Despite an announcement in last year’s autumn statement that a £400m government fund would be set up to finance the building of electric car charging points, the delivery of that much-needed infrastructure looks likely to be delayed following a statement to MPs by junior Treasury minister Robert Jenrick.
The minister’s intervention, in a written parliamentary answer, will be bad news for car manufacturers and to local efforts to tackle air pollution in UK cities.
To support the shift to zero-emission vehicles, the government last year announced a £400m fund for charging infrastructure. Half of the money would come from the taxpayer, with the rest match-funded by the private sector. This week it emerged that the government has yet to appoint anyone to raise the £200m of private investment and is way behind on its plans to secure the funding.
In a written parliamentary answer to the shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald who asked how much of the Charging Investment Infrastructure Fund had been raised, Jenrick said: “The government is engaging with the private sector to ensure that it (the fund) is set up in the most effective way. We expect to launch the procurement for the private sector fund manager in summer 2018, who will be tasked with raising the £200m of private investment. Further details will be announced in due course.”
McDonald criticised the government’s inaction on the issue, saying: “The government’s electric vehicles policy has run out of power before leaving the driveway. Ministers failed to admit they hadn’t secured a penny of investment and didn’t intend to raise anything in the near future. They have announced £200m that isn’t theirs and hasn’t been promised to them.”
The car manufacturers see the fund as essential for increasing the market share for electric cars, which stood at nearly 2% last year. Trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders have previously said that the fund would be a “positive step to boost buyer confidence”, with many potential electric car buyers still being deterred by a perception that there was not enough charging infrastructure.
Delays to the government’s £400m electric charging fund could have a seriously negative effect on government plans to reduce pollution from cars. Currently there are around 16,000 charging points in the UK for more than 130,000 plug-in hybrid and pure electric cars.
With some polling showing that more than a third of people would consider buying a fully electric car, the need for fast-tracking national charging infrastructure is more important than ever.