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11 March 2024

EV News Round-Up: Spring Budget, New Car Sales High, and Celebrities Cybertrucking

UK 2024 Budget - No Spring Boost for EV Sales, but Fuel Duty Frozen Again 

We open this week’s news round-up with reports surrounding the anticipation and subsequent response following Chancellor Jeremy Hunt’s Spring Budget delivered last week. 

Ahead of announcements, automotive industry campaigners called on the Chancellor to slash VAT on public charging for EVs. They argued that not reducing the tax will make it increasingly hard for car makers to hit strict targets in the Government's Zero EV (ZEV) Mandate and urged 'fair taxes for a fair transition'.

These calls for incentives to make EVs more accessible and increase their widespread adoption align with the Government's green agenda. 

Backed by new research commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) from Savanta, the industry lobbyists cited rising numbers of would-be EV drivers are now likely to delay their switch to an EV until after 2030. According to the organisation, 50% now make this claim compared to only 1 in 10 this time last year. 

The resulting lack of any such incentives in this year’s Budget feels to many like a missed opportunity to stimulate EV demand amidst concerns over sluggish EV sales. This comes as the most recent new car registration figures from SMMT continue to show that EV sales are growing among fleets and businesses, but sales to private buyers have plateaued.

The Budget's only mention of zero-emission vehicles was a £270 million investment to be shared between 'innovative automotive and aerospace' sectors - nothing to target EV purchasing directly.

Analysts warn that the UK risks falling behind its clean energy targets without government support. This message couldn't come at a worse time for car manufacturers, with 2024 marking the first year the Zero Emission Vehicle Mandate  (ZEV mandate) comes into effect. The mandate requires 22% of new car sales to be electric by the end of the year, with manufacturers facing a £15,000 per-car fine for every number below that threshold.

Budget announcements last week did include some good news for drivers, with a continuation of the freeze on fuel duty for the 14th consecutive year. The 12-month extension of the 5p cut, effectively freezing duty at its current rate, Hunt says is expected to save the average motorist £50 a year. No indication was given of a decision on, if or when duty will be put up again.

A Third of UK Councils Lack Any Plans for Public EV Charge Points

iNews shared new research uncovering a concerning gap in the UK's efforts to promote EV adoption. According to reports, approximately one-third of councils in the country still lack concrete plans for the installation of public EV charge points. The findings suggest a lack of expertise and resources to create and manage electrification transition plans with the survey revealing less than 20% of local authorities have a dedicated EV infrastructure team. 

The study that surveyed councillors nationwide also points towards a growing North/South divide in EV infrastructure and fears that poorer areas are missing out. It revealed that in the North of England, 42% of councils do not have formal EV infrastructure plans, compared to 28% in the South. With Scotland and Wales seemingly doing better, at 27% and 20% respectively.

Despite the UK just last month hitting its one millionth EV milestone, the absence of EV charging infrastructure in many areas could pose significant challenges for individuals looking to switch to EVs, as well as to the overall goal of reducing carbon emissions from the transportation sector. 

Without adequate charging infrastructure, potential EV owners may be deterred from making the switch due to concerns about range anxiety and accessibility to charging facilities.

The findings underscore the need for urgent action from local authorities to address the infrastructure gap and accelerate the deployment of public EV charge points.

New Car Sales Hit a February 20-Year High 

New car sales in the UK grew to their highest February figure in two decades. According to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) latest registration data, new cars climbed 14% year-on-year to 84,886 vehicles last month, the best February performance since 2004. 

February traditionally is a volatile and uncertain month for demand, due to many consumers preferring to wait until the upcoming new number plates in March. Recording the 19th consecutive month of growth in February has come as a surprise to many and suggestions have risen that the automotive industry is seeing increased consumer confidence. Some experts however attribute the surge in new car sales to pent-up demand from consumers who delayed purchases due to the pandemic. 

Behind the headline figures, we see the data suggests the predominant growth is attributable to company fleets investing in the latest vehicles. Fleet registrations recorded double-digit growth again in February, with 56,266 new company cars registered to fleet and business in the month, a 25% uplift year on year, equating to 66% market share.

Looking at vehicle types, EVs overall recorded strong growth. Sales of hybrid EVs rose 12.1% but took a slightly smaller monthly market share of 12.7%. Plug-in hybrids posted the largest growth rising 29.1% for the month and 7.2% of the market. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) outpaced the rest of the market, rising 21.8% to account for 17.7% of registrations.

Celebrities Spark Buzz Sporting Tesla's Cybertruck

The Cybertruck, Tesla's futuristic electric pickup, has been spotted cruising around Los Angeles, catching the attention of celebrities like Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Lady Gaga. These high-profile sightings have sparked excitement and speculation about the Cybertruck's potential as a status symbol in Hollywood circles. 

With its unique, angular design and cutting-edge technology, the Cybertruck represents a bold departure from traditional pickup trucks. Tesla CEO Elon Musk has been actively promoting the Cybertruck as a game-changer in the automotive industry, touting its robust performance and sustainability features. 

The sightings of celebrities with the Cybertruck may represent its growing influence and appeal among influential figures. As Tesla continues to ramp up production and prepare for the Cybertruck's official launch, anticipation among fans and industry observers appears to be at an all-time high. 

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