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3 policies that will put the UK in the fast lane to zero emission EV driving

The government has set a bold a path for the UK's accelerated route to electric vehicles (EV). But, what needs to happen now to deliver on the sustainable transport vision?

The 2030 ban on new Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicle sales – ten years sooner than originally planned – has put UK road transport in the fast lane to electrification. There's rapid growth in the UK electric vehicle (EV) market, with plug-in vehicles accounting for one-in-eight of new cars purchased in February 2021

But even though the green transport revolution is happening at pace, there's 40 million (mainly petrol and diesel) vehicles on UK roads. Making sure that all new vans and cars are 100% electric by 2030 will be a mammoth task.

With only nine years to accelerate and meet this massive challenge for EV expansion to reach 100% of new sales, the government must provide a supportive policy framework to enable industry to deliver on the timetable and roll out battery electric vehicle infrastructure at scale.

We cannot afford any delays on the journey to 2030 and the longer road to net zero 2050. The climate change clock is ticking and transport is a major source of pollution - accounting for around 27% of UK greenhouse gas emissions  – mainly from petrol and diesel road vehicles, which also cause air quality problems.

Joint progress on EV

Business and government have worked together to make strong progress in the UK's early transition to clean electric transport.

As members of the Climate Group  EV 100 initiative, we're joined with 101 other businesses globally to spearhead the roll out of sustainable transport. To help deliver on our Centrica Group 2045 net zero target, we've recently brought forward our fleet electrification  deadline by five years. Our goal is to make our 12,000-strong fleet 100% electric by 2025, while also helping our customers transition to cleaner transport.

We recently  announced the UK's largest commercial electric vehicle (EV) order  –  totalling 3,000 all-electric vans – and have already installed more than 17,000 electric vehicle charge points – ranging from 3.5kW to ultra fast 350kW. During the next year we plan to install an additional 23,000 more.

Government support has helped unlock the UK's early stage EV roll out, including tax benefits, grants and financial incentives for charge point installations and EV purchase costs. The recent  Energy White Paper has set out a plan to invest £1.3 billion to accelerate the rollout of EV charging points across homes, streets and motorways, as well as another £1 billion to support the purchase and development of EVs themselves, such as funding for battery production.

This joint government and business action is paying off in bringing us to an economic and environmental tipping point – ready for an accelerating EV roll out.

Get ready for mass EV roll-out?

But now what? How do we achieve exponential EV growth in the run up to 2030? How do we make zero emission motoring accessible for everyone?

The scale and complexity of the challenge mean that EV specialists like us cannot do it alone. We need continued government support to help integrate energy and transport policy, which are intricately linked and can no longer sit in separate silos. We also need help to stimulate EV market competition and growth, and financial support to underpin the phase-out of petrol and diesel vehicles.  

Three policy essentials to hit the 2030 EV deadline

Now is the time to seize the green transport opportunity. There are several ways that government and businesses can work together to make this happen. But we're seeking 3 key policy commitments that will enable businesses like ours to roll out EV infrastructure at scale and deliver a smooth transition to EV.  We hope that these will be included in the government's pending Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

1. Stimulate supply of EVs in the UK

The UK requires a policy framework to ramp up the supply of EVs by 2030 and achieve cost parity with ICE vehicles. EV purchase grants are currently helping to close this price gap, but there has been a recent £500 cut to this subsidy (on top of previous cuts) – bringing the value down to £2,500 per vehicle (under the reduced vehicle value of £35,000).

While such incentives are a valuable interim measure, there's a pressing need to encourage sustainable EV market growth and competition, which will invigorate vehicle supply and reduce purchase costs as production increases.  Through our membership of EV 100 we're calling for a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, which requires auto manufacturers to  ensure an annually increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicle sales, or purchase credits from other manufacturers with a surplus.

The ZEV Mandate was first introduced in California in the 1990s and has been replicated in other US States and Canadian provinces, as well as China.  It is designed to match EV supply with increasing demand and drive down prices.

The ZEV is a revenue neutral policy for the government that can harness market competition and increase investment confidence in UK EV manufacturing. Ultimately, it would enable government to divert vehicle purchase grant funding to support the roll-out of critical charging infrastructure, while stimulating skilled jobs and economic growth.

2. Ensure reliable charging infrastructure is available to everyone

Charging is another barrier to the mass uptake of EV, particularly the availability of public charge points, which aren't just necessary for people without driveways. They're also  important for commercial vehicles. For example, around 70% of our EV fleet relies on both public and workplace charging, which is the same for many other UK fleet drivers.

Government funding for charging must continue to create comprehensive national provision at pace - across homes, workplaces, and on-street. Critically, we must have more charge points in public places, such as car parks and supermarkets, as well as along motorways and strategic roads to support long-distance journeys and relieve 'range anxiety'. These facilities must be easy to find and user-friendly, particularly in terms of ease of payment.

We also need faster charging provision and welcome new funding for rapid charging hubs, which will go some way towards developing this essential infrastructure.

We are hopeful that additional temporary capital expenditure reliefs, such as the super deduction tax break and new 50% First-Year Allowance (FYA), will help unlock investment in EV charging in the short term.

3. Ensure we have a flexible energy system to deliver affordable renewable power for EVs

It's essential to have agile energy flexibility mechanisms to ensure there is enough electricity at the right price in the right places to meet EV needs affordably.

Without the ability to move and shift energy demand, more expensive network upgrades will be needed and power costs will be higher. This relies on developing highly responsive national and local flexibility markets to enable assets of all sizes to participate, while accommodating  increasing volumes of renewables onto the grid. Our landmark Cornwall Local Energy Market project  demonstrates what's possible and points the way forward on local energy flexibility.

EVs should be able to contribute to the resilience of our electricity system. This will be enabled by smart chargers, V2G, wider access to system data, demand side response and local flexibility markets at a consumer and business level. To this end, we are close to agreeing a trial which will see 100 EVs take part in a vehicle 2 grid study in the UK.

It is encouraging that the government’s energy white paper  includes flexibility as a key enabler for the future of the energy grid. However, now is the time to make firm commitments on when real change will happen.

In partnership with Vauxhall, we're leading the way by integrating time-of-use renewable energy tariffs into charger installations, including 'free green miles' credit. We've also launched a fleet smart charging management app that makes reimbursement easy and  features tariff optimisation. This enables drivers to  charge when  power prices are lowest from any standard charge point.

Unlocking the big EV opportunity

As early adopters of EV – having already clocked up 1.75 million electric miles across our fleet – we know that electrification will bring new and exciting opportunities to businesses and individuals across the UK, while supporting the UK in meeting its net zero emissions target.

With the right policy framework,  the EV industry can continue its productive partnership with government – putting EV in the fast lane to cleaner transport and net zero. This will also support economic recovery by creating skilled green jobs and reducing the long-term costs of energy and transport.

Centrica Business Solutions has created an EV Enablement solution to provide the complete end-to-end EV infrastructure solution from one single supplier. Our modular package of solutions can provide support across the entire process – from design to long-term operation and maintenance and is designed to make the transition to EV simple and easy. 

Learn more about the opportunities EV present and download our eBooks on solutions for Workplaces and Fleets today.

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