The EV revolution is already upon us. We have a clear destination and whilst it might seem like a long journey ahead, we could quickly be much further down the road than people expect.
Battery life and other performance measures are improving at pace and there are now over 130,000 electric vehicles on the roads and 15,000 public charge points installed across the UK – not to mention the rising numbers of privately owned chargers being rolled out. Given the rising portion of UK emissions attributed to transport, it is clear that this progress must continue and increase.
The government has made good progress in aiding these efforts, including setting a 2040 deadline for phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles, but we believe that accelerating the process is not only feasible but desirable. Notably the Scottish government has pledged to do the same – but by 2032 instead.
Greater ambition will bring its own rewards for the UK economically and environmentally – and achieve the ambitions of the Industrial Strategy by making the UK a world leader in the technologies involved. But we must seize this opportunity now if we are not to be left behind and it is essential that we get it right – most importantly by ensuring this exciting future is based around the customer.
This is why we are calling for the government to bring forward the deadline to at least 2035. UK Plc already has significant strengths when it comes to electric vehicles, with an established automotive supply chain, world leading research centres, a history of engineering excellence, an evolving energy system and a dynamic business environment.
It is essential that the infrastructure – like sufficient access to charging points and adaptations to the network – keeps pace with the rapidly evolving technology and business models in this sector. Having high performance EVs but not the means to power them easily and conveniently would see the desired wide scale take-up stall. Japan already has more charging points than petrol stations.
The successful roll-out of low carbon transport will depend on putting the customer in driving seat. Many motorists have long seen their cars as more than just vehicles, but in the case of EVs this will be particularly true given the potentially transformative extra roles they can perform in storing and supplying electricity. Those capabilities mustn’t overshadow the fact that these have to be used as cars first and foremost and that customer adoption rests on drivers holding the choice and freedom they have had with vehicles up to now.
We recently held a consultation on developing agreed standards on smart charging for EVs, as we recognise that tackling important technical issues like this is essential to the transition. This reflects our determination as an industry to do all we can to keep things moving and illustrates the importance of getting the approach right for the customer.
Managing the extra demand that EV charging will put on the grid is crucial but our approach – and that of an increasing number of stakeholders – stress the importance of doing this through providing choice and incentive for customers. Ensuring drivers charge their cars in ways that minimise impact on the grid must be done through engagement and rewards rather than by imposing restrictions from above. Smart grids which make the best use of technology to manage demand can play a central role in the entire energy system of the future but only if we build and earn consumer confidence and trust. Enthusiastic and widespread EV take-up will come from the carrot rather than the stick.
As an industry, we’re taking the lead by working with partners from across the energy, automotive and technology sectors to do all we can help drive this transformation forward and help the government to take the wheel.