Is Government policy the Road to Zero or the Road to Nowhere?

  14 October 2018

Last month Theresa May opened the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham with a pledge of £106 million for the development of EV cars, vans, batteries and the recharging infrastructure.

This month the Government scraps the plug-in car grant.

The way I see it two things happened this week, both of them bad. On the one hand the Government sent the message loud and clear that it isn’t really prepared to help people on their journey from petrol/diesel into electric. On the other it sowed confusion and mistrust and if you are investing in a car, either as a buyer or manufacturer or retailer, the one thing you want is confidence that you are spending your money wisely.

Some argue that the grant was unfair anyway. My view is that while PHEVs are not perfect they are a very effective halfway house solution for people who want a full EV but are not yet ready to take a chance on the technology or cost or recharging infrastructure.

Now these cars are going to look expensive against a standard diesel model. The best selling Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, for example, could cost some £7,000 more than an oil-burner and the financial case for it becomes harder to make. No wonder the industry has reacted with anger and confusion and feels a sense of betrayal.

The SMMT says that when the Danish government did something similar, sales of pure EVs plunged by almost 75% and have still not recovered. Is that what will happen here?

No government is so awash with cash that it can afford to indefinitely subsidise something like the purchase of a car, we all understand that, but it is galling that one day ours basks in the glow of positive PR from saying all the virtuous things about green cars and the next day it turns its back on them.

Those with a sense of irony will shake their heads in amazement that the government announcement was made just days before its Green GB Week Electric Vehicle Roadshow begins its tour of several cities from this Monday. One wonders what message the retailers called upon to support it as it sets up in their areas will be able to give now?

The government calls its long term green transport policy the Road to Zero. Shouldn’t that be more accurately called the Road to Nowhere…

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