Electric and Hybrid Electric Cars

Part of Olympic Games: Doping – in Westminster Hall at 4:30 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee 4:30 pm, 6th July 2016

My hon. Friend makes an interesting point, and I shall move on to incentivising people to buy electric cars to get more of them on the road. However, I emphasise that the two aspects need to come largely together. The shortage of charging points may be one reason for people not buying the cars in the first place. We have to have both.

Actions the Government have taken include the plug-in grant of up to £5,000 for cars and £8,000 for vans; setting up the Office for Low Emission Vehicles; additional conversion funding for vans and lorries; funding for all Government car fleets to go electric—I see the odd Land Rover and Range Rover here outside, but I think all Ministers ought to be in electric cars; and tax benefits and exemptions for electric vehicles.

The Government should supercharge their efforts to incentivise electric vehicles. The Chancellor has rightly cut fuel duty since 2010; the Brexiteers raised the prospect of exempting fuel from VAT during the referendum campaign, but they seem to have gone remarkably quiet about it since then. There should be a similar push to incentivise the use of electric and hybrid vehicles in the Department for Transport and in Government more widely.

What about future policy development? Some innovative towns and cities, such as Milton Keynes, have new schemes—free parking, charging hubs, bus lane priorities—to boost electric vehicles. The Government should copy local authority best practice on electric cars. They must recognise that electric vehicles are part of the future of our transport. Electric car registrations are predicted to outstrip petrol and diesel vehicles by 2027, and it would be good to achieve that before then. Private car ownership is dropping in many cities, including London, with a move towards car sharing, car pooling and taxi services. Shared transport becoming cheaper should encourage the business community to adopt rapid electric cars more quickly. Transport businesses support electric vehicles, because they are reliable and efficient. The Government must be alive to incentivising businesses, through better infrastructure and lower cost, to move their car fleets over to electric vehicles.

To ensure that electric and hybrid vehicles, which are much quieter than conventional vehicles, are safe for blind and partially sighted people, we must make sure that they make some sound so that people know they are coming. It is a huge advantage to have very quiet vehicles, but if they are too quiet there can be a danger.

I am now getting to my recommendations—I am sure the Minister will be pleased that I have made a few along the way. Electric and hybrid vehicles are the future; they are cleaner, quieter, greener and go a long way to reducing air quality problems. The Government should greatly enhance current programmes. Fewer than 1% of cars on British roads are hybrid or electric vehicles at the moment, so we need to go much faster. The Government’s modern transport Bill will offer a great opportunity to take the necessary steps. I know we have heard this many times over recent months, but let us copy the Norwegian model. If we put the infrastructure in place and create the incentives, electric car usage will rocket.

Let us have a Government commitment to rapid AC or DC chargers within an average of 1 mile of every home in Britain, not the current 4 miles; proper, generous incentives for electric vehicles for both business and private ownership, including tax breaks, toll exemptions and access to bus lanes; an integrated part of the gov.uk website that shows every electric public charging point in the UK and how many rapid charging points are available; and a statutory obligation for every new petrol station to contain electric car charging points. Let’s get this show on the road. I look forward to the Minister’s response.