We all know what the destination should be. The government must act quickly to target the UK’s biggest polluter sector if it is to stand any chance of meeting its commitment to cut 1990 greenhouse gas emission levels by at least 80 per cent by 2050. But time isn’t on its side and the jury is out on its plans to get there.
The transport secretary’s new Road to Zero strategy to “lead the world in zero-emission vehicle technology” is the right direction of travel. Likewise, his aim for sales of at least half and up to 70 per cent of new cars – and 40 per cent of vans – to be ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) by 2030.
While it may not appease the environmental hardliners who want a tougher stance, particularly on hybrids, or many within the energy industry who feel an outright ban on combustion engine vehicles by 2030 is feasible, the strategy is going the right way at least.
But putting up a £400 million funding pot for charging infrastructure projects to help support this electric vehicle (EV) revolution – valued at an estimated £7.6 trillion a year by 2050 – plus £40 million to develop and trial more innovative solutions, still falls short.
As the growth of EVs accelerates, policymakers and regulators cannot leave this one to the motor industry. They should take more responsibility for driving solutions, establishing interim progress targets and ensuring sufficient incentives enable the UK to meet this national challenge.
National Grid’s Future Energy Scenarios report this week – predicting Britain’s roads will be carrying 36 million EVs by 2040, creating 8GW of demand and a potentially overwhelming strain on our energy system – showed the sheer scale of the journey ahead.
Energy leaders would happily offer a couple of pointers for any road map.
• Smarter infrastructure: as technology comes up fast on the inside making EVs more economically viable, meeting the “public on the go” challenges – specifically range anxiety – will require a smart, comprehensive charging points rollout that simply must be met.
• More flexibility: to unlock a truly flexible energy system and offer low-carbon solutions, two-way grid infrastructure and storage will be key to meeting demand peaks and troughs and empowering motorists to tap into the huge battery energy assets of their cars.
Follow these, and we might just stand a fighting chance of avoiding the inevitable bumps ahead in the road.