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Support needed to sustain growth in electric car take-up

Despite an increase of 47% in the sales of electric and hybrid cars this year, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) says that more needs to be done to continue to drive the switch from diesel and petrol engines.

Even though DVSA figures show that many motorists are already choosing alternatively-fuelled vehicles, the number of charging stations has only grown by 16% since last year (from 3,840 to 4,467) so the IMI warns that Britain will fail to remove diesels and in turn improve air quality, if significant investment isn’t made right across the UK.

Furthermore, insurance costs for ultra-low emission vehicles have been found to be up to 50% higher than for petrol or diesels equivalents and these won’t become more competitive until more people are qualified to work on them. Currently only 1% of all technicians have been trained to work safely on the high-voltage technology and almost all of them work exclusively for manufacturers' franchised dealers.

The IMI believes that the UK will fail to keep up with the global competition for the adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) if the charging infrastructure isn’t drastically improved - and more technicians are given the training required to service these high powered vehicles.

A government-commissioned report entitled ’Boosting Electric Vehicles in the UK’ estimates that new vehicle technologies could contribute £51bn to the UK economy by 2030, but Steve Nash, Chief Executive at the IMI, said: “Much more needs to be done if the UK is to realise the £51bn contribution from new vehicle technologies that the government is pursuing by 2030. That is contingent upon the UK being a leading player, but we must start with the basics by ensuring that we have the infrastructure and skills base to support motorists making an easy transition from petrol and diesel to electric and hybrid. A greater and more rapid investment in the charging infrastructure and financial support to help those working in the service & repair sector, most particularly the independent operators, to gain the skills to work on the new technologies.

The IMI has been campaigning for the introduction of a licensing scheme for those working on high voltage vehicles, and has asked the government to contribute £30m to support the uptake of the necessary training.  In order to facilitate this and help clarify the competencies required for working on these vehicles, the IMI has launched a new Electric & Hybrid Vehicle qualification along with the appropriate support materials.

Ratio of plug-in vehicles to charging points (2017)

UK – 13:1

England – 16:1

Scotland – 3:1

Wales – 48:1

Northern Ireland – 5:1