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Transport Secretary says ‘everybody will have to be driving electric’ in 2030

Car registration figures released today have confirmed that over half-a-million plug-in vehicles are now on Britain’s roads.

A recent boom in sales saw plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars account for one in ten registrations in 2020 – a figure that continued to rise in 2021 to around one in eight new motors. 

However, when announcing the news, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, one of the MPs taking a lead role in steering the nation’s switch to greener vehicles, incorrectly claimed that in ‘only eight-and-a-half years’ time everybody will have to be driving electric,’ referencing the ban on new internal combustion engine cars in 2030.

In fact, the ban only affects new petrol and diesel cars being sold and existing internal combustion engine vehicles will remain on UK roads for decades after that.

Figures published this morning by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders confirm that 13.6 per cent of new cars sold in the first four months on 2021 were plug-in hybrids or battery electric cars.

This officially pushed total ultra-low-emission car sales over the landmark 500,000 figure in Britain. 

The Department for Transport said in a statement that the figures show that the UK is ‘at the forefront of the electric vehicle revolution’ ahead of its plans to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 – and all hybrids by 2035.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added in the official statement: ‘As hosts of COP26 we want to drive decarbonisation on the global stage, which is why we’re going further and faster to make the journeys of our future as clean as possible.

‘With news that the half-a-million milestone has now been met, together with the UK now having the second largest EV market in Europe, it’s clear that the shift to green motoring is accelerating at speed.’

In a video published by the DfT’s Twitter account to mark the sales achievement, Shapps states that all drivers will need to have electric cars by the end of the decade.

He says: ‘[In] Only eight-and-a-half years’ time everybody will have to be driving electric.’ . 

But while new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale as part of Boris Johnson’s green plan, existing models will remain on our roads for up to another two decades beyond the 2030 deadline, with the Government hoping to enforce a zero-emission car parc by 2050. 

The video was included in a post by the Department for Transport’s Twitter account celebrating the achievement of over 500,000 ultra-low-emission cars being on the road

While new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale from 2030, people will still be able to drive existing models on the road for up to two decades after the deadline

While new petrol and diesel cars will be banned from sale from 2030, people will still be able to drive existing models on the road for up to two decades after the deadline

The video continues with Mr Shapps detailing some of the benefits of electric car ownership.

He explains the environment benefits of plug-in cars due to their low CO2 emissions – though fails to acknowledge the polluting impact of making them or how electricity is generated to power them. 

He also makes bold claims about the charging infrastructure, stating that the country ‘already has a very full rollout of electric charging points’, despite various studies finding that parts of the country are lacking public devices and calling for additional government funding to bolster availability. 

A lack of charger availability also goes hand-in-hand with other issues such as device reliability and other common complaints, such as varying membership schemes drivers need to sign up to in order to access charge points from different providers.

The Transport Secretary, who owns a Tesla, also bids to dispel the theory of electric vehicle ‘range anxiety’, claiming that the average journey in Britain is just 8.5 miles and the latest models can travel in excess of 200 miles on a single charge. 

Mr Shapps photographed with his £40,000 Tesla Model 3 - a car purchased with the help of the Government's Plug-in Car Grant that has recently been cut so that no Tesla qualifies for the scheme

Mr Shapps photographed with his £40,000 Tesla Model 3 – a car purchased with the help of the Government’s Plug-in Car Grant that has recently been cut so that no Tesla qualifies for the scheme

The SMMT suggested earlier today that cuts to the grants were the driving factor behind plug-in hybrid car sales overtaking battery electric vehicle registrations in April

The SMMT suggested earlier today that cuts to the grants were the driving factor behind plug-in hybrid car sales overtaking battery electric vehicle registrations in April

The half-a-million plug-in car milestone comes in the wake of the Government’s decision to cut grants towards the purchase of these very vehicles.

On March 18, it was confirmed that the Plug-in Car Grant amount towards a new EV would be reduced from £3,000 to £2,500. When the scheme was launched in 2011, it originally offered up to £5,000 off an electrified model.

Eligibility for the grant was also tightened in March. Only EVs priced less than £35,000 qualify for the scheme, down from £50,000 previously. 

The move, which came as a surprise to manufacturers, sparked some to adjust their EV prices to allow more cars to slip below the £35,000 bracket – and around 25 different models currently on sale are eligible for the scheme.

That doesn’t include a single Tesla car, Ford’s new Mustang Mach-E SUV or the recently-crowned World Car of the Year, the VW ID.4, all of which are priced higher than £35,000. 

Mr Shapps currently owns a Tesla Model 3, which he bought using the plug-in car grant over two years ago when it was still eligible for the scheme.

In September, Mr Shapps used his Tesla Model 3 to officially open the UK's largest EV charging hub at a rail station at Hatfield

In September, Mr Shapps used his Tesla Model 3 to officially open the UK’s largest EV charging hub at a rail station at Hatfield

Graham Hoare, chairman of Ford of Britain, said in March that the decision to cut the grant was ‘disappointing and is not conducive to supporting the zero emissions future we all desire.’

‘Robust incentives – both purchase and usage incentives – that are consistent over time are essential if we are to encourage consumers to adopt new technologies, not just for all-electrics but other technologies too like plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that pave the way to a zero emissions future,’ he added.

RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said ministers ‘talk-the-talk when it comes to encouraging people into cleaner vehicles, but cutting the plug-in car grant certainly isn’t walking the walk’.

The motoring group’s spokesman says the timing of the announcement couldn’t have been worse, with the industry already hard hit by the pandemic, with incentives like the Plug-in Car Grant being ‘vital’ to get consumers to go green at a time when personal finances are being hit.

‘Even though more models are coming on to the market, our research suggests upfront cost remains a concern to drivers when comparing the cost of an electric vehicle with a similarly sized conventional vehicle,’ Lyes told us.

‘By cutting the grant, the Government may risk people holding on to their older, more polluting vehicles for longer.’

The SMMT suggested earlier today that cuts to the grants were the driving factor behind plug-in hybrid car sales overtaking battery electric vehicle registrations in April. 

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