Electric vehicles: Charging up the UK’s energy transition

June 18, 2021
UK plans acceleration in roll-out of electric and other low-emission vehicles as sales of new petrol and diesel cars end in 2030.

Electric vehicles (EV) and EV-charging infrastructure will play an important role in the decarbonisation of the transport sector. For many, EVs will be one of the most ‘visible’ embodiments of the energy transition. The transition presents challenges and opportunities to wholly transform one of the world’s largest manufacturing industries, as well as dozens of supply chain components and related service sectors.

According to the IEA’s EV Outlook 2021, EVs sales topped 3mn globally and accounted for around 4.6pc of the world’s car sales in 2020, continuing their 40pc back-to-back increase each year since 2018. The pace of growth is only set to accelerate. In the first quarter of 2021 alone, global EV quarterly sales soared by 140pc compared to the same period in 2020.

While consumer demand will undoubtedly fuel growth, governmental regulation and policy is vital to shift the market firmly towards EV uptake. The UK Energy White Paper, published in December 2020, reiterated the government’s flagship policy of banning the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans (but not HGVs) by 2030, extending this to hybrid vehicles too by 2035. The ban on petrol and diesel cars goes hand in hand with the plans for a massive acceleration in the roll-out of electric and other low-emission vehicles. Total support to roll out EV-charging networks will near £1.3bn ($1.84bn). A further £1bn will also be spent on developing and promoting EVs themselves, including £582mn in grants for those buying zero or ultra-low emission vehicles and £500mn for the development of ‘gigafactories’ (electric car battery factories) with clusters in the North East and West Midlands to complement the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. More detail is likely to emerge soon, when the Transport Decarbonisation plan is published later this spring.

In this context, Stephen Rigby, a partner in Norton Rose Fulbright’s London energy team, recently spoke to Dan Kaufman, legal counsel at bp pulse. Read the full interview