Electric vehicles won't help UK meet emissions targets: Time to get out and walk, warn MPs

Blighty not even on track for legally binding 2023-2032 levels

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Electric cars will not help the UK government meet its carbon emissions target, with MPs warning people will have to ditch their cars entirely.

A report (PDF) by the Science and Technology Committee was highly critical about the lack of policies in place to deliver the net zero target by 2050, adding that the UK is not even on course to meet its existing legally binding targets for 2023 to 2032.

The group called on the government to bring forward the date of its proposed ban on the sales of new "conventional" cars and vans to 2035 at the latest, and ensure that it covers hybrids too. The report also criticised the government for cutting back its "plug-in grant" for low-emission cars, reducing it from £4,500 to £3,500 for the cleanest cars in October 2018, and cutting it completely for other green vehicles.

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A lack of charge point infrastructure was one of the key issues. While uptake of electric vehicles have grown nearly 100 per cent since 2012, the equivalent rate for the number of charge points available is up just 44 per cent.

Contributing evidence to the report, the National Grid said that just 54 charging stations, placed at appropriate points along the strategic road network, would mean 99 per cent of drivers in England and Wales would be within 50 miles of a charge point.

It estimated that this could be delivered at a cost of £800m but said "investment will be needed by industry and enabled by government".

The report recommended the government "work with public services and owners of public land, such as schools and hospitals, to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicle charge points, and introduce measures to ensure that charge points are interoperable, compatible with a smart energy system, reliable, and provide real-time information on their current functionality."

However, the report warned that in the long term, widespread personal vehicle ownership "does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation".

It also questioned the sustainability of electric vehicles running on large batteries. "Any move to electric vehicles must have an associated environmental impact assessment, including the potential for recycling lead, lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. Hydrogen technology may prove to be cheaper and less environmentally damaging than battery-powered electric vehicles. The government should not rely on a single technology."

Norman Lamb MP, chair of the Science and Technology Committee, said: "The rate of deployment of several key low-carbon technologies is significantly lower than what is required to meet the government's ambitions, and various stakeholders expressed concern at the current and projected rate of progress of the UK's decarbonisation." ®

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