What Can Labour Do for the EV Car Industry?

Rarely does a conversation with electric car industry staff at all levels go by without them lamenting the instability and indecisiveness of the regulatory and legislative environment in which the automotive industry operates.

With good reason, too, especially in the UK, where the outgoing government’s only consistent message has been for the country to be a world leader in electric vehicles. It has been that already, albeit world-leading only in causing confusion among the car-buying public as to whether or not they need to buy an EV, and by when.

Now, we have a new government and a new party running the country – will stability finally be afforded to the automotive industry and clarity to those buying the cars it creates?

It’s hard to imagine the new government could handle messaging worse than the previous one, yet we don’t know too much about Labour’s view on the industry and motorists beyond some rather broad statements that have created more questions than answers.

This uncertainty is typified by the one major headline the industry paid attention to during the campaign: Labour’s pledge to reverse Rishi Sunak’s reversal of the ban on the sale of non-electric cars by 2035, reinstating the 2030 deadline. It’s worth noting that the only law in place is that by 2030, 80% of new car sales must be electric, and the ‘ban’ is actually an argument over the remaining 20%.

Sunak’s pledge was to allow any fuel type to be sold for the non-electric share of the market, while Sir Keir Starmer’s statement suggests a return to the plan of that 20% being hybrids with a meaningful electric range (‘meaningful’ being something that was never actually quantified). This was Sunak’s previous plan before his latest one.

However, clarity and decisiveness are urgently needed. The period leading up to and beyond 2030 has never been a beacon of clarity, often treated as a problem for tomorrow. But now, the Labour government must address these issues as a live and present challenge.

Labour has pledged to install more charging points for electric cars, which is crucial as trust is still needed in a charging network at scale that is fit for purpose. Not only do we need more chargers and a more reliable network, but we also need accountability for those chargers already in place.

Pothole repairs and modernising the transport infrastructure are also in Labour’s plans. Funding of £1.5 billion will support gigafactories, continuing financial support from the outgoing government to such projects, while money is also being pledged to R&D projects as well as green hydrogen to help support the HGV industry’s switch to greener transportation.

However, several questions remain unanswered. Will the UK follow Europe in imposing tariffs on Chinese-made electric cars? If not, will it use this as a way to entice Chinese manufacturers to build their cars here to avoid such tariffs? What support will Labour offer buyers to go electric, if any? This is crucial, as demand from private buyers for electric cars is waning, as the latest SMMT sales figures have shown.

An imminent King’s Speech will hopefully reveal the government’s plans for the automotive industry, including the types of cars UK buyers will be able to purchase and when, and perhaps offer incentives for those wishing to manufacture cars here as well.

Whatever its contents, let’s hope a clear policy is established and adhered to, providing much-needed stability for both the UK car and motor manufacturing sector and the electric vehicle buying public. The time for decisive action is now, and Labour has a unique opportunity to steer the UK’s EV industry toward a prosperous and sustainable future.

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Richard Alvin

Managing Editor of EV Powered who has a passion for electric converted classic cars - currently converting Lottie the Landy a 1965 Series II ex RAF Land Rover to electric power and the person responsible for two wheel reviews at EV Powered.