It’s time for a UK zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate

Tanya Sinclair argues that a ZEV mandate will prove pivotal in increasing EV sales, particularly for the UK in light of its coming ICE ban

Last year the UK government announced plans to end the sale of all new diesel and gasoline cars and vans by 2030, five years earlier than planned. In Europe, similar climate targets will result in effective bans on these vehicles by 2035. In the US, California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, will also discontinue gasoline-powered passenger vehicle sales by 2035. Canada is doing the same. Whilst Britain’s more ambitious timetable is laudable, the key to meeting all of these targets is not the date-setting itself, but ensuring there is a clear roadmap to get there. This is why more urgent action is needed today to increase the adoption of zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs).

A ZEV mandate could be good news for infrastructure providers

What does that action look like? In addition to ending the sales of fossil fuel vehicles, the government must impose a ZEV mandate. A ZEV mandate, based on a successful model adopted in California, would set a requirement on vehicle manufacturers to sell a certain percentage of zero-emission vehicles in the UK each year, rising overtime to reach the government’s 100% target in 2030. For each ZEV sold, the manufacturer would receive credits based on the car’s electric driving range. Once the automaker reaches the annual number of credits it needs for compliance (based on overall ZEV sales), it is free to hold onto any additional credits or to trade or sell them to competitors. Not only has the California model accelerated BEV adoption in the state, but it has also inspired competition amongst carmakers. In fact, it’s been so successful, nine other US states, accounting for 30% of the nation’s new car sales, have already adopted it.

The UK needs to adopt the ZEV mandate quickly for it to be effective in increasing EV sales sufficiently, no later than July 2022. That’s because, according to The Climate Change Committee (CCC), to reach the UK government’s emissions targets, ZEVs must account for nearly half of new car sales in 2025. To date just 8% of new cars sold in Britain are ZEVs.

The key to meeting all of these targets is not the date-setting itself, but ensuring there is a clear roadmap to get there

But there is another opportunity arising from the introduction of a ZEV mandate that is often overlooked. This is the commercial opportunity for the UK’s burgeoning charging industry to grow, compete and become a thriving contributor to economic growth. Dozens of companies in the EV charging sector, including network operators, installers and technology providers, are rapidly growing, hiring skilled engineers and qualified people at breakneck speed. These charging companies—mostly built on private investment and many of them lean start-ups—have thrived since the government announced it would phase out gasoline and diesel vehicles and a ZEV mandate will give them a clear line of sight to be able to forecast future demand and install enough chargers to meet it.

The UK government is currently consulting on the introduction of a ZEV mandate. An extended consultation period could result in the policy being delayed until at least 2024, leaving the country fewer than six years to deliver a planned phaseout of new gasoline and diesel vehicles. In the meantime, drivers must wait for more available and affordable BEV models, lower-income households miss out on a robust secondary market of lower-cost-of-ownership cars, and the fast-growing UK charging industry misses an opportunity to accelerate growth and attract additional investment. For those reasons and many others—for the very sake of the planet itself—it is of critical importance that a ZEV mandate is brought forward as soon as possible.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Automotive World Ltd.

Tanya Sinclair is Policy Director for UK & Ireland at ChargePoint

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