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'Crucial' second-hand electric car supply at risk if Rishi Sunak U-turns on 2030 plan, expert warns

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaking to the media during his visit to Shell St Fergus Gas Plant in Peterhead, Aberdeenshire, for the announcement of further measures to protect the UK's long-term energy security. Picture date: Monday July 31, 2023.
Rishi Sunak has been urged not to water down the government’s commitment to transitioning to electric cars by 2030. (Alamy)

Rishi Sunak has been warned that billions of pounds, thousands of jobs and the supply of second-hand electric cars are at risk if the government waters down its pledge to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

The prime minister has insisted that the transition to electric vehicles (EVs) by 2030 remains government policy, but he has been under mounting pressure to row back on the ban after more than 40 Conservative MPs and peers wrote to him calling for the deadline to be pushed back.

ChargeUK – a group of companies who install and operate EV charging points – has written to Sunak, urging him to “stand firm” on his commitment, while its chair, Ian Johnston, warned of the risks of changing tack.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday, Johnston said that £6bn had already been committed into building the charging infrastructure before 2030 because of the 2030 policy.

Charge UK chair Ian Johnston warned that jobs and money was at risk if the 2030 mandate was watered down. (Twitter/@osprey_ian)
ChargeUK chair Ian Johnston warned that jobs and money was at risk if the 2030 mandate was watered down. (Twitter/@osprey_ian)

But he warned: “Watering down that ambition will mean billions of pounds of investment, thousands of new green jobs – and crucially the supply of second hand EVs for people – will be at risk.”

On Saturday, the Times reported that tax breaks are to be extended second-hand electric cars in a bid to make them more attractive to motorists.

The scheme would see full-electric available for less than £300 per month, including all running costs.

Meanwhile, AutoTrader's Road to 2030 Report - which tracks the progress of electric vehicle (EV) adoption - said that greater choice around second-hand TVs had “stimulated further demand, with levels in March increasing 23% year-on-year”.

Johnston said that the 2030 date is “six-and-a-half years in the future”, adding that the transition from petrol and diesel to electric will be “over a number of decades and not a cliff edge”.

ChargeUK write to Sunak

Johnston also revealed that Charge UK had written to Sunak, welcoming his public commitment to 2030, saying that “it is imperative for industry and for consumers”.

The letter states: “Decarbonising road transport is essential for reducing the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions…

Watch: PM: We don't want to hassle families with net zero targets

“We know that the transition to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs) won’t take place overnight, so a strong mandate is equally important to securing the UK’s path towards a commercially sustainable automotive sector.”

It adds: “We have an opportunity to be a world leader in the global transition to net zero, whilst creating jobs and driving down costs for people here in the UK.”

Chargers ‘sitting there with no power’

Electric Car Charging station and notice
The chief executive of Moto Hospitality warned that charge points for electric vehicles are ‘sitting there with no power’. (PA)

Johnston’s comments come after Ken McMeikan, the chief executive of Moto Hospitality, warned that charge points for EVs are “sitting there with no power” due to a lack of power capacity – leaving drivers unable to use them.

McMeikan said that by 2030 around one in four or one in three motorists would be arriving at service stations in an electric vehicle – requiring the equivalent of "a quarter of all the power output from an average-sized nuclear power station”.

He said with the scale of power required likely to be 12 times what it is today, he does not think there will be enough power for chargers by 2030.

But Johnston said that while he agrees that there are not enough chargers, the industry was working with the government and grid operators to “speed up the rate which we can deploy them”.

EV electric car being charged with a Ultra Rapid charger
Ian Johnson said that the electric vehicle industry is working to speed up the deployment of chargers. (PA)

He added: “It’s now about boots on the ground helping to turn on tall the projects were building.

“But this deadline is six-and-a-half years away and the rate of charger installation is increasing every day…

“We are confident that we can work with the government and grid operators that we can deliver this world class infrastructure in good time for when people make the decision to change.”

2030 ‘remains government policy’

Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with attendees as he visits the Great British Beer Festival in west London on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (Daniel Leal , Pool Photo via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Rishi Sunak speaks with attendees as he visits the Great British Beer Festival in west London on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023. (Daniel Leal , Pool Photo via AP)

Sunak said 2030 it remains part of his agenda, reiterating his commitment to transition to net zero in a “proportionate and pragmatic way”.

Speaking to BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme about the 2030 ban, Sunak said: “That’s about new cars, not all existing cars. So it’s the sale of new cars. That’s been the government’s policy for a long time. It remains the government’s policy.”

However, he said that the transition will be done in a “proportionate and pragmatic way that doesn’t necessarily add burden or cost to families’ bills”.

But Tory former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith warned the UK risks “simply becoming even more dependent on China” if the 2030 target is not pushed back.

Smith told Sky News the 2030 date was “plucked out of nowhere”, adding: “If we rush to this, what we risk right now is simply becoming even more dependent on China.“