Electric vehicles in the Conservative Manifesto: What is the current UK government promising ahead of the general election?

As the general election closes in and debates roll on, we’re taking a look at the Conservative Manifesto to analyse its pledges, support, and plans, to decarbonise the UK’s transport

The UK is heading for a general election. It’s a pivotal time for the nation, as net zero deadlines close in and the automotive industry calls for increased support in the emobility transition. Now that all the party Manifestos are out, we’re diving into each one to analyse their EV impact.

Where better to start than the Conservative Party, under the leadership of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Sunak gained some notoriety in the UK’s emobility sector last year, when he opted to delay the country’s ban on new ICE vehicles from 2030 to 2035. The move had a direct impact on the industry, with many major leaders calling for increased support and consistent targets

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With that in mind, what does the Conservative Manifesto mean for emobility Britain?

Support for automotive industry

“The UK car industry is the jewel of our manufacturing crown.”

Sunak has highlighted the UK’s automotive prowess, celebrating investments such as a new battery gigafactory in Somerset. He claims these investments defy earlier Brexit concerns. The Manifesto stresses support for the industry amidst stiff global competition, with promises to intervene if unfair trade practices are detected. 

“We will always back our world-leading automotive industry, which faces unprecedented competition from China in the electric vehicles market. We stand ready to support domestic car manufacturers if there is evidence other countries are breaking global trade rules.” 

The rhetoric in the direct quote from the Manifesto, above, alludes to a tariff on imported EVs, similar to the recent imposition from the EU. However, Chinese battery manufacturer EVE Energy set to invest £1.2 billion in a new gigafactory, heavy tariff impositions could damage these investments. Also, following suit with the EU’s trade tariffs begs the question, what was the point of leaving in the first place?

Transport policies

A standout feature of the Conservative agenda is the pledge to reverse the recent expansion of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). They’ll also impose restrictions on 20mph speed limits and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs). 

Additionally, the party adamantly opposes a pay-per-mile road tax model, opting instead to redirect funds earmarked for HS2 towards fixing the UK’s pothole-riddled roads. They aim to enhance driver convenience with the introduction of Pumpwatch for transparent fuel pricing and a National Parking Platform for simplified parking payments. They also pledge a substantial £36 billion investment in local roads, rail, and buses. 

It is hard to avoid the fact that if the Conservatives were to win this election, such policies lean more to those advocated by emobility and climate sceptics. This further undermines the UK’s status as a country who has gone further than most in achieving their climate goals.

EV policies and transport decarbonisation

While the Manifesto commits to supporting EVs, there is little on how they will do so. This has garnered criticism for the lack of a clear roadmap to decarbonise as deadlines approach. 

Their strategy focuses on automated vehicles, and they plan to enact new supporting legislation in the next Parliament. They clearly have a plenty of faith in this technology, which is currently in a heavy testing phase worldwide.

The party commits to encouraging EV adoption by ensuring a nationwide charging infrastructure that includes rapid charging stations.

However, there is no further detail on how this will take shape. Additionally, they maintain that the delayed Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate is in place to support manufacturers and protect skilled British jobs. 

In the aviation sector, the Conservatives plan to promote growth and decarbonisation through support for British Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF). This will take the form of a mandate, industry-backed revenue mechanisms, and investments in future aviation technologies. 

The RAC has expressed disappointment over the absence of road casualty reduction targets and a lack of long-term funding certainty for local councils. Concerns have also been raised about whether the allocated £8.3 billion for road repairs will adequately address the nation’s pothole problem. 

Critics argue that ruling out pay-per-mile road pricing could exacerbate declining fuel duty revenues as EVs become more prevalent, potentially compromising road maintenance funding.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said:

“This is disappointing as the industry urgently needs clarity, certainty and a clear roadmap to net zero.”

The Conservative Party’s Manifesto outlines some key strategy points for the automotive sector and transport infrastructure. The lack of planning or attention for the EV sector has disappointed many critics.

Yes the government could rightly cite the implementation of the ZEV mandate, however a lack of government incentives for purchasing, vague directions for EV adoption, and charging infrastructure in the Manifesto, is concerning for both EV owners and manufacturers.

A lack of government incentives for purchasing, vague directions for EV adoption, and charging infrastructure in the Manifesto, is concerning. As the election approaches, these policies will undoubtedly remain a point of debate and scrutiny. We hope that, if the Conservatives win this election, these policies will be fleshed out and enacted rapidly. If not, the automotive sector may be heading into the next governmental term with less clarity than it would like.

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