The recent pressure on fuel prices due to global events is, in some ways, the sharpest of reminders that relying on foreign oil supplies can be dangerous. Even before 2022, however, scientific evidence has been building for decades that burning fossil fuels is not a sustainable long term plan, be that for nation states or individuals. Against this background, it is understandable that demand for electric vehicles (EV) is certain to rise year on year, a trend which has already started. EVs are becoming more affordable, and the annual check MOT system is also adapting to ensure these vehicles are roadworthy. There is concern within the industry, however, that infrastructure is not ready for the coming surge in EV use.
Increasing EV demand is certain to be boosted by recent policy announcements. In particular, 2021 saw the UK government commit to banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. This announcement was timed to coincide with Britain’s hosting of the annual COP conference on climate change. In addition to helping with the country’s ambition to become carbon neutral by 2050, the policy (it was announced) would also help boost the economy by investing in new technology, which in turn would lead to thousands of well paid jobs. These latter economic boons are seen as helping with “levelling up” now that the UK has left the EU.
This optimistic outlook came, of course, in the middle of the covid crisis, with its consequent restriction on social and economic activity. Since the decision was taken to learn to live with the virus, it could be said the brakes are off. That being the case, the UK is in competition with every other country to be economically successful; and, as the events of early 2022 have shown, access to resources is becoming ever harder and more expensive. Such testing times are sure to test the resolve of those pushing for a green agenda, a fact which is producing its own strain of fake news theories.
The fact remains, however, that commitments have been made, and need to be stuck to if the politicians who made them are to be taken seriously. Between 2022 and 2030, there are likely to be two national elections and several local ones. As both levels of democracy could be profoundly affected by the success or failure of the EV agenda, this one issue may prove to be pivotal. As the 2019 general election showed, a relatively small number of constituencies can cause huge political upsets; it is also the case that some of those that did exactly that in 2019 are strongly hoping for a stake in the EV production process.
EVs’ Growing Importance
The latest available figures, for the final quarter of 2021, put the proportion of private vehicles on the UK’s roads at 2%. Figure is forecast to expand tenfold by 2030, to 20%; this is before petrol and diesel production is halted. As owners of these latter cars and vans see their annual check MOT examination becoming ever harder to pass (as is natural), so more of these owners will be wondering if a new or used fossil fuel vehicle is worth the money. As many of these owners will be people who have driven petrol powered vehicles for years or even decades, the appeal of EVs is sure to spread to an ever bigger demographic. So, it is highly likely that demand for these vehicles will gain momentum as 2030 approaches.
Some of the issues which will affect the viability of the UK’s EV integration are making themselves felt in 2022; the most important one relates to charging points. The rarity of these has always been cited as a major factor in putting drivers off buying electric. In combination with the range of power packs, the prospect of getting stuck miles from home genuinely makes people fearful. To address this, the DfT announced in winter 2022 a rollout of new charging stations which will exceed numbers of their traditional counterparts by 2030. Again, this promise will be a very important one to keep.
While this will no doubt be welcome, it is only a first step. Disability groups have been calling for better accessibility at charging stations for a long time. The design and weight of electric connectors, in combination with difficulty placing EVs a useful distance away, will also be of vital importance; especially as those with mobility issues are certain to be a high proportion of EV owners in the future.