Cheaper vehicles or easier charging? Bright Blue and Policy Exchange offer proposals to speed up electric vehicle adoption

Battery electric vehicle registrations surged in January, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). There were 6240 BHEVs registered during the month, compared with 4054 in January 2020. In contrast – and also due to the effect of Covid – traditional diesel and petrol vehicle registrations plummeted by over 60% and 50%, respectively.

The interest in electric vehicles – plug in hybrids and so-called ‘mild hybrids’, both diesel and petrol, also increased – was also seen in the lease market. The latest Quarterly Leasing Survey from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) reveals that plug-in and hybrid vehicles overtook diesel in gaining a 36% share of new lease car registrations and look set to overtake petrol, according to Energyst.

What is the best way of driving that uptake to 100% electric? Two think tank  reports published recently take slightly different views. Bright Blue authors Patrick Hall and Ryan Shorthouse, in ‘Driving Uptake: maturing the market for battery electric vehicles’, think the government should flood the market with BEVs, by addressing upfront price, with charging infrastructure and range anxiety important but secondary. For Policy Exchange, charging infrastructure is the most important requirement.

For Bright Blue, the key to the rollout is to flood the market with as many EVs as early as possible as cheaply as possible, acknowledging that most customers are swayed more by initial price than life cycle cost and for 52% it was the major barrier. It wants to front-load grants for new EVs and offer subsidies for second hand versions – boosting the market with two different sets of car buyers.

It acknowledges that lack of chargepoints is the second largest barrier and says the rollout must be sped up, with fast applications and installation for on-street chargers in cities where few users have off-street parking.

For Policy Exchange, charging infrastructure is the key enabler. In ‘Charging up’, authors Ed Birkett and William Nicolle say that a switch to EVs will only be delivered “if drivers are confident that they will have access to a comprehensive network of charging points, allaying fears of range anxiety”.

Policy Exchange wants government to offer long term contracts to charge point operators, on the contracts for difference model, to roll out more charge points to areas currently under-served. The contracts would be awarded by competitive tender. Separate tenders would be run to provide fast chargers – and the necessary ‘strategic grid connections’ – at motorway services. The authors also want to see local authority ‘chargepoint teams’ smooth the way to installing more chargers and interoperability between chargepoints so all drivers can access them.

Download Charging Up here

Download Driving Uptake here

Stay up to date with New Power – subscribe to our FREE weekly newsletter here

 Further Reading

UPDATED: EV chargers put a town on the map

Ovo Energy will use ‘hidden’ balancing and timeshift to offer EV drivers ‘always off-peak’ charging tariff

Gulf steps into e-mobility space as it joins Clean Growth Fund with £6M stake in Indra smart EV charge company

Flexitricity to trade EV smart charging flexibility into Balancing Mechanism using 10,000 vehicles on platform

Vehicle manufacturers: UK must build a battery industry by 2027 to compete in EV market