There has undoubtedly been an increasing buzz around Electric Vehicles in the UK of late. For those of us within the industry, who have been both anticipating and facilitating the switch for years, this is no surprise and is just one more step forward in an inevitable process. However now, with the Government in the UK announcing the actual ban of sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040, the discussion about Electric Vehicles has become more mainstream, and change more definite. With a date now in place (albeit later than some of us would have liked), there is acceptance that Electric Vehicles in the UK will be the future. Electric Vehicles manufacturing is on the up, knowledge about Electric Vehicles is increasing amongst the public, and career opportunities in the Sustainable Transport sector are booming. It is therefore more important than ever to have an up-to-date knowledge of industry changes, through keeping up with sector news or taking part in accredited educational workshops. So, what policies have the government actually committed to over the next two decades, in order to promote Electric Vehicle use and facilitate this 2040 target? The Office for Low Emission (OLEV) published their report “Driving the Future Today: A Strategy for Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in the UK” in 2013, which although now needs an update, did set out the government’s commitment to the uptake of Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). At present, OLEV is committed to providing over £900 million in order to support the UK when it comes to innovating, building and driving ULEVs (demonstrating also the enormous and varied career prospects in this fast-expanding and heavily funded sector). So where is this OLEV funding going? Currently, various funding streams are available in order to support ULEV uptake, by direct users, or by those involved in infrastructure, re-charging and manufacture projects. For users, the OLEV has created “plug-in” grants; this is when car dealerships get grants to reduce the cost of buying a brand new electric or hybrid vehicle for consumers. There are also financial incentives to help people buy Electric Vehicles in the UK; for example, from 2016 the maximum incentive that could be granted for an Electric Car specifically, was £4,500. Moreover, the OLEV has pursued public awareness initiatives, such as the Go Ultra Low campaign, which provides information for individuals who are thinking about switching to an Electric or Hybrid vehicle.
The OLEV has also increased funding in order to support the infrastructure required for the broader uptake of Electric Vehicles. Individuals can apply for funding grants of up to 75% to help them fit charging points in their homes, known as the Electric Vehicles Homecharge Scheme (EVHS). Moreover, the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) is in place for eligible businesses and third-sector organisations, who would like to fit charging points for employees, as well as the on-Street Residential Chargepoint Scheme (ORCS) which provides funding for local governments who want to install charging points for residential areas. The action taken by the OLEV is mirrored by the targets set by the Climate Change Commission (CCC) with regard to ULEV’s in the UK. In December 2017, only 2.9% of new car sales were ULEVs, however by 2020 the CCC wants this to increase to 9%, and by 2030 to 60%. These targets may seem ambitious, but they are no doubt necessary. However, if these targets are to be achieved, there must be a corresponding training revolution to ensure that there are enough skilled professionals to facilitate it. Moving forward, although it is encouraging to see that the government is being proactive in promoting Electric Vehicles finance and development, it is also the role of private business, third-sector organisations, individuals and all other stakeholders to push for increased uptake. Some companies like the BBC, have already taken steps to ensure their employees are informed about ULEV’s, and recently the REI gave a talk at the BBC studios. Government incentives do indeed provide a carrot, and their proposed 2040 ban a stick, however consumer demand – be that of individuals of organisations – also plays a fundamental role in accelerating change. It is changing consumer expectations which will force manufacturers to continue to improve, innovate and distribute Electric Vehicle technology, and therefore we all have a role to play.
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