Many local successes around electric vehicles (EVs) can be hailed from the last week, against a wider backdrop of the speed of transport decarbonisation. The UK’s national Clean Air Day on 21 June coincided with an announcement by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan to add 68 fully electric double decker buses to the London fleet by summer 2019. This represents part of the city’s strategy to make all London buses fully electric by 2037. Every single decker bus is expected to be fully electric in the city by year end of 2020. Mr Khan joined mayors from other cities to call the government to bring forward the 2040 conventional car and van ban to 2030.

United Utilities, a major utilities company, announced the same day a plan for a fully electric fleet of vehicles by 2028, along with an appropriate level of charging infrastructure. Delivery firm UPS also pledged to add 700 natural gas-powered trucks to its future transport mix. The company already operates over 9,100 low-emission vehicles globally, including 105 fully electric trucks in London.

Milton Keynes is trialling an innovative new scheme for EV drivers who do not have off-street parking. The local council’s ‘MK Promise’ aims to construct EV charging points for any EV owners without access to off-street parking in the area. This is partly funded by £9mn from the ‘Go Ultra Low’ government campaign to increase rollout of EVs, with the council also providing £2.3mn worth of charging point contracts in collaboration with ChargeMaster and free parking for EVs in the city centre.
These local initiatives underscore a wider national debate on the speed at which the electric vehicle transition should be reached. The World Wildlife Fund, in collaboration with Vivid Economics and University College London, are advocating for bringing forward the current government ambition for a 2040 conventional car and van sales ban, instead arguing this should be brought forward to 2030. Its two-part report found a potential for 20mn EVs on the road under a 2030 ban, with smart charging in a 2030 ban found to be £1.6bn more cost effective than a 2040 ban without smart charging.

This follows accusations by Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Environmental Audit (EAC), Health and Social Care and Transport Committees that the government is ‘dragging its feet’ over tackling air pollution in cities, with the EAC chair Mary Creagh stating that it was ‘concerning’ that the government was unwilling to bring forward the ban.

This follows speculation that the current 2040 ban is to be watered down in the yet to be released ‘Road to Zero’ strategy, which aims to reduce emissions from UK road transport. Whitehall sources leaked that the ban may be watered down to a ‘mission’ for 2040, marking a decidedly more aspirational rhetoric, sparking anger for environmentalist groups. However, a target for 50% of cars on the UK’s roads to be EVs represented some short-term ambition and would go beyond the recommended requirements by the Committee on Climate Change for a third of the UK’s cars to be EVs by 2030.

While the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy waits to be published, local authorities have a clear role to play in pushing forward action at the local level. It appears clear that EV uptake will be implemented at all scales of government.

Edie, Utility Week, Energy Live News, Current+ News.