As the UK General Election approaches, Motor Finance Online sat down with Paul Clarke, the founder of Green Car Guide, a provider of independent EV reviews online, as he emphasised the transformative impact the new government can have on the EV market and its future as well as the broader green agenda.

Alejandro Gonzalez (AG): With the snap General Elections coming up, how crucial do you think EVs, the ZEV mandate, and the sustainability agenda will be for all parties?

Paul Clarke (PC): “EVs, the ZEV mandate and the sustainability agenda are crucial for the UK, but unfortunately not all political parties appear to see this. The current government has not had EVs or sustainability anywhere near the top of its agenda. Other parties are signalling that they will have more of a green focus. As per my original prediction at the start of this year, the ZEV mandate target of 22% this year is clearly going to be missed – as recent forecasts suggest – by at least 3%. This shows the failure of the government’s lack of strategy to support EV sales in order to meet the mandate’s targets. For context, manufacturers get fined £15,000 per vehicle over the target that isn’t a ZEV; this is obviously going to generate some significant issues in the industry. If the 2035 date is brought forward to 2030, the ZEV mandate targets will have to be adjusted.”

AG: Some parties have pledged to reinstate the 2030 ban on petrol and diesel cars, others have even posited an end to all diesel-fueled vehicles by 2027. What impact do you believe this will have on consumer confidence and EV sales?

PC: “When the 2030 date was announced there was some pushback from certain sections of the automotive industry, but overall the 2030 date was welcomed. Delaying the date to 2035 means further changes for the industry, and then reinstating the 2030 date is yet more upheaval. However, a number of car companies are still aiming for the 2030 date so reinstating this date, although not ideal in terms of overall planning, shouldn’t be a huge issue for the majority of companies.

On the other hand, the Green Party manifesto states: ‘An end to sales of new petrol and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2027 and to the use of petrol and diesel vehicles on the road by 2035.’ If we are to take this at face value, the party is essentially suggesting all petrol and diesel vehicles need to be taken off our roads by 2035. As much as I support having zero-emission vehicles on our roads, this is an enormous and, frankly, unrealistic goal. How is the party planning to remove over 40 million vehicles in such a short time frame? There are numerous implications, including compensating people for their vehicles and figuring out what will replace them.”

AG: What are your views on the status of EV manufacturing in the UK?

PC: “The automotive industry is extremely important to the UK economy, both in terms of GDP and jobs, however the current government doesn’t really seem to have understood this. There has been a very long delay in getting a battery gigafactory finally built in the UK, and we are now behind the curve with battery and EV production. The next government needs an effective industrial strategy, which needs to be produced quickly, and needs to be informed by industry experts. Labour states that wealth creation is its top priority – manufacturing EVs, batteries and renewable energy technologies in the UK can help achieve this.”

AG: What are your thoughts regarding the UK’s role within the wider scope of the green agenda?

PC: “The current government has not had the environment or EVs anywhere near the top of its agenda. Many stakeholders in the EV sector have already clearly expressed that they are hoping for a new government which will have EVs and the environment higher up its priority list. My view is that one of the top priorities for the next government is ‘sustainable development’ – a term, commonly used a number of years ago that hasn’t been heard in a while. Following the principles of sustainable development should allow the UK to progress in terms of its economy and standards of living, while also looking after the planet for future generations.”

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AG: With a growing range of EV models and attractive offers, why do you think private buyers are still hesitant to make the switch to electric?

PC: “The vast majority of new EVs are registered by businesses and fleets because of financial incentives such as low benefit in kind tax. However private buyers are clearly hesitant to make the switch to electric for a number of reasons including negative media coverage, cost of living pressures, and the fact that EVs are currently more expensive to buy [though it needs to be noted that their whole-life costs are generally lower] and there are none of the financial incentives that businesses enjoy.”

AG: What role do government policies play in overcoming the current barriers to EV uptake?

PC: “Positive communication about EVs needs to be a top priority, in an attempt to change hearts and minds that have been damaged by negative messaging about EVs over recent years. Work was done a few years ago by the government to come up with a plan to improve public charging, which has clearly improved things, but delays in electricity connections for new charging infrastructure such as hubs is now a big problem. And even acknowledging the complex issues involved, this needs to be resolved.

A priority has to be more affordable public charging for people who don’t have off-road parking at home, because EVs are much cheaper to run if you can charge at home, but this isn’t the case if you have to use public charging – one possible solution is to remove VAT on public charging. EVs are moving towards price parity with petrol vehicles, but at the moment incentives for retail customers are needed. However, any incoming government isn’t likely to have budgets to subsidise EVs. Increasing numbers of more affordable used EVs are now coming to market which will help.”

AG: If you had only one message for the next incoming UK government?

PC: “More positive communication is needed to convey the benefits of EVs, to make them more attractive, and to educate people that although EVs typically have a more expensive purchase price than petrol vehicles, they’re generally cheaper on a whole-life cost basis – and if charged at home – so a plan is needed to make the cost of public charging more affordable. Any way to enable more consumers to spread the cost of an EV through monthly payments to avoid the need for a big cash purchase would be welcome.”

Paul Clarke is the founder of Green Car Guide.

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