Ministers’ £400m plan for electric car charging infrastructure delayed
A £400m government plan to build electric car charging points looks likely to be significantly delayed, in a blow to car manufacturers and efforts to tackle air pollution in UK cities.
The Treasury pledged last year to support the switch to zero-emission vehicles with a £400m fund for charging infrastructure. Half of the money was to come from the taxpayer, with the rest matched by the private sector, according to an announcement in the autumn budget.
However, nearly half a year later, it has emerged that the government has not even started the recruitment process for an official to raise the £200m of private investment – let alone begin the process of securing the funding.
“We expect to launch the procurement for the private sector fund manager in summer 2018,” Robert Jenrick, a junior Treasury minister, said.
In a written parliamentary answer, he said the government had been busy engaging with the private sector to ensure the fund was “set up in the most effective way”.
Andy McDonald, the shadow transport secretary, said: “The government’s electric vehicles policy has run out of power before leaving the driveway. Ministers failed to admit they hadn’t secured a penny of investment and didn’t intend to raise anything in the near future. They have announced £200m that isn’t theirs and hasn’t been promised to them.”
Car manufacturers have said the fund is essential for growing the market share for the plug-in cars, which stood at nearly 2% last year.
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders had called the support a “positive step to boost buyer confidence”.
Electric vehicles are also a cornerstone of efforts to tackle dirty air in cities. Ministers have lost three legal battles over their failure to clean up air pollution as quickly as possible, as required under EU law.
A delay to the government’s £400m electric charging plan could hamper efforts to reduce pollution from cars. There are about 16,000 charging points in the UK, for more than 130,000 plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars.
Car dealers recently warned MPs that potential electric car buyers were being deterred by the perception that there was not enough charging infrastructure. Polling suggests a growing appetite for electric cars, with 34% of people saying they would consider a fully electric car in a recent YouGov survey for the insurer Admiral.