United Kingdom

MPs want assurances the grid can cope with surge in EV sales

The Transport Committee has called on the Government to increase efforts to make electric car ownership more attainable for Britain's drivers, in a new report released this morning.

The group of cross-party MPs outlined demands that ministers provide assurances the grid can cope with the surge in demand for electricity as EV sales rise - and that the public charging infrastructure is easy and cheap to use, as well as accessible for all drivers across the country.

These were the headline requests made in the committee's report, which has also called for a zero emission vehicle mandate, requiring manufacturers to sell an increasing volume of electric cars in Britain before 2030.

MPs call for a boost to EV plans: The Transport Committee has published a new report calling on government to provide assurances the National Grid can cope with a boom in EV sales and public charging infrastructure will be up to scratch ahead of the 2030 ban on ICE cars

The committee says Boris Johnson's government needs to put in place a 'clear policy framework'  to ensure that industry can deliver the vehicles and charging infrastructure required in the years leading up to the ban on sales of petrol and diesel passenger cars from 2030.

In the 'Zero emission vehicles' report, MPs outlined recommendations to boost the production and purchase of electric vehicles as the net zero deadline of 2050 approaches.

Headlining the list of demands was assurances that the National Grid will be able to manage under the strain of millions of electric cars plugging into the network.

MPs suggest that in its current state it would be unable to cope, meaning the network either needs to be strengthened, or the Government forces a change in charging habits via electricity providers to avoid blackouts across the country.

The latter would be achieved by ensuring the industry introduced a pricing structure that rewards a 'little but often' charging approach to reduce the burden on the grid.

'Unless the National Grid gains more capacity, consumer behaviour will have to alter so that charging takes place when supply can meet the additional demand. The alternative will be blackouts in parts of the country,' says Huw Merriman MP, chair of the committee.  

MPs said the National Grid either needs to be upgraded to cope with the surge in EV demand, or industry pushed to introduce incentives that promote 'little and often' charges to reduce the strain on electricity network

MPs are concerned about a public charging infrastructure postcode lottery that will make EV ownership less convenient and more expensive for drivers without off-street parking - and for those living in remote and rural areas

MPs are also concerned about 'whether the Government's current plans are enough to deliver the public charging infrastructure needed across all regions of the UK and whether it will benefit everyone'. 

Their report comes less than a week after the Competition and Markets Authority raised its own concerns over the slow roll-out of nation's public charging network, which called for it to be 'as simple as filling up with petrol or diesel'. 

The Transport Committee's paper provides a raft of recommendations to improve the public charging network in Britain, amid fears that there will be an infrastructure postcode lottery, with drivers in rural and remote areas and those without off-street parking having limited access to devices.  

It wants the Government to make public charge provision a requirement of local development - and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure.

It also calls for protection for drivers from excessive costs and to tackle the tax discrepancy between charging at home and using a public device.

What is a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate? 

Read our report explaining how a ZEV mandate on car makers could operate in Britain. 

Currently, just 5 per cent VAT is incurred for home charging, while those using on-street devices face the full 20 per cent rate.

The report also called for a Zero Emission Vehicle mandate by 2035 to boost both the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles, requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most.

These credits could then be used to cut the purchase price of a new electric car.  

MPs on the committee said that 'shifting the subsidy from the taxpayer to the manufacturer will incentivise those who deliver the fewest electric vehicles in our showrooms to up their game'. 

The AA raised its own concerns over the committees call for a zero emissions vehicle mandate to improve EV uptake, instead asking for VAT to be exempt for purchases of EVs

Mr Merriman, Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, added: 'As car usage returns to pre-pandemic levels, we must keep our sights locked on the target: all new cars and vans should be electric by 2035 at the latest.

'To help consumers see their route to a zero emission world, choosing to run an electric vehicle must be as seamless as possible.' 

Transport Committee's six recommendations

1. Work with the National Grid to map national coverage to eradicate ‘not-spot’ areas and identify locations where the Grid will not cope with additional usage

2. Make public charge provision a requirement of local development and provide funding for local planning and transport bodies to hire staff with a mandate to deliver charging infrastructure

3. Protect the consumer from excessive charges and multiple accounts when charging in public

4. Address the discrepancy between the 5% VAT incurred for home charging and 20% VAT for on-street

5. Insist that industry uses price to change consumer charging behaviour to a ‘little but often’ approach and at times when the National Grid can meet total demand

6. Boost the manufacturing and sales of new electric vehicles by requiring those who sell the fewest electric vehicles to buy credits from those who produce the most; such credit to then be used to reduce the purchase price of electric vehicles (the ‘ZEV Mandate’)

Responding to the new report, Jack Cousens, head of roads policy for the AA, said the committee was right to highlight the issues faced by drivers without off-street parking to charge their EVs and called for the addition of an independent body to ensure the public network provided an affordable solution to these motorists.

'For most drivers, the opportunity to charge an EV in their garage, on their driveway or in a dedicated parking space offers cheaper running costs,' he explained. 

'However, for the 30 per cent of homeowners with no access to dedicated off-street parking or workplace charging, they have no choice but to pay the rates set on the public charging network.

'On the road to electrification, we cannot allow one group of drivers to benefit while others struggle – in effect, a two-tier system of have and have-nots. 

'An independent body overseeing the fees being charged on the public network would help reassure drivers that they are paying a fair price.'

The AA was less supportive of a ZEV mandate, instead calling for the government to cut the purchase prices of EVs by making them VAT exempt. 

'Rather than focusing on tying manufacturers up in red tape to meet EV sales targets, we need to improve the incentives offered to consumers to buy electric vehicles,' Cousens added. 

'Scrapping VAT would be the most influential policy to help spark the electric revolution.'  

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