Government under fire from the NAO as Which? reveals extra costs of electric cars
This month two reports – one from the National Audit Office and another from the consumer organisation Which? – put the government’s ” Green agenda” promise to cease internal combustion engine production in 2030 and end hybrid- electric/petrol and diesel production by 2035 to a savage test.
Read together they show the government’s programme is severely wanting and so far made little impact despite all the hype of adopting a Green agenda. The public have started buying electric cars in appreciable numbers – sales were up 162 per cent to 86,291 for the first 11 months of last year according to Which? But that is still a minute proportion of the 32.9 million cars registered in the UK. They amount according to the NAO to eight per cent of new car sales.
The NAO report produces some damning figures on the environmental impact of all this. The result has been pathetic – just a 1 per cent cut in carbon emissions in the ten years since subsidies for green cars were started. Carbon emissions actually rose between 2016 and 2019 as people went for more sporty vehicles and SUVs and road traffic increased. Hardly a good omen.
Massive divide between those with drives and those who are drive less
But there is also another story which suggests that the ” electric car ” will be the new divide between the rich, the middle class and the young and poor. To get best value from an electric car you need a home charger. If you have a big drive – no problem and you can even get a government greant of £350 to install one.
But one third of home owners and tenants live not in semi detached and detached homes but in terraced houses and flats. There is nowhere to install a charger on their property – they will have to rely on public charging in the street.
And the scheme to install public chargers in the streets has been a miserable failure. The NAO reveal that:
“By the end of March 2020, government funding had contributed towards the installation of 133,336 home charging points;8,578 workplace charging points; and 690 on-street charging points.”
This pathetic last figure for on street charging has partly been caused by the government itself – according to the NAO claiming the money from the ministry is so complicated that local councils have partly given up – the £8.5m budget for this has been underused by 32 per cent over the last three years.
Private companies have fared better according to the Which? report there were 20,823 publicly accessible charging points in 13,185 locations by mid December last year.
Damning findings from Which? on costs
There are some damning findings from Which? which heighten the divide even further. Yes you can save money on fuel bills by going electric but only if you have your own charger. “ If you don’t have regular access to private charging facilities it could cost you more to run overall than a full hybrid model or even a conventional petrol or diesel car.”
And worse if you have hybrid model Which? says don’t trust the fuel economy figures from the manufacturers.“Our own fuel economy tests show that real-world costs are on average an astronomical 252 per cent more expensive than manufacturer claims, across all the models we tested.”
And there is more for the poorer car owner with no access to their own charger.
” The cost of fully charging the average electric vehicle is 97 per cent more expensive than the average UK fixed-price home energy tariff, not including special rates or incentives aimed at electric car owners” And it is big money Which? estimates it would add £409 to annual fuel costs for a tiny city car such as the Seat Mii electric or around £653 for a full sized SUV such as the Mercedes EQC.
All this suggests that the government is going to need a big rethink to get to its target as both the NAO and the Commons Public Accounts Committee chair agree.
Meg Hillier MP, Chair of the Committee of Public Accounts says:
“Government has made some headway in promoting electric cars. But they are still not an affordable or practical option for most people.
“The vast majority of charging points are for private off-street parking. Not everyone has a driveway to charge their car. And reducing emissions shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the middle classes.
“This can’t be a pie in the sky ambition – government must urgently develop a real plan if it wants electric cars to comprise 100% of new sales by 2035.”
I agree – otherwise it will just be another example of government hype.