EDITOR’S COMMENT: during a time of mass unemployment, looming redundancies and a 50 year high tax burden, the government should not be raising taxes to start a green revolution. We must conquer Covid and grow the economy if we wish to help people provide for their families.
The new target to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 — and hybrids five years later — will pose a huge challenge for the motor industry. One of the biggest barriers will be the production of batteries needed for new cars. At present most batteries for UK cars are imported from countries such as China, Japan and South Korea.
The UK only has one small battery plant in Sunderland supplying the nearby Nissan production line. Dave Greenwood, head of the advanced propulsion systems team at Warwick Manufacturing Group, said that it would be no longer feasible to import all batteries needed and that up to five new “giga-factories” would be required at a cost of up to £3 billion each to feed the domestic motor industry. This was “achievable but we should not underestimate the scale of the challenge”, he said.
The gulf in price for the consumer will also be problematic. Electric cars cost up to £10,000 more than petrol or diesel equivalents. Alok Sharma, the business secretary, said yesterday that he expected the price gap to close by the “mid-2020s” as production lines were scaled up. However, many experts say this may not happen until the mid-2030s, forcing many motorists to hang on to old cars for longer.
The government has committed to building “thousands” of miles of new cycle lanes as part of measures designed to get people out of private cars. It will be accompanied with a multibillion-pound clean-up of public transport, eradicating diesel buses and trains.
The creation of more than 200 “low-traffic neighbourhoods”, pop-up bike lanes and widened pavements over the summer has prompted a backlash in some areas, with threats of legal action against councils. Yesterday’s plan reiterates a long-standing government pledge to double participation in cycling by 2025 when compared with 2013 levels.
Boris Johnson’s plan also makes big commitments to decarbonise buses and trains, with “at least” 4,000 new electric and hydrogen buses, backed by a £5 billion investment, and the electrification of more of Britain’s railway to help to eradicate diesel trains. Less than 40 per cent of the network is electrified and previous schemes have been hugely costly.