CEO Update

Levelling up charging network key to reaching net-zero

18 February 2022 #CEO Update

This week SMMT published a new seven-point plan to ensure every driver in Britain can benefit from an electric vehicle charging network that is affordable, available and accessible to all. The plan, designed to drive collaboration between government, industry and other stakeholders, calls for mandated targets for infrastructure rollout, backed by an independent regulator to keep consumers at the heart of planning.

Car makers have invested billions to drive EV uptake, and buyers are responding, with one in six new cars registered in 2021 coming with a plug. Yet the pace of chargepoint rollout is failing to keep up. For example, between 2019 and 2021, battery electric cars in the parc rose by a staggering 586.8%, whereas standard charger stock grew by only 69.8% and there are clear disparities on charge point provision across the regions.

With increasing competition for charging, it’s little wonder that range anxiety has now been replaced by charging anxiety and the situation risks holding back the market, which is still at an early stage. It’s why SMMT is calling for a new regulatory body – Ofcharge – to monitor the market, including charging price levels and affordability, and to enforce regulated minimum standards.

This would keep the consumer at the heart of infrastructure planning and rollout to ensure every region of the UK is in readiness for the end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030, with a unified approach bringing together drivers, chargepoint operators, energy companies and local authorities.

Elsewhere this week there was disappointing news as the bus and coach sector saw new registrations fall to the lowest recorded levels. Just 3,467 new vehicles were registered in 2021, as the pandemic dented passenger numbers. It is essential, therefore, that funding from the Bus Back Better programme be released urgently to support both operators and manufacturers.

The HGV market, meanwhile, accelerated 12.9%. With so much of our economy dependant on HGVs, the market’s return to growth is good news. Challenges remain, however, not least the transition to zero emission HGVs. Whilst the new car market is well on the way to zero-emission motoring, similar focus needs to be given to heavier vehicles.

New non-zero emission HGV sales will end in 2040 – just five years after the end of sale date for non-zero emission new cars and vans. While the passenger car market is largely focused on one technology – electric – to meet driver needs, with a massive choice of models already available, there is no single zero emission technology appropriate for all HGV use cases.

Furthermore, there is no plan to create the necessary public recharging or refuelling infrastructure specifically for HGVs and drivers to enable the transition. As a result, fossil fuel vehicles still accounted for 99.8% of HGVs in use in 2020, a proportion last seen in the car parc in 2007.

Operators need long-term certainty to make investment decisions and, as with the new car market, while the automotive industry can deliver the products to reach net-zero, others now need to step up and match these significant commitments.

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