UK Budget 2020: electric vehicle plans 'require collaboration'

Out-Law News | 13 Mar 2020 | 11:02 am | 2 min. read

Partnerships between local authorities and businesses will help deliver the charging infrastructure the UK needs to support widespread use of electric vehicles, an expert has said.

Lindsay Edwards, who specialises in commercial energy contracts at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, said collaboration between local authorities and businesses is likely to improve the coverage of electric vehicle charging infrastructure in the UK and capitalise on a £500 million investment from the government announced in the UK chancellor's Budget on Wednesday.

The Treasury said the £500m that will be invested in supporting installation of new electric vehicle charging infrastructure over the next five years would help to facilitate a shift away from "polluting vehicles".

"Access to high quality, convenient charging infrastructure is critical for drivers to make the switch to electric vehicles confidently," the Treasury said.

The government has already outlined its intention to bring forward, from 2040 to 2035 at the latest, a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK. The plans, which will be subject to consultation, would also see the ban extended to include the sale of hybrid vehicles. Those plans are at the heart of a broader target, enshrined in UK law, to bring all greenhouse gas emissions in the UK to 'net zero' by 2050.

"Electric vehicles were one of the biggest winners in the low carbon sector in the Budget, illustrating the government’s reliance on electric vehicles in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050," Edwards said. "The £500m pledged over the next five years for charging infrastructure was the headline amongst a raft of other measures designed to stimulate the market for electric vehicles. We anticipate that local authorities will be vital in delivering the infrastructure that is needed, and that there will be significant growth in public/private collaborations in the local authority sector to deliver this."

Part of the government's £500m investment will be made available to businesses through a 'rapid charging fund'. The Office for Low Emission Vehicles, which is part of the Department for Transport and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is to undertake "a comprehensive review" of electric vehicle charging infrastructure to ensure the funding is targeted effectively. The government said the investment "will ensure that drivers are never more than 30 miles from a rapid charging station".

Also confirmed in the Budget were fresh 'plug-in' grants – for cars, vans, taxis and motorcycles respectively – worth more than £530m. Those grants are designed to incentivise consumers to switch to electric vehicles and will apply up to 2022-23.

Lindsay Edwards

Lindsay Edwards

Senior Associate

Much now rests on the national infrastructure strategy to set out ambitious plans to deliver growth in the sector

Among the other measures announced in the Budget relevant to decarbonisation was the chancellor's announcement of the creation of a carbon capture and storage (CCS) infrastructure fund. The fund will be used to establish at least two UK sites for the emerging technology; one by the mid-2020s and a second by 2030. The Budget document also states that the government will support the construction of the UK's first CCS power plant, using consumer subsidies.

Edwards said the forthcoming national infrastructure strategy – to be published by the UK government later this spring – will be crucial in further setting out the UK's approach to delivering on its 'net zero' target.

She said: "The government’s announcements in the Budget were described by the Committee on Climate Change as a 'small step in the right direction' and there is certainly a long way to go in order for the government to come close to achieving its net zero ambitions. Much now rests on the national infrastructure strategy to set out ambitious plans to deliver growth in the sector."