Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:46 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Peter Kyle Peter Kyle Labour, Hove 12:46 pm, 4th July 2019

I cannot disagree with my hon. Friend, particularly in an era when councils like Brighton and Hove City Council have experienced cuts of over 45% to their budget. We are investing massively in new infra- structure, but maintaining it will be a crucial challenge. We need to share the costs with the people who make money from the charging infrastructure, such as the electric companies, and the people who use the service. We also need to ensure that, for the sake of our climate change objectives, these things are subsidised as well. The cash must be there in the system.

Government has absented itself from the opportunity to become the driving force in making access to publicly available charging stations ubiquitous, and has instead devolved responsibilities to cash-strapped local authorities. As a result, a quarter of local authorities have not installed a single EV charging point in the last year. That is simply not good enough.

In the coming months, Brighton and Hove City Council will install 200 charging points across the city. Next week, I shall be joining one of the teams to see for myself what it takes to create a modern charging network. I am pleased to say that a representative of Brighton and Hove City Council who is leading on the programme is here with us in the Chamber today—I welcome Pete Turner to our debate.

Some 60% of EV charging takes place at home, which is why so many people feel liberated from being dependent on fuel stations; but for those of us who, like me, live in flats or high-density housing, on-street charging is essential. My street is scheduled to have two charging points installed in the coming months. Several London boroughs are converting street lights into charging stations.

So we know that the technology and expertise exists, and we really need to get on with it. My fear is that cities like Brighton and Hove will become exemplars in public charging facilities but others will not. That is great for people who want to drive to our city, but unless surrounding towns, cities and destinations are suitably equipped, it will not be great for people who live in Brighton and Hove who want to get out and about in their cars. Charging a car should not be a postcode lottery. EV owners should not have to do research before setting out on a trip. Infrastructure should be ubiquitous and should be evenly distributed throughout our country, and only active Government participation can make that happen.

Until EVs reach the scale of production that we have seen for conventional vehicles, their cost will remain higher. Until then, Government also needs to level the playing field with incentives. Tax breaks and other incentives work—there is no escaping that fact. Last October, when the Government suddenly cut the plug-in scheme, growth in sales of plug-in hybrids plummeted from 29.5%, which we had achieved in the previous 10 months, to just 1.7%. That was highlighted just an hour ago on the BBC website, where it was reported that the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders had said that

“sales of plug-in hybrid cars had halved” in the last year,

“while hybrid electric vehicle sales were down 4.7%.”

Transport accounts for 26% of our CO2 emissions, adding another layer of urgency to the need for electrification of our road transport.

As all of us who sat on the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee inquiry learned, the transition to electric vehicles is about a lot more than just cars on the road. Its impact will be far and wide. It will change patterns in daily life for most citizens. Implications for policy makers range from the infrastructure of our nation, such as electricity generation, to the distributional challenges for our national grid—and the ability to capitalise on new resources with millions of batteries to be drawn down on at peak times, just as we need to charge them at others. People’s homes will adapt, so that people can fuel their car from home.

Also, of course, the transition is inextricably linked to our ability to tackle climate change and the climate emergency, to meet levels of CO2 emissions reduction that our country and planet need from all of us. That is why this debate is so welcomed and so important. It is also why it is the start, not the end, of what I hope is ongoing parliamentary involvement from this point forward.