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The government wants 22 per cent of new car sales to be all-electric from 2024

'ZEV mandate' for increasing EV sales is simple... ish

Published: 31 Mar 2023

To increase sales of electric vehicles (EVs), the government has a plan. Called the Zero-Emission Vehicle mandate, the plan sets out minimum sales targets and penalties for car makers if they don't meet them.

From 2024, car makers need to sell 22 per cent all-electric. By 2028, that figure would increase to 52 per cent and then to 80 per cent by 2030 — just in time for the EU’s ban-non-ban of internal combustion engined (ICE) cars. The government then hopes in 2035, 100 per cent of new cars sold will be purely electric.

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That’s the preferred approach for the more snappily titled ZEV mandate, anyway. The government has been in consultation, so this proposal isn’t yet legally binding. However, once in play, car makers could be stung for £15,000 per unit under the missed target. Ouch.

The way the government is incentivising car makers is interesting. They’ll essentially be earning credits — and the powers that be are suggesting making those credits transferable. So, if you’ve got excess credits with one brand with a very popular EV line-up selling like hot cakes, you could shift those credits to another brand which isn’t as earth-friendly, to avoid the fines. 

To qualify as the ‘right kind of electric car’, the mandate states the ZEV has to emit zero carbon dioxide and no other kind of greenhouse gas (GHG), have a minimum range of 120 miles (according to WLTP standards) and meet the warranty standards to give a ‘predictable consumer experience’.

Mike Hawes, chief at the Society of Motor and Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) explains why proposals don’t go far enough. “While the proposals rightly reflect the sector’s diversity, late publication and lack of regulatory certainty make product planning near impossible, and the continued lack of clarity as to what technologies will be permitted beyond 2030 undermines attempts to secure investment.”

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Hawes also cites issues in the UK’s charging infrastructure as a barrier to electric vehicle uptake. “Ultimately, for this mandate to be successful, infrastructure providers must now turn promises into investment and catch up with the commitments of vehicle manufacturers.”

There's also no mention of what this means for e-fuels, though the consultation does have a caveat that the mandate can be adapted, based on changes in market conditions and technology, so there's some flexibility yet. 

Tim Slatter, chair of Ford Britain, echoes Hawes' sentiments. “Ford is on an accelerated path to an all-electric vehicle portfolio and carbon neutrality by 2035, and fully supports the government’s ambition for a zero-emission future.

"The ZEV mandate is a crucial piece of the electrification puzzle that provides a vital indicator of charging infrastructure needs in the coming years. We know from our customers that the biggest barrier to uptake of electric vehicles remains the availability and ease of charging.

"The ZEV mandate gives a clear direction and should provide the confidence for infrastructure investors to commit and enable the future for electric vehicles on UK roads. With new, higher targets for van customers, it is crucial that the government’s Plug-in Van Grant is retained in early years to support businesses making the switch.”

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