Stories of EVs catching fire, long queues to charges EVs and celebrities such as Rowan Atkinson ditching his EV have not gone down well with the House of Lords’ Environment and Climate Change Committee, which is calling on the government to be more positive about EVs and ‘robustly counter misinformation’.
The call comes in the new 128-page House of Lords report issued yesterday, which follows last year’s enquiry into EV adoption. The report, entitled EV Strategy: Rapid Recharged Needed, stated that the Prime Minister’s speech last year announcing the pushback of the petrol and diesel phase-out date from 2030 to 2035 told the public that achieving net zero ‘is going to be hard’. “By emphasising the costs while failing to stress the benefits and robustly counter misinformation, the government is not building public confidence,” said the report.
“Faced with conflicting claims and alarmist headlines, consumers need a go-to source of comprehensive, clear and balanced information so they can make informed decisions about their vehicles.” It wants the government to develop a communication strategy in collaboration with industry and consumer organisations to provide this resource.
Elsewhere in the report, it went on to say that although lifecycle assessments of EVs demonstrate that they can provide dramatic reductions in emissions, alongside improved air quality, they currently account for just 3% of all cars currently on UK roads. This means concerted government action is urgently needed to get people to make the switch.
The damning report said: “Progress is not happening fast enough, and major barriers remain. EVs are still more expensive than their petrol and diesel counterparts and there is an insufficient range of affordable EVs on the market. Up to 40% of households do not have off-street parking at home and thus are entirely reliant on public charging. The availability of public chargepoints across the UK is highly variable, and the government has missed its targets for motorway chargepoints. Major funding programmes for public chargepoints has faced serious delays. Many consumers face considerable anxiety around whether and where they will be able to charge EVs reliably, affordably, and quickly, and around the battery range of second-hand cars.”
The House of Lords Committee is calling on the government to publish a roadmap to 2035 setting out the steps it will take to achieve its target, focusing on seven key areas:
• Tackle the disparity in upfront costs between electric and petrol and diesel cars. The upfront cost of EVs, including second-hand cars, remains a significant barrier to consumer adoption and targeted grants should be reconsidered for EV purchases. The report says the government’s removal of incentives to support private buyers with upfront costs for EVs is premature “as we seek to move from early adopters and fleets purchasing EVs to a wider proportion of the population”. Any incentives should be tapered as the prices of EVs fall and approach parity with petrol and diesel equivalents.
• Turbo-charge the charging infrastructure rollout. The number and range of public chargepoints must anticipate demand, giving consumers confidence in purchasing an EV and keep pace with the number of EVs on the road. The Government must urgently review outdated and disproportionate planning regulations which are a major block to the rollout. The government must tackle delays in the rollout of funding schemes for public chargepoint infrastructure and build on the support available to local authorities. The government must also bring forward legislation to introduce new powers to direct local authorities in areas where there is insufficient infrastructure.
• Ensure charging is reasonably priced, convenient and reliable. While in many cases EV charging costs less than petrol refuelling, the government must explore options for equalising the discrepancy between the VAT rates for domestic and public charging. The current situation is unfair for drivers without access to off-street parking. Recently introduced regulations to ensure chargepoints are accessible and user-friendly are welcome – these should be reviewed by summer 2025 at the latest to explore how the government can go further as technology and consumer behaviour evolves.
• Accelerate grid decarbonisation. Ongoing work to upgrade the grid must prioritise low-carbon energy generation projects, designating them as strategically important and fast- tracking them through the process.
• Begin an urgent review of road taxation. The shift from petrol and diesel to EVs – currently exempt from fuel duty, congestion charging and vehicle excise duty – necessitates a radical rethink of road taxation. Fiscal measures must incentivise low-emission choices and disincentivise polluting ones.
• Enhance UK manufacturing and battery innovation. Recent announcements on new investments in the UK’s car manufacturing industry and the publication of the Advanced Manufacturing Plan and UK Battery Strategy are welcome. The government must monitor progress in these areas closely and provide a progress update by mid-2025.
• Invest in UK recycling. The government must urgently review and progress options to rapidly accelerate investment in UK vehicle and battery recycling facilities. Effective regulation will ensure that the UK is able to recoup as much of the critical materials contained in EV batteries as possible for its own domestic production.
The report was published at the same time as SMMT figures revealed that Britain’s one millionth EV had hit the roads. However, hidden in that story was the fact that EV sales were still being very much driven by fleets and sales of EVs to private citizens were actually down by more than 25%.
Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The Lords report recognises the role government must play in accelerating the EV transition. Many of the recommendations have already been highlighted by industry, such as chargepoint rollout ahead of need, equalising VAT on public charging to home charging and the importance of purchase incentives, which could be delivered by a VAT cut. The report also notes the need for clear, consistent communication of the UK’s ambition. The industry will continue to work with government to ensure this is a transition for all – including Ministers whose cars should also be electric by the end of the year.
RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “We welcome this important and far-reaching report from the House of Lords and urge the government to take the recommendations it makes seriously.
“We have long argued that mass uptake of EVs – which is the government’s aim – depends on prices falling to make them the natural choice for more people, so we are particularly pleased to see the Committee supporting the introduction of targeted grants for new electric cars, aimed at the more affordable end of the market.
“We believe the UK was too hasty in scrapping the plug-in car grant as it did lead to more lower-priced models being introduced. Without further financial support, it will be a long time before the majority of drivers will be able to afford to make the switch to electric.
“The Committee rightly acknowledges the important role the 2023 Public Charge Point Regulations will play in ensuring drivers benefit from good quality public charging infrastructure in the future, and we’re pleased to see its suggestion that elements of the UK’s first Public Charging Charter – which we developed alongside the FairCharge campaign – could form the basis of a future review of them.
“The unequivocal support for VAT to be charged at the same 5% rate whether a driver is charging at home or at a public charger also now piles yet more pressure on the Treasury to correct this bizarre anomaly. As things stand, the current mismatched VAT rates are an unnecessary barrier to switching to an electric car for the estimated third of people who can’t charge an EV at home and who wholly rely on the public charging network.
“We very much look forward to the government’s response to this report and its explanation of what else it is going to do to ensure as many drivers are able to benefit from running an electric car as possible.”