The government needs to make a commitment to improving the UK’s electric vehicle infrastructure – and needs to act faster.
That was the rallying cry from baroness Jennifer Randerson, transport spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, speaking recently at the EV Experience Conference, held by the Renewable Energy Association.
“The government is still only in the foothills of the mountain they have to climb,” said the Cardiff-based peer, calling its commitment to date “half hearted”. She praised the progress of Norway, where the government has driven electric car adoption. The country has a robust charging infrastructure, while taxation has been used to remove price disparity between electric and traditionally powered cars, to the point where around half of new cars bought in 2019 are electric.
On the one hand, we need far better charging infrastructure, she noted. “This type of infrastructure is not hugely expensive to install, compared to, say, railways or roads.” The baroness, who drives an electric BMW i3, recounted how she had arrived at a family meal hours late, due to unreliable or unavailable chargers en route to her destination.
The baroness called for a series of small market interventions, to ease pain points. “We’ve got to practice and experiment, to see what works.” Taxation needs to change, she insisted: “There needs to be a clear financial signal.” She also suggested that councils need to encourage EV use, perhaps with discounted parking for such vehicles, and called it “inexcusable” that insurance companies appear to be charging more to cover EVs.
She also called on the government and public bodies “to lead by example”, noting just 2% of government vehicles are EVs. “That’s shocking”.
Ultimately, the baroness noted, Britain, due to its population density, good electric grid and climate, is a relatively easy country for the adoption of electric vehicles. “We need the government to get its act together.”
The one day conference, held by the Renewable Energy Association at the London offices of CMS, brought together stakeholders from the automotive, EV charging, vehicle and renewables industries. Panels debated opportunities in the growth of EV use, and discussed some of the current pinch points, including the availability of vehicles from manufacturers who also produce traditionally powered vehicles.