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A road less travelled: UK tries to jump start the electric car revolution

“The introduction of the ZEV mandate into law will be a key policy in driving electric vehicle uptake.

The U-turn by the European Commission delays a 10% tariff on electric car sales between the EU and UK for three years - © AFP Patrick T. Fallon
The U-turn by the European Commission delays a 10% tariff on electric car sales between the EU and UK for three years - © AFP Patrick T. Fallon

The zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate is legislation conceived by the UK government. It sets out the percentage of new zero emission cars and vans manufacturers will be required to produce each year. On 3 January 2024, the ZEV mandate became law, requiring all new cars and vans to be zero emission by 2035. For 2024, 22 percent of all new UK car sales from each qualifying brand must be zero-emissions, with the percentage gradually rising each year.

The ZEV mandate will only apply to England, Wales and Scotland and not Northern Ireland. This is against the backdrop of Northern Ireland currently having less than 1 percent of UK’s total charging points with an alarming proportion of these being antiquated and unreliable. There are concerns that Northern Ireland will fall further behind the rest of the UK.

Speaking about the legislation to Fleetworld, Sue Robinson, Chief Executive of the National Franchised Dealers Association (NFDA) explains its significance: “The introduction of the ZEV mandate into law will be a key policy in driving electric vehicle uptake and will heavily influence the automotive retail sector in its ongoing transition to electric.”

She adds that: “The automotive retailing sector has been supportive of the Government’s targets for net-zero in 2050 and as such has invested heavily in driving the electrification of the vehicle parc.”

For 2024, original equipment makers (OEMs) will be subject to a £15,000 penalty per non-compliant car. If an OEM does not meet the target percentage for that year, then there are options to mitigate the fines including buying ‘credits’ from other OEMs who have a surplus. This type of carbon offset, a type of reduction, avoidance, or removal of emissions, to compensate for emissions released elsewhere has been criticised by environmentalists, with businesses facing accusations of “greenwashing” over their carbon-offsetting claims.

Robinson explains that NFDA’s Electric Vehicle Approved (EVA) accreditation scheme was also launched in 2019 to encourage retailers to enhance their expertise in the electric vehicle sector and increase consumer confidence during the transition to electric. Since its launch, the scheme reached a significant milestone last year of 500 accredited dealer sites, with many more still due to be processed in 2024.

One important factor will be ensuring there is demand and that the public understand the timelines involved and the consistency of public policy. This leads Robinson to state: “Nevertheless, there is still more that needs to be done by government to maintain the positive electric vehicle trajectory in registrations and increase public confidence in these greener, cleaner vehicle types. The recent news that government has missed its own target of six rapid or ultra-rapid chargers at every motorway service station in England by the end of 2023 will do the industry no favours in its attempts to ease the minds of consumers.”

Measures like price incentives and improving EV charging infrastructure are favoured by the NFDA. In addition, changing public perceptions and building trust and enthusiasm are important components in any strategy.

In the NFDA’s recent Consumer Attitude Survey, 62 percent of over 800 driving licence holders across the UK attributed cost and 57 percent attributed lack of charging facilities in the UK as to why they were not interested in purchasing an electric vehicle.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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