UK Government’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate comes into effect: Will it be enough to save the country’s net zero aspirations?

  • UK government’s Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate comes into effect.
  • Proportionate strategy set, with annual targets starting at 22% in 2024, rising to 80% in 2030.
  • Doubts around the delay on the ban of new ICE sales, while still holding manufacturers to similar sales targets.

The House of Commons approves the Zero-Emission Vehicle Mandate, but is the UK government pushing the transition fairly?

The UK government has brought the Zero-Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate into effect. The aim is to drive the automotive industry toward a 100% zero-emission future. The roadmap sets targets for 80% of new cars and 70% of new vans in Great Britain to be zero-emission by 2030. This simultaneously replaces and contributes towards the government’s delayed ban on the sale of new ICE vehicles. 

The ultimate goal is to complete EV adoption by 2035. But, how effective is the mandate post-delay? Is it fair to push public perception back five years, yet maintain similar sales targets for the manufacturers? Especially considering the hefty fines facing those falling short of the target. 

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The government is labelling this as a proportionate and pragmatic strategy. It provides some of the clarity that manufacturers are seeking while supporting families in making the switch to EVs. The plan’s annual targets start at 22% of new cars in 2024, progressively increasing each year until hitting 100% in 2035. 

Financial and industry backing

Putting their money where their mouth is, the government has injected over £2 billion into the EV push. This funding has already spurred a 43% growth in charging infrastructure. The funding contributed to the UK’s milestone achievement of 50,000 charge points, with a targeted 300,000 by 2030. Private sector investment, exceeding £6 billion, underscores the UK’s position as a global player in the EV market. 

Major manufacturers, such as BMW, Tata, and Nissan, have provided significant investments. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has welcomed the certainty that the mandate provides. 

Mike Hawes, Chief Executive, The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), said:

“The automotive industry is investing billions in decarbonisation and recognises the importance of the zero emission vehicle mandate as the single most important measure to deliver net zero.

We welcome the clarity the mandate’s publication provides for the next 6 years and the flexibilities it contains to support pragmatic, equitable delivery across this diverse sector. Manufacturers offer a vast range of zero emission vehicles, but demand must also match supply – that means making ZEVs affordable by incentivising drivers to make the switch now and delivering the infrastructure to meet consumer expectations.”

After the delayed ban on sales, the ZEV Mandate is the most impactful carbon-saving measure in the UK’s journey to net zero. However, the use of the mandate as the replacement for the ban on sales has been met with caution. The pressing issue is that manufacturers are expected to hit ambitious EV sales targets, without the urgency of a looming ban. 

Ade Thomas, Founder of Green.TV and the EV SUMMIT, states:

“At the front end, the UK government has shifted the combustion ban mandate from 2030 to 2035. At the back-end, the ZEV mandate on vehicle sales has now been passed into law. 

For the OEMs, this, essentially, means they are going to have to work harder marketing their EVs to avoid punitive fines if they don’t hit their sales targets: 22% in 2024, rising to 80% in 2030.”

The UK government’s new roadmap to net zero has left many confused. While the ZEV Mandate is ostensibly the most significant net zero policy the country can cling to, traditional political indecisiveness has muddied the waters. 

Time will tell as to whether 80% EV sales five years ahead of a national deadline is too ambitious. We know that EV sales are on the rise across the UK, but are they rising fast enough? Either way, the onus seems to have fallen on the manufacturers to sell their EVs as fast as possible, at the risk of hefty fines. In doing so, we’ll expect leasing schemes, price drops, and huge TV spots. Let’s see the heights EVs can reach across the next few years, and hope that the UK automotive market is still appealing to international manufacturers by the end of it.

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