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Electric and Hybrid Cars

Volume 480: debated on Monday 6 October 2008

The Petition of Andreas Sowa and Sam Lumley of Year 9 Castle View School, Canvey Island, residents of Castle Point and others,

Declares that the use of gas guzzling petrol and diesel vehicles is helping to damage our environment, and that society should switch to electric and hybrid cars since these are less polluting, cause fewer accidents, with less serious consequences of those accidents because of the generally lower speeds of these cars, might encourage people to walk more, therefore reducing the amount of obesity and are more sustainable since oil is a depleting asset.

The Petitioners therefore request that the House of Commons urges the Government to adopt policies to promote the development, production and use of electric and hybrid cars in order to help to protect our environment and for connected matters, particularly given the importance of this issue to the wider community.

And the Petitioners remain, etc.—[Presented by Bob Spink, Official Report, 14 July 2008; Vol. 479, c. 110 .] [P000236]

Observations from the Secretary of State for Transport, received 9 September 2008:

The Government recognises the potential environmental benefits of moving to greater electrification of vehicles for both public and private transportation, particularly as our electricity generating system move to increasingly lower carbon power sources.

Currently, there are only very limited options available for those wishing to drive an electric vehicle. No major manufacturer offers electric vehicle options in the UK. For private motorists; there are a limited number of small city cars available on the market—not all of which meet modern crash safety standards. Wider market penetration of electric vehicles has been hindered by the high costs of batteries, the limited range and performance achieved by the vehicles and the need for a more widespread re-charging infrastructure.

Advances in battery technology have the potential to improve the performance of electric vehicles and much research is taking place in the UK and globally. Higher oil prices, if sustained over long periods, would also improve the relative economics of electric vehicles over conventional options—and thus also provide a commercial environment in which a more widespread re-charging infrastructure for electric vehicles could be developed.

The Government has a number of measures to help increase use of electric vehicles. These include advantageous treatment within the UK taxation system - they are exempt from annual vehicle excise duty and use of electricity is taxed at a significantly lower rate than petrol or diesel. In addition the Government is providing grants to support the rollout of recharging infrastructure.

In the light of recent technology advances and high oil prices, we have commissioned further work to examining the potential for electric vehicles to contribute to our long term carbon reduction and renewable energy targets as well as potential interactions with the UK power system.

This work will inform our wider policy development in this area, alongside assessment of the scope for other technological options—including more fuel efficient conventional engines and hydrogen powered fuel cells—to help us move to a more sustainable transport system over the coming decades.