Getting ready for the great EV switchover

By David Savage, vice president, UK and Ireland, Geotab

The government rolled out its Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy at the end of March. For the first time, it sets out ambitious plans for the charging infrastructure across the country. And it is one where we can see a future where there are more electric charging points than petrol or diesel pumps.

Electric charge points are set to jump from 30,000 to 300,000 by 2030 in a bid to make electric vehicles more attractive to people or companies without off-street parking. It is part of a £500m local authority funding investment, backed by the government.

There are hurdles to overcome. Firstly, we need private companies to work closely with local authorities to ensure the right infrastructure is put in place. As we have learned from the past, the public sector is not great at leading national planning projects.

Secondly, we need charging points to be reliable. The government proposals are asking for a 99% reliability rate at rapid charging stations – a laughable proposition for those of use who have been stranded at the roadside in the rain with a charging station that is as flat as our battery.

But this is the inevitable consequence in the growing popularity of electric vehicles, both for business and personal use. As the sale of new petrol cars and vans are set to be banned from 2030, the sale of EVs are already seeing an increase. Plug-in vehicles, which include pure electrics and plug-in hybrids, accounted for more than one in six new cars registered in the UK in 2021.

Road pricing – a new approach

The growing popularity of EV presents other problems. EVs attract neither fuel tax nor VED. As more and more people switch to electric technology, it leaves a potential £35bn shortfall in the government coffers.

How we make up this shortfall has been taxing the minds of the Treasury Select Committee, who recommend that the only feasible way of raising the revenue in the future is via a pay-as-you-drive system governed by telematics.

Fitting ‘black-box’ technology to fleet vehicles is one proposition. Although installing them in more than 30 million vehicles in the UK is on another scale. But it’s clear we need a solution that will replace the archaic flat-rate road duty we pay today.

Any new system will need to be revenue neutral with the present system. Ideally, it will also reward drivers who are low-mileage road users or who drive predominantly off-peak. But it also needs to be fair to businesses. If the government wants UK companies to switch their fleets to EVs, then it needs to provide a system that does not disincentivise them too.

Over the next few years there will be plenty of debate about the national road charging infrastructure, and new ways of raising revenue from road users. But it is encouraging that the conversation has started already. Eight years is not long to change the way we travel from top to bottom. The sooner we have the debate on our infrastructure and pricing policies, then the sooner we can be ready for the ‘Great EV Switchover’.

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