Amidst welcome proposals for road repairs and EV infrastructure, the motoring industry stresses the need for clearer targets and funding mechanisms from political parties vying to form the next government as the UK approaches the General Election on 4 July.

In that light, it is understandable the Conservative Party is planning to bring forward £8.3 billion of funding to repair potholes, resurface roads and improve road connectivity in Wales and Scotland.

The Labour Party is proposing to fill one million more potholes in England every year of the next Parliament. This is to be funded by cancelling the A27 Arundel Bypass, a main route through the south-east of England, due to start in 2025. It also wants to tackle the high cost of insurance.

Reform UK, like the Conservatives, is attacking schemes aimed at limiting road use. It would scrap London’s Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scheme, Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) and 20mph schemes, unless critical for road safety.

The Conservatives would reverse the expansion of ULEZ, and impose local referendums to decide on 20mph zones and LTNs. It would also ban mayors and local councils from introducing road pricing, and offer the right to challenge existing schemes.

The Conservatives would increase the roll-out of the electric charging infrastructure, including rapid charging points. Labour plans to do much the same, while restoring the 2030 phase-out of new internal combustion engine (ICE) transmission vehicles. Labour, moreover, plans to support the second-hand market for electric vehicles (EVs) by standardising information on battery conditions.

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The LibDems are calling for a national grid upgrade to cope with more charging points. It wants to make all charging points accessible with a bank card, and it would harmonise VAT rates on EV charging with a reduction to 5% for using public charging points. Boldly, the Greens want all new petrol and diesel vehicles replaced by EVs by 2027, contrasting with Reform UK, which would ditch net zero, while removing bans on petrol and diesel vehicles, and the legal requirements to sell EVs.

Labour Party Manifesto 2024: Our plan to change Britain

The Conservative and Unionist Party Manifesto 2024

Liberal Democrats, For a Fair Deal, Manifesto 2024

Green Party, Manifesto 2024

Reform UK, Our Contract with the People, 2024

Expert reactions

Commenting on these manifesto pledges, Sue Robinson, chief executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA), argues that improvements to EV charging infrastructure be undertaken.

Quoting the NFDA’s own survey, she says dealerships ranked lack of charging infrastructure as the third most important issue affecting their business, before mentioning that not all parties address the necessity of introducing price incentives for EVs, which is crucial for stimulating private demand. The LibDems proposal for harmonising 5% VAT on public charging is welcome, she says, with public charging currently levying a 20% VAT rate compared to 5% on home charging.

Others agree on the VAT point, as the cost of EVs is clearly a big issue affecting its take-up. Only 17% of UK cars are EVs, lagging behind the world’s leaders Norway and Sweden, or even China (at 25%).

Many experts believe it would make great sense to incentivise EV ownership and lay out specific details and targets for the charging infrastructure. Paul Holland, managing director for UK/ANZ Fleet at Corpay makes the point that perhaps taking funds from the sales of ICE vehicles and fossil fuels and earmarking them for incentives for EVs would help to increase their uptake.

Labour seems odds-on to form the next government, and in that light, it is natural that its manifesto pledges are being given more attention. As with the other parties, Paul Hollick, chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) says, “the key ideas that it contains are fine in principle, but much more detail is needed on the proposals.”

He says the 2030 EV production deadline is now of limited importance compared to the Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate, stipulating that 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans in Great Britain must be zero emissions by 2030, and 100% by 2035.

“This is really the main control mechanism affecting EV sales in the UK,”  he says, adding that it would be useful to know whether Labour intends to keep the same rate of adoption as currently stipulated.

Philip Nothard, chair of the Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA), welcomes the plans for a new standardised used-EV battery health check, but also warns of the potential dangers of reintroducing the 2030 ICE sales ban.

“The chopping and changing of the EV production deadline from 2030 to 2035, and back again, is confusing for consumers, who are arguably already showing increasing antipathy towards electrification, and bad news for long-term industry investment.

He says global motor manufacturers demand certainty as they need to plan. This switching from one policy to another is a disincentive for them to work in the UK, especially when one of the thrusts of the Labour campaign is policy stability.

“It also has repercussions for the remarketing sector in terms of planning to handle the rate of electrification, although arguably the ZEV Mandate is a bigger issue here and Labour has made no indication that will change,” says Nothard.

Hollick meanwhile welcomes the plan to accelerate the roll-out of EV charge points, but berates the lack of detail, and targets. Labour has previously talked about removing planning restrictions and providing better guidance to councils, he says, adding that, “these measures could have an effect. Especially, there needs to be much greater emphasis on getting chargers in the right places.”

The government-standardised battery health check proposed by Labour would undoubtedly be very useful, he says, providing a high degree of reassurance for used EV buyers, “but we also believe that this is an area that almost certainly needs a degree of financial support, such as through used EV grants or low-cost loans.”

“How likely we are to see those moves from a Labour Party that continually stresses the need for financial control is open to question, however.”

Hollick welcomes the commitment to repair an additional one million potholes every year and the promise to retain a full expensing system for capital investment. “However, uncertainty over fuel duty would be a worry for some fleets,” he says, adding that Shadow Chancellor Rachel Reeves has refused to rule out future increases, with no mention of this in the manifesto.

“We’ve now had more than a decade of fuel duty freezes, so fleets have very much become accustomed to taxation at the current rate. At a point in time when company transport budgets are very much under pressure, any increase will be very much unwelcome,” Hollick points out.

The AFP has outlined its own recommendations, which include sorting out the ongoing confusion affecting 4.25 tonne electric vans and producing company car benefit-in-kind taxation tables up to 2030. “That could be done easy and quickly, and would win friends in fleet,” he says.

Labour promises to reinstate 2030 ICE car ban but remains silent on vans