The UK is falling behind in the “global shift” to electric vehicles (EVs), according to a report by think tank the Green Alliance.

While acknowledging progress has been made in supporting EVs with stock “nearly doubling” year on year since 2012, it suggests a “continued lack of robust policy” is setting “Britain back in the global market”.

The How the UK can lead the electric vehicle revolution report, published last week, shows Germany overtook the UK in EV sales in 2017 for the first time, while China manufactured half of all EVs globally.

The Green Alliance recommends the government’s proposed ban on petrol and diesel vehicles should be brought forward 10 years from 2040 to 2030 to bolster sales and cut carbon emissions.

But it stresses targets alone will “not be enough” and proposes a “comprehensive strategy” including switching the government’s vehicle fleet to 100 per cent EV to put “Britain in a position to be a market leader”.

“Speeding up the uptake of EVs would help reduce the carbon policy gap and allow the UK to become a net vehicle exporter, as well as reduce the costs of EVs, making them more accessible for everyone,” the report says.

The think tank’s analysis shows introducing a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) sales mandate alongside a “strong vehicle emissions target” can boost the EV market in Britain.

It says using fiscal and non-fiscal incentives, within a revised 2030 ban on sales of polluting vehicles, could lower the UK’s £5 billion trade deficit in the automotive sector and reduce the projected gap in meeting the UK’s carbon budgets by as much as 60 per cent.

The report proposes three shifts in government policy to encourage the early uptake of EVs:

  • 1. a new ZEV mandate, for sales of zero emission vehicles to reach 15 per cent by 2022, rising to 45 per cent by 2025.
  • 2. going above existing CO2 targets under EU regulation to ensure new sales meet a fleet wide target of 60gCO2/km by 2025.
  • 3. commit to electrifying the entire government vehicle fleet by 2022.

Bringing forward the mainstream uptake of EVs will cut air pollution by at least a sixth by 2025, while halving the UK’s dependence on oil imports by 2035, the Green Alliance claims.

But it warns the UK “should not rest on its laurels” if it wants to cement its position as a “world leader” in the low emission and electric vehicle industry.

The Green Alliance is calling for a “strong domestic EV manufacturing sector, robust local demand and streamlined supply chains with Europe”.

Chaitanya Kumar, senior policy adviser at Green Alliance said: “Surprisingly, the first two months of 2018 saw a dip in EV sales compared to the previous year. This could be a worrying trend that suggests the need for greater certainty in policy, and a powerful signal to the market that the UK sees electric vehicles as a significant part of its economic future.

“If the government wants to leave the environment in a better place, accelerating uptake of electric vehicles will be an excellent and popular way to clean up our air, as well as driving forward an exciting new manufacturing industry for the UK.”

The report highlights Norway and India have set conventional car bans from 2025 and 2030 respectively. While Germany and China have plans to implement a 2030 deadline.

In September last year, Scotland announced an end of petrol and diesel car sales by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK’s deadline.

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