Words by Alok Dubey, UK Country Manager at Monta
Electric vehicle (EV) adoption is increasing across the country at a rapid pace, but one question remains: could we have accelerated that growth through smarter and more aggressive policies?
The government’s decision to scrap the plug-in charge scheme earlier this year gave mixed signals about its EV direction. New electric vehicles have since priced out would-be customers, happy to stick on to petrol and diesel vehicles until 2030.
In fact, aside from the £300 grant to install a home charge point, there are currently no other government incentives to convince people to go electric.
It’s a very different story across mainland Europe, where groundbreaking policies have helped drive new car sales as well as innovations in EV charging infrastructure and energy.
Which made me think: if we could concoct an imaginary country that was unimpeded by budgets, politics, or logistics, what would such a country do? What policies would they implement to drive the highest EV adoption rates and a greener approach to personal transport?
In honour of World EV Day, I’ve imagined a country that combines some of the best EV policies from across Europe: EVland.
1. Banning ICE vehicles
Most European nations are still dependent on internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, so picking a date to phase out new ICE vehicles is a critical first step. Whereas the UK has set this date as 2030, Norway has set a commitment to ban the sale of new ICE vehicles by 2025, and it’s clear that this is having an effect on new car sales in the country. As of January 2022 84% of new vehicles sold in Norway were EVs, compared to just 12.5% for the same period in the UK. meaning the country is well on track to hit its goal.
New ICE vehicle bans also start a clear ticking clock for vehicle manufacturers to introduce new and appealing EVs into EVland and reduce their dependency on the combustion engine. Volkswagen has already stated that they will only sell EVs in Norway from 2024 – and we can assume they’d do the same in EVland.
2. Making EVs Cheaper
One of the main concerns for non-EV drivers is cost. EVs are more expensive to purchase than an equivalent ICE vehicle, so EVland would need to find a way to incentivise its citizens to buy an EV and bring their upfront cost down closer to the price of an ICE vehicle.
Borrowing with pride from France, EVland citizens can get up to €6,000 towards the cost of a new EV under €45,000 in value, or €3,000 for EVs worth €45,000+. They’ll also provide up to €5,000 for drivers trading in an older ICE vehicle for their new EV, taking plenty of old petrol/diesel vehicles out of use and down to the scrapyard. In 2019, 341,000 french households had applied for the scrappage grant, taking a lot of gas guzzlers off the streets.
3. Financing an EV
Despite initiatives like this, not everyone can afford to purchase an EV up front. Not only is financing a great way to spread the cost over low monthly payments, it’s also what a lot of current and future EV drivers are entirely dependent on.
However, Scotland is the only current nation in Europe that provides interest free loans to purchase an EV or electric bike. Applicants can secure a loan against a new or used EV purchased from a dealership, with the loan paid back over a five year period with zero interest. By 2022, Scotland had paid out over £165million in loans to get 6,100 EVs on the road.
4. kWh Charging Tax Refund
As part of Denmark’s Finance Act, charge point operators can reimburse around 0.94DKK per kWh (around €0.13 per kWh) back to EV owners until 2030. This guarantees almost a decade of subsidised charging for Danish EV drivers, making petrol/diesel seem even more expensive in comparison – an important incentive as electricity prices continue to rise across Europe.
Additionally, from 2023 onwards, workplace charging in Denmark will also be completely tax free, which should encourage workplaces to provide chargepoints and/or electrify their fleet.
Denmark is a prime market to understand how government policies affect market trends. When the government announced plans in 2015 to taper off EV subsidies by 2022, the country saw a huge reduction in EV adoption.. And although EV adoption is rising again now that the subsidies have been reintroduced, this flip-flopping in policy has resulted in car manufacturers investing in other countries due to Denmark’s market instabilities.
5. Residential Charging Infrastructure
To incentivise residential charging infrastructure, Germany currently offers a whopping €900 towards the cost of purchasing and installing an EV charger at home. To secure the grant, applicants must submit a plan for the work, gain approval, and then the grant is paid out post-installation.
Some states in Germany provide even further subsidies – such as in Nordrhein-Westfalen which tops up the subsidy to €1,500 if the charge point is connected to a renewable energy source such as solar panels. This means that EVs in the state operate from new sources of renewable electricity, cause less additional strain to the national grid, and maintain a healthy electricity economy.
6. Commercial Charging Infrastructure
Encouraging private companies, housing associations, and local authorities to install charge points is important in building out a strong charging network. In Austria, the government provides a subsidy of up to €30,000 for companies, municipalities, and associations to install publicly accessible fast charge points.
While it’s still too early to see how impactful this policy has been (it came into force in February 2022), EV sales surpassed diesel sales in Austria for the first time in September 2021. Austria is clearly hopeful this policy will keep them heading in the right direction.
7. Public Charging Infrastructure
Range anxiety consistently ranks as one of the top concerns when drivers consider purchasing an EV, with 50% of non-EV drivers associating electric vehicles with searching for charging stations. A strong and reliable public charging network is therefore necessary to encourage EV adoption.
Although the Netherlands takes up just 0.8% of Europe’s landmass, it also holds 29.4% of the continent’s electric charge points (90k CPs) – around 48 chargepoints per 100km of road. Whereas the target set by The EU Commission was that member states should reach 10 electric light-duty vehicles (LDVs) per public charger by 2020, the Netherlands is currently at five. When looking at building a public charging network, the Netherlands is the gold standard.
8. Investment in Clean Energy and Grid Balancing
You can’t run a nation of EVs without a strong and stable electricity network with a plentiful supply of renewable energy. Norway currently uses 98% renewable energy, which is mostly sourced from hydropower. While Norway has historically been against on-shore wind, in April 2022 licensing reopened to harness Norway’s wind power.
It’s hard to deny that Norway is a huge exporter of natural gas and oil, but Norway is investing in carbon capture technology, hydrogen, and a long-term energy policy that creates value so the economy is less reliant on natural resources. Norway has an ambition to lower the overall energy intensity of the economy by 30% between 2015 and 2030 with schemes to cut energy consumption currently in the works.
9. Best Innovations in EV Trials
Finally, EVland needs to look outside of government policy and look to attract and encourage tech companies that will innovate and explore new EV and energy technologies. The UK has historically encouraged innovation with projects like Project Sciurus – the world’s largest domestic vehicle-to-grid (V2G) trial and now Indra’s vehicle-to-home trial (V2H), both of which aim to balance the grid and even out peaks and troughs. Investing in future advancements is integral to support a healthy EV ecosystem for EVland.
One-way Trip to EVland
So EVland has taken learnings from Norway, Scotland, France, Austria, Denmark, the UK, and Germany – but what would that look like in reality?
With all the policies listed above, EVland would be a nation well on the way to removing ICE vehicles from the road. No matter their socio-economic status, all citizens would have an affordable option to purchase their own EV. With access to a home or a public charger that uses affordable, renewable energy from a grid that is stable and healthy. An electric vehicle utopia!
While EVland might be a dream, given the political and fiscal roadblocks that remain in the real world, it’s important to understand what great EV policies can do and ask the question – which country’s policy mix is doing the best job of promoting the electric transition?