The long-awaited energy White Paper was finally published on 14 December, giving us more detail on the Government’s plans to ‘clean up our energy system and keep bills affordable’ during the UK’s transition to carbon neutrality.
This follows on from the Government’s 10-Point Plan, which received a mixed reception from the energy sector – high on aspirations, but low on the detail.
Are petrol cars being banned?
Perhaps one of its most headline grabbing proposals though was the bringing forward of the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars to 2030 - the fourth item of the ten point plan in the White Paper. In many respects, the UK has taken to this challenge with relish, and with the thought of no petrol and diesel cars coming onto the market after 2030, the role of the electric vehicle and the future of car ownership in the UK has been bought into sharp and immediate focus.
There is no doubt that this is a bold step towards a greener future, but it’s still unclear how this accelerated roll out of EVs will be achieved, and how the Government will encourage consumers to buy them. And, of course, to achieve its own deadline, a huge EV charging infrastructure must be implemented, as well as considerations around battery waste needing to be made. However considerable and tangible progress can be seen week by week.
Just over a year ago there were only two electric vehicles in the UK. Now we have a wide variety of manufacturers bringing out a variety of both hybrid and EV vehicles. Tesla now faces a cohort of long term contenders with VW and the Renault alliance very closely behind. General motors has seen considerable progress in its commercial vehicle development. Equally the Light Commercial Vehicle sector now has a variety of offerings including the much needed refrigerated versions required for vaccine delivery.
Challenges facing electric vehicles
As many people have experienced over the past year, having fewer vehicles on the road has led to quieter surroundings and far less pollution which has had a transformative effect and the scaling up of the number of electric vehicles on our roads will help to maintain this. But the fact that the date has been bought forward opens up more issues than it solves at the moment.
Funders/ bankers and leasers of petrol and diesel vehicles will be concerned about the residual value of existing technology.
Manufacturers will be under increasing pressure to get up to speed to ensure they can meet the demand this ban on petrol and diesel vehicles will inevitably create. They have to reassure customers in regard to “range anxiety” meaning their vehicles can start to match the ranges afforded by conventional fuels. Considerable progress has been achieved here.
There is still a huge deficit in the number of public charging points needed in the UK – and a recent article has reported there is a huge skew towards London and the South East. This and the huge issue of introduction of home charging points when 47% of the UK’s housing stock is terraced homes with no driveway. This however has presented an opportunity for the oil companies to transition. They are using their current free cash flows to deliver change. BP has bought Chargemaster and Shell is buying Ubitricity, tangible proof that both companies aim for a greener future.
Turning to energy providers, it’s a fine balancing act for the industry to replace ageing nuclear plants with new modular nuclear – which is in its infancy, whilst continuing to deliver green energy and power all these electric vehicles.
The future of electric vehicles
The next few years will be a crucial time for the future of electric vehicles and whilst there are huge issues to balance across the industry, there are also great opportunities for businesses and those prepared to invest in a greener future for us all.
Britain has shown considerable desire to be at the heart of EV delivery. Within four years a hybrid or electric vehicle will be an inevitable consumer and commercial choice.
What next? Anyone for hydrogen?
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