UK Budget 2017: bolder policies on electric cars needed

9th March 2017
Alice Matthews

Following the Chancellor’s Budget announcement of support for electric vehicles, specialist management consultancy Baringa Partners issued the following response. Natalie Bird, Senior Consultant, said: “The Chancellor’s announcement of funding for research into batteries for electric vehicles is a positive first step, but it doesn’t go far enough. The transport sector trails the energy and industrial sectors on decarbonisation. 

"Despite significant uptake in electric cars since 2011, the rate of eligible vehicle registrations slowed substantially last year. Although the UK’s 2050 Greenhouse Gas target theoretically allows for later action, the combination of pressing air quality issues, consumer interest in electric vehicles and advances in self-driving technology provides a real opportunity today to kick-start the decarbonisation of the transport sector, which will reap long-term benefits.

“In these early stages, bolder policies that reduce costs and influence public perception are needed if we want to see more people get behind the electric wheel. This means providing more certainty to investors, producers and consumers about the vision for the future of the market. In the longer run, the Government may need to shift the balance of policy away from direct subsidies and towards more technology neutral mechanisms such as a wider carbon tax for the transport sector, to discourage the use of conventional vehicles.

“Importantly, policies should be designed to support the roll-out of rapid charging access across the UK. While today’s support for the development of batteries for electric cars will go some way to alleviating customers’ fears about range, more work is needed to change the perception that electric vehicles are not as reliable as their petrol and diesel peers.

“The Government should also recognise the ongoing evolution of the wider transport landscape and the potential shift away from private vehicle ownership towards greater use of ‘on-demand’ flexible modes of travel such as car sharing schemes, and ensure policies take this into account. This may be accelerated by self-driving technology, which in turn could dramatically transform road transport demand patterns, and it would be good to recognise that link in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.”

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