The government has been urged by MPs to investigate requiring network companies to remedy gaps in car charging infrastructure and accelerate the ban on sale of diesel and petrol cars.

A new report by the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) select committee on electric vehicles (EVs), published today (19 October), says the government’s ambition to create a nationwide charging infrastructure is “hampered” by its reliance on councils and network operators.

It says that a more strategic, UK-wide approach would be “better equipped to deliver a fit-for-purpose public charging network”.

The committee recommends that ministers should examine options to incentivise or require network companies to facilitate the development of charging points.

The report says “There are concerns that network companies have sometimes obstructed the development of charging infrastructure and that they have little commercial incentive to promote EVs.”

It suggests that the government should subsidise the delivery of charging infrastructure to remote, rural localities to ensure that they become further cut off as a result of pick up in demand for EVs.

The government should also draw up a shared approach to planning national charging infrastructure by December 2019 and carry out an assessment with network companies to identify pinch points in emerging demand for EVs by June next year.

The report also recommends that the UK-wide phase out of new diesel and petrol car and van sales should be brought forward from 2040 to 2032 in line with the Scottish government’s more ambitious timeframe.

It says: “The current 2040 target for ‘effectively zero emissions’ vehicles places the UK in the passenger seat, leaving us to accept vehicle emission standards set by more ambitious international regulations.”

The government’s lack of clarity over whether the 2040 target applies to plug in hybrids as well as purely electric vehicles is “unacceptable”, concludes the report.

It highlights that car manufacturers are provided with no certainty about the types of vehicles they can market in the UK while charging infrastructure providers are less able to make assessments about future demand for their products.

“The unclear messaging from government is damaging and unfair to those companies wishing to drive the transition to EVs.”

The committee says that the sale of non-plug-in hybrids should be banned in the long term and all petrol and diesel cars and vans should be retired by 2050.

The committee’s chair Rachel Reeves said: “Our EV charging infrastructure is simply not fit for purpose. We cannot expect consumers to overcome ‘range anxiety’ and switch to electric vehicles if they cannot be confident of finding convenient, reliable points to regularly charge their cars.

“The government cannot simply will the ends and leave local government, or private companies, to deliver the means. The government needs to get a grip and lead on coordinating the financial support and technical know-how necessary for local authorities to promote this infrastructure and help ensure that electric cars are an attractive option for consumers”.

Responding to the committee’s report, Energy UK’s chief executive Lawrence Slade, said: “We firmly support the committee’s call for greater ambition and believe that an accelerated timetable for the rollout of electric vehicles is both desirable and feasible.”

David Smith, chief executive of the Energy Networks Association, added: “We want to ensure the public has access to electric vehicle charge points as quickly as possible and that the cost of connecting those charge points is kept as low as possible. Dealing with electric vehicles on a reactive basis isn’t the most efficient way of doing that.

“Local electricity networks need more information on where and when charge points are installed, along with better access to smart data and clarity on how the costs of upgrading the grid will be met, when necessary.”

A spokesperson for the National Infrastructure Commission said:“With more drivers making the switch from petrol and diesel to electric cars each year, the committee are right to highlight the need for action now so that our infrastructure doesn’t dampen this growing demand.”

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