The upcoming 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel cars will transform UK motoring on a scale never seen before. This story is part of a wider analysis of the challenges faced by consumers, government and the automotive industry, what needs to happen, and how such drastic changes can be achieved over the next decade.
Read the rest of this series here: Countdown to year zero - what needs to happen by 2030?
By acting earlier than the US, Europe and Japan, are we putting out industries at any kind of competitive disadvantage?
Business tends to go where business is, so the chances are that any UK-based manufacturers or suppliers will continue to make and supply whatever is most profitable for as long as they are able. With most studies reckoning on EVs accounting for 30% of global sales by 2025 and a majority of sales by 2030, the UK’s move is unlikely to undermine competitiveness and might even spur investment in this new, long-term tech earlier than planned.
How will the government keep to such an aggressive timetable without the feeling of coercion overtaking everything?
The problem with the hard deadline is that the government needs to prove that EVs aren’t just a positive, practical choice for some or even most motorists but for all of them. And while the sale of used ICE cars for at least 15 years beyond the 2030 deadline seems likely, telling some people that they either have to buy second-hand or accept compromises is a tough political agenda to pursue, especially if it disadvantages the less well off or those living in more remote locations.
Of course, new EV costs and capability will improve considerably in the intervening decade – after all, they have significantly in the past 10 years without there being the R&D spend or impetus that exists today – and for many people, the barriers that exist to ownership today will be overcome.
But it’s hard to imagine that EVs will be as attractive as a petrol or diesel-engined car is today for everyone, and it’s these cases – however fringe – that will need to be addressed. ‘Like it or lump it’ has never been a great look politically, yet it’s something that the hard deadline inevitably risks the government having to impose.
Is the government likely to promote its aims by majoring on incentives or on penalties?
As always, there will be an element of carrot and stick. Today, the former is prevalent, with the plug-in car grant (PiCG), road tax breaks and congestion exemptions, plus of course the relative cheapness of charging compared with refuelling.
However, reductions in these incentives are inevitable, with grants and tax cuts certain to ease over time and road charging firmly on the agenda to replace fuel tax, removing another saving from the mix. All of this may be emotionally charged, but there’s a stark truth to the fact that motorists have long been a cash cow for governments that they won’t be giving up in a hurry. As ever, personal mobility will come at a high price.