Despite a lot of promises and pledges made during COP26, questions remain over whether the UK can really meet its Net Zero targets.
There is some good news in that 15 countries agreed to work towards 100% zero-emission sales of new trucks and buses by 2040, however a global deal to eliminate new car emissions by 2040 struggled to attract the top two global carmakers, Toyota and Volkswagen, as well as key governments in the US, Germany, and China.
BMW was another manufacturer unwilling to sign, saying: “There remains considerable uncertainty about the development of global infrastructure to support a complete shift to zero emission vehicles, with major disparities across markets.”
Convincing car owners to switch from petrol and diesel powered cars to electric vehicles has come under intense scrutiny during the conference in Glasgow. But while demand is high and take-up is slowly increasing, it’s still not enough.
COP26 was supposed to signal the end of the road for the combustion engine, so why does it feel like we’ve still got a long way to go?
Is the UK in pole position?
How the UK prepares for an EV revolution has been a big talking point during the conference. The EV market is seen as key to easing the pressure on Net Zero targets, with transport producing more than a quarter (27%) of the UK’s total emissions in 2019.
Theoretically, using an electric vehicle that is charged through renewable energy would be completely carbon neutral. If the vehicle was charged using standard grid electricity, it would still work out to around 40gCO2/km – around 1/3rd of the amount used by an equivalent fossil fuel car – and would reduce as the grid decarbonises.
The announcement thatg the UK government is pledging £620m of funding towards electric vehicles was warmly welcomed, as is the commitment to improve electric charge points and EV infrastructure.
But the UK is currently behind its target of 1,170 charge points per 100km of road by 2030. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders predicts that more than 700 EV charge points per day will be needed to meet this target, far more than the current run rate of 42 per day.
The problem of infrastructure is presenting what can only be described as a chicken and egg scenario within the market. Charge point manufacturers and installers can only build alongside the demand for electric vehicles, or else risk over supplying for infrastructure that simply won’t be used.
That’s not to say there isn’t a demand, with the sale of EVs skyrocketing in recent years. Yet significant hurdles remain, specifically in the access and ownership of vehicles.
How do we make EVs more attractive?
Supportive policies, such as the Norwegian government’s move to scrap the 25% VAT applied to new electric vehicle purchases, can help significantly reduce the cost of ownership (around £11,000 from the average price of a new electric vehicle in the UK).
An AA survey suggests that two-thirds of drivers say scrapping VAT from the purchase price would be the most influential policy to help persuade them to buy an electric vehicle.
On the technology side, range anxiety still remains one of the top deterrents to purchasing electric vehicles. Developments in battery technology is helping improve range, with Tesla’s line of vehicles boasting a range of more than 350 miles on a single charge. Other manufacturers, such as Mercedes, BMW, Hyundai and Kia are also stepping up their game.
However, increased range won’t matter too much if charging networks remain locked. There are approximately 20 major charge point operators in the UK, but many of these don’t connect with each other. This causes confusions and frustration amongst drivers as they don’t know if they can charge their vehicle until they turn up at a public charge point.
Drivers in Europe don’t have the same level of frustration that we do in the UK, and don’t require a specific app and subscription for each different charger. In countries such as Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, major charge point operators have teamed up to form roaming partnerships that grant EV drivers access to public charging stations within one subscription.
There’s a lot the UK government can learn from how other countries have supported the adoption of EVs. Indeed, when it comes to interoperability, one of the great things that the rest of Europe benefits from is the freedom of its charge point network. An open network may just be the last hurdle for potential EV drivers to overcome.
The road to Net Zero
The adoption of electric vehicles will play its part in meeting national and global goals on reducing CO2 emissions and tackling climate change. But if new policies and agreements signed during COP26 are to come to fruition, the UK needs to work smarter, not necessarily harder.
Demand for electric vehicles and renewable energy is sky high at the moment, and we need to capitalise on this opportunity now if we’re to make a difference in the future.
About the Author
Monta’s state-of-the art electric vehicle charge point platform gives businesses and private owners access to sustainable mobility solutions, supporting the UKs Green Industrial Revolution.
Alok’s is playing a key role in developing the UK’s electric vehicle charging experience, making it easier for charge point owners to seamlessly manage charge point usage, pricing, access and transactions.