivan also shows that a full, zero emission-capable UK new car market will require 1.7 million public charge points by the end of the decade and 2.8 million by 2035. Given there are only some 19,314 on-street charge points today, the task is massive, needing 507 on-street chargers to be installed per day until 2035 at a cost of £16.7 billion.”

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