We’re not buying enough electric cars

Smart electric drive

The government is unlikely to meet its climate change targets and it’s all our fault. Put simply, we’re not buying enough electric cars.

Generous subsidies aren’t enough of an incentive for us to buy EVs in the numbers expected, as Britain struggles to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 80% by 2050 compared with 1990 levels.

In basic terms, around 60% of all cars and lorries on the roads of Britain must be all-electric by the year 2030. Crucially, ultra-low emission vehicles should make up 9% of the overall fleet by the start of the next decade.

Mary Creagh, who chairs the environmental audit committee, said: “We need 9% of all new cars to be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020 if we’re going to meet our climate change targets at the lowest cost to the public. But the department’s forecasts show it will get only half way to this target.”

The Department for Transport (DfT) expects between 3% and 7% of cars to be electric by the end of the decade.

At present, electric vehicles account for less than 1% of new car sales, despite the government offering up to £4,500 towards the cost of an EV. Part of the problem is the lack of a charging infrastructure, with the majority of public charging points found in London.

Mrs Creagh went on to say: “This failure risks making it more expensive to meet our long-term carbon reduction targets. With no strategy, we have no confidence that the DfT will meet this target.”

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), told the Guardian that ‘manufacturers were investing billions of pounds in developing new electric and hybrid vehicles’ and pointed to the increase in the number of electric vehicles available to the public.

Last month, campaign group Go Ultra Low argued that motorists in the UK are buying more electric vehicles than ever, with year-to-date electric car registrations up 31.8% compared with the first six months of 2015.

Close to 70,000 units have been registered since the government introduced its Plug-in Car Grant in January 2011. The Nissan Leaf remains the most popular all-electric vehicle, with 2,336 registrations in the first half of 2016.

The availability of the Plug-in Grant has been extended to March 2018, by which time we’ll know if Britain is any closer to meeting its emissions targets. Don’t hold your breath.

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