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Why policy collaboration is critical to introducing electric vehicles

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Transport is one of the UK’s greatest emitters. Vehicles account for one-third of the country’s carbon emissions, making them an obvious target in the government’s plans to reduce our carbon output to net-zero by 2050. In Boris Johnson’s newly announced 10-point plan for a greener future, it is his transport plans that have stolen the headlines – and rightly so.

Banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars has made people sit up and listen. The ban was originally slated for 2040, but bringing it forward by a decade means that Norway is the only country on Earth planning to outlaw internal combustion engines (ICE) sooner. But as soon as people sat up and listened, they started asking questions.

This target is unlike any other on the 10-point plan – others outline the intention to support research into greener flight and promoting nuclear as a clean energy source, for example. To ban the sale of ICE vehicles requires public buy-in. It means the population needs to be convinced that investing their money in an electric vehicle is going to be a real and viable option. While the original deadline seemed to be off in the distant future, its acceleration has created concern that this won’t be the case by 2030. There is also an increasing concern that if the Government are unable to secure an ambitious deal as part of Brexit negotiations, that the cost of manufacturing these new EVs will be passed onto the consumer; a point that may well prove to be a real headache for policymakers.

Education, therefore, is just as crucial as the creation and installation of infrastructure that will make it a viable plan, and it’s of paramount importance that policy makers take this into consideration. The leading source of questions surrounds the access drivers will have to charging points – while homeowners with a driveway have access to government grants that alleviate the costs of having one installed at their home, and new homes being built with charge points installed, it is the one-third of vehicle owners that don’t have a driveway who need winning round.

While charging doesn’t come close to refuelling in terms of efficiency, it certainly matches it for availability – there are already more public places to charge an electric car than there are petrol stations in the UK. But the thought of spending more than an hour parked up and plugged in isn’t viable, especially when using an electric vehicle to make a long-distance journey that exceeds its range.

There are some pressing facts worth considering, that should be at the forefront of policy makers’ minds when shaping an education piece: The average journey length in the UK is just 8.4 miles, a distance even hybrid cars are capable of making solely using electric power; and vehicles are also stationary, on average, for 95 per cent of the time, meaning that once charge points are even more prevalent, the opportunities will be endless. You can already find charge points in many supermarket car parks, where shoppers are often parked for half an hour or more – apply this to cinemas, town centre car parks, at places of work and elsewhere, and real progress begins to take shape.

As with any new piece of legislation, there are two sides to every coin – education is one important aspect, while the other is implementation. The change in demand, both for the type of car and the energy source, means that private sector companies must work hand-in-hand with the government to ensure the transition is as smooth as possible and that the right processes are carried out to implement the change. Energy companies must be ready for the shift in demand, while car manufacturers need to channel their efforts into making their electric vehicles a viable option, logistically and financially.

They both had a 20-year lead time to get this right, but with that being slashed in half by the Prime Minister’s most recent announcement, now is the time for collaboration. The introduction of electric vehicles is no different to other technologies that have been introduced to our everyday lives throughout the centuries. As more and more policies are created to facilitate their introduction, consumer confidence must be front of mind – as without it, the United Kingdom will simply fail to meet its target.

The industry terms have been set. There is now a great commercial opportunity for organisations who supply both the products and services needed to make this possible to accelerate and enhance their offer. Key to this change and innovation is having highly skilled specialists on board to influence the right people and make their voice heard. Our exposure to these sectors, through existing relationships and high-profile search assignments, gives us a unique insight and ability to be able to support your next search.

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