Huge increase in electric vehicle usage needed for UK to meet net zero target
Four out of every five miles driven in 2035 will need to be by electric vehicles if the Government wants to hit its most ambitious decarbonisation targets, The Telegraph can reveal.
The UK would need to see a 21-fold increase in motorists using electric vehicles if the country is to meet net zero emissions by 2050, newly released figures from the Department for Transport show.
With only just over five per cent of miles currently driven in electric cars, if the Government was to push on with only the funded policies currently in place, this would only rise to 24 per cent by 2035 - the year when the sale of all petrol and hybrid cars will be banned.
The projections, which make up DfT’s Decarbonising Transport forecasts, show even if traffic grows at the lowest expected rate and the most ambitious green transport policies are implemented, 79 per cent of all car miles will need to be electric in 12 years.
A more conservative projection, which would see the country hit its net zero transport target after 2050, would still require 58 per cent of car miles to be electric by that date.
Increase in car use
The Government’s ability to meet these targets has been met with scepticism by experts who point to supply chain issues, lack of chargers as well as cost, as major barriers.
The figures also reveal that taking steps to reduce car usage is not part of the department’s plan, with all of its projections anticipating an increase in car use.
This goes against the Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget, which says a reduction in vehicle miles is essential to hitting decarbonisation targets.
Even the projection that forecasted the lowest traffic demand still estimates a 24 per cent increase between 2022 and 2050.
With this increase in road use, four in five miles would need to be electric in 12 years time, and nearly 93 per cent by 2040.
The projections also suggest that 79 per cent of all van miles will need to be electric by 2035, with 40 per cent of all HGV miles also needing to be electric.
Questions over whether targets are achievable
However, experts have laid question marks over whether these targets could be achievable, particularly in light of the Government’s current policies and technology available.
Academic Greg Marsden said: “The Government is not phasing out purely petrol and diesel cars until 2030 and plug-in hybrids until 2035.
“Vehicles last 14 years, to be at 80 per cent by 2035, every vehicle that is purchased would need to be electric, somewhere between the 2027/29 period.”
He added that there currently are not any fully electrified HGVs being produced at scale, and the supply chain for electric cars was nowhere near being at the scale needed to hit these projections.
Biggest hurdle is cost
Simon Williams, the RAC’s EV spokesman, said there were currently a number of hurdles that stood in the way of a switch the scale the modelling suggested, with the biggest being cost.
He said: “While running costs of EVs are lower than combustion cars, drivers have to be able to afford to upgrade their cars in the first place.
“Given rampant inflation and the cost of living crisis, we’re concerned that many drivers won’t be able to afford to switch and will simply hold on to their existing cars for longer.”
The mass shift to electric cars makes up only one aspect of policy changes required as part of the DfT’s best case scenario projections.
The “high ambition” also includes the expectation that all domestic shipping emissions will be net zero by 2040, electrifying 13,000km of rail track and having net zero aviation by 2040.
A DfT spokesman said: “We have a clear plan to reach net zero, as set out in the Transport Decarbonisation Plan.
“This sets out an ambitious and credible pathway to reducing transport emissions in a way that takes consumers’ needs into account, and will deliver better transport for everyone, every day. This includes making sure that drivers can realise the benefits of driving an electric car and increasing the use of public transport and active travel.”