SMMT Chief: Government Support for EV Investment is Crucial

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) chief executive, Mike Hawes, has emphasized the importance of government support for the investment in UK factories to build electric vehicles (EVs). Recent concerns about the amount of taxpayers’ money being spent on this investment have been dismissed by Hawes, who argued that government backing is crucial for manufacturers.

Hawes made these comments at the SMMT’s Electrified 2023 conference in Westminster. He stated that the transition to electric vehicles depends on investment, not just in manufacturing but also in the market. The UK has seen a significant increase in the market share of battery electric new cars, rising from 0.7% in 2018 to an anticipated 17.8% by the end of this year, according to SMMT figures. However, the surge in demand has been driven mainly by fleet purchases, with the share of privately bought battery electric new cars declining.

To make electric vehicles mainstream, Hawes emphasized the importance of helping consumers make the transition more quickly. He called for targeted support such as reducing VAT on public charging and the purchase of EVs, exempting EVs from expensive car supplements, and implementing a national plan to improve the charging network. He argued that these measures are not only a commercial imperative but also a matter of social justice to ensure a fair transition across the country.

A survey commissioned by the SMMT revealed that while more than two-thirds of non-EV drivers want to make the switch to electric, only a small percentage plan to do so this year. The survey also showed that the “progressive withdrawal of incentives” has caused stagnation in the demand for EVs from private buyers. Alex Smith, the managing director of Volkswagen Group UK, stressed that EVs are perceived as relatively expensive by private consumers but highlighted the long-term cost benefits of electric vehicles, including lower operating and fueling costs.

In conclusion, Hawes and other industry leaders are advocating for continued government support and targeted incentives to accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles in the UK. They believe that such measures are necessary to make EVs more affordable and attractive to private buyers, ensuring a smooth transition to a cleaner and more sustainable transport sector.

– Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT)
– Savanta survey commissioned by SMMT