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'Budget 2024 missed the big chance to incentivise EVs and stop the blizzard of cheap Chinese car imports’

Quentin Willson of FairCharge thinks the failure to support the UK electric car industry in the 2024 budget could have far-reaching effects as cheap Chinese imports roll in

Opinion - Quentin Wilson

Even if you hate electric cars on a cellular level, you might have been surprised that there was nothing at all in the Budget to support them. For private buyers there are now no EV subsidies – the Government even ditched the home charge box grant. 

Last week, my campaign group FairCharge wrote an open letter to the Chancellor asking for a VAT cut on public charging from 20 per cent to 5 per cent, in line with domestic rates to help the 38 per cent of drivers in the UK who can’t charge at home. This modest ask was supported by energy providers, carmakers, media, politicians, and environmental groups. We worked out that the cost to HMT would be circa £40million at current rates of adoption. A relatively small amount compared to the £1billion the duty freeze and continuance of the 5p cut provided during Covid. 

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This Government needs to send a signal to global investors that the UK has a long-term industrial electrification policy, and this was a golden opportunity to do just that. Because here’s the thing – if we don’t get more private buyers buying new and used EVs our auto industry will be swept away by budget Chinese EV imports. 

It won’t be long before we see a £12,000 Toyota Corolla-sized EV saloon and an £8,000 EV city car. That will mean a price war which our car industry won’t win. I’ve heard presentations from Chinese car makers who have learnt how to do RHD engineering at scale and are now sizing up UK showrooms, lining up franchise dealers and crafting parts distribution networks. 

This Government can’t - or won’t - see the blizzard of cheap EVs that are coming. They may be good for consumers, but not so good for the 800,000 jobs in the automotive supply chain and the massive £202billion contribution to the economy. Europe, the USA and China are forging ahead, but thanks to cack-handed Government policies and missed messaging we’ve fallen behind in the critical race for global investment. Sad, but true.

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