CEO Update

Britain hits one million EVs – now let’s double it

09 February 2024 #CEO Update

The headlines and airwaves were electric this week as newly published SMMT figures showed Britain’s millionth battery electric car (BEV) joined the road in January – a milestone that’s been more than 20 years in the making, with 1,001,677 registered since 2002. As the latest industry outlook expects BEVs to represent over a fifth of the market in 2024, it is possible that we may reach our second millionth in just two years from now – a huge cause for optimism for our net zero ambitions.  Car, van, bus and truck manufacturers are ready to deliver a mass market EV transition, however, it all depends on creating the right conditions for electrified mobility – and supportive policymaking is now mission-critical.

Action must match ambition and, with the Spring Budget in less than one month’s time, the number one priority for our sector must be to temporarily halve VAT on new BEV purchases – a streamlined solution that would cost the Treasury on average just £1,125 per car – less than the previous Plug-in Car Grant, while putting an extra quarter of a million BEVs – rather than petrol or diesel – on the road before 2027. Against a backdrop of high energy prices, inflation and interest rates, such support can make a huge difference to private buyers – including, ultimately, second-hand buyers, who tend to follow new market trends. SMMT’s latest used car market figures for 2023 show just that, with BEV uptake up 90.9%, albeit representing just 1.6% of sales – with potential for huge growth provided supply from the new market is there.

The House of Lords’ EV strategy report this week highlighted many of the same concerns – and indeed our recommendations for compelling consumer incentives, greater infrastructure rollout, levelling VAT on public charging, and delivering an industrial strategy. All these are essential for a zero emission mass market powered by domestic EV supply chains, battery manufacturing, innovation, and decarbonised production processes.

Skilled jobs are also at the heart of such a strategy, and with future demand for green as well as connected and automated vehicles, all 800,000 of our industry’s jobs will change in some way. Futureproofing has already begun, with 5,000 apprentices currently in the industry, and one in four upskilling. On Monday, the sector’s progress in delivering new skills was highlighted at SMMT’s parliamentary reception to mark National Apprenticeship Week, with OEMs and their brightest young talents meeting MPs, and discussing their journey towards professional qualification. The future of our industry depends on them, and we ask all stakeholders to commit to action, deliver decarbonisation and pave the way for their future success.

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