The UK's Electric Vehicle Policy: A Rollercoaster of Decisions

In a surprising turn of events, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently announced a delay in the UK's phase-out of Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) vehicles from 2030 to 2035.

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Published on
September 28, 2023

A U-Turn on Electric Vehicles

The government's initial statement explained the delay as an opportunity for families to benefit from decreasing electric vehicle (EV) prices over the next decade. However, this decision has been perceived by many as a deliberate move to slow down EV sales.

The automotive industry, which has poured billions globally and hundreds of millions in the UK into transitioning to zero-emission vehicles, was understandably shaken. Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, emphasised the industry's commitment to decarbonisation and called for a "clear, consistent message" from the government.

Reactions from the House of Lords

The House of Lords also expressed their discontent. Baroness Parminter, Chair of the House of Lords Environment and Climate Change Committee, colourfully described the decision as a missed opportunity to lead in environmental initiatives.

On the other hand, industry associations like the VRA and PRA, representing car dealers and petrol stations, viewed the decision more positively. IGA chief executive Stuart James saw it as a reality check, pointing out the UK's current lack of infrastructure to support a full transition to EVs.

Consumer Sentiments and the Global Vehicle Industry

Interestingly, data from Kwik Fit revealed a slight decline in the number of consumers planning to buy an EV post-announcement. This, coupled with the immense power of the global vehicle industry and consumer forces, may have influenced the government's subsequent "clarification" of its EV strategy.

A week after the initial announcement, the government introduced the "zero emission vehicle mandate." This mandate sets progressive annual targets for zero-emission vehicle sales, culminating in 100% by 2035.

Investments Speak Louder

The UK has already seen significant investments in EV infrastructure and manufacturing. Over £6 billion has been allocated for private sector chargepoint funding. Additionally, major companies like BMW, Tata, Nissan, and AESC have announced multi-billion-pound investments in the UK's EV sector.

The government's commitment to EVs is further underscored by its recent £80 million investment in bus routes, bringing its total investment in zero-emission buses to £500 million.

The Bigger Picture

Despite the policy rollercoaster, the trajectory towards EVs seems clear. Many major vehicle manufacturers are already on track to transition to EVs ahead of the government's targets. This trend will inevitably impact the tyre industry, with a steady demand for EV tyres expected to follow.

While the government's recent policy shifts have been perplexing, the underlying momentum towards EVs remains strong.

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