To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to promote electric car ownership.
My Lords, we have a number of initiatives in place to encourage ownership, and are investing more than £600 million up to 2020 to make the UK a leader in the development, manufacture and use of electric vehicles. We are cutting the up-front costs of purchase with our plug-in car, van and motorcycle grants, and helping meet the costs of installation of charge points in homes, on residential streets and in workplaces right across the UK.
I declare my interest as the proud owner of a new all-electric car. May we seek guidance from the Government on this question? Is the future to be all-electric in order to reduce pollution and a reliance on Middle Eastern oil, in which case we need more infrastructure and more points, including right here in the House of Lords car park: or is the future not so good because there are downsides to driving all-electric vehicles—for example, the cost of extra electricity? We need an answer because we do not want to find ourselves with another diesel débâcle—good yesterday but not so good tomorrow.
The noble Baroness makes some important points. Of course, a shiny new electric car is useless if there is nowhere to charge it up. However, I am pleased to tell her that we already have over 11,000 public charge points in the UK. We have Europe’s largest network of rapid chargers. In the Autumn Statement last year, the Chancellor announced additional funding of £80 million for charging infrastructure for the period to 2020. Alongside this, Highways England has £15 million to expand the existing rapid charge point network.
My Lords, is it not a fallacy to say that we are using less oil? Electricity does not come from nowhere. Is it not a fact that until recently in this country electricity was produced roughly 20% from nuclear, 20% from coal, 40% from gas and oil, and 10% and rising from renewables? That is where electricity comes from. The effect that electric cars have on the streets of London is very interesting, but it has nothing to do with the generation of electricity.
Of course, the noble Lord is correct. The lifecycle CO2 value of an electric car depends on where the electricity is generated. That is a statement of fact.
Is my noble friend aware that the report of the Committee on Climate Change makes the point that many more vans are used today because of e-commerce and that many of those vans are very damaging in terms of pollution? Do the Government have a special way of ensuring that emission levels from vans are reduced by making them turn increasingly to electricity, which of course is very sensible for short runs?
Given his role on the Committee on Climate Change, my noble friend is probably well aware that we have an investment programme to encourage the take-up of electric vans, cars and motorcycles. You can receive a grant to purchase one.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that in England and Wales there are over 1,000 nursery schools looking after 47,000 young children that are very near main roads with illegal levels of nitrogen dioxide and the small particulates that come from diesel cars? These can not only cause lung disease but have an effect on children’s brain development. So when will the Government start regarding the rollout of electric vehicles as a serious public health matter, not just for now but for the future?
We have the largest investment programme for electric vehicles in Europe and we are the largest market for electric vehicles in Europe. One in five electric vehicles sold in Europe is manufactured in the UK. We have an extremely ambitious programme. Indeed, it was started under the coalition Government, and I would have thought that the Liberal Democrats would be quite proud of that.
My Lords, I presume that encouraging electric car ownership is a cross-departmental government policy, and the noble Lord is of course answering on behalf of the Government as a whole. What is the Government’s estimate of the impact of the increase in electric car ownership over the next five years and the next 10 years on the tax take from the sale of petrol and diesel fuel, and how will the Government compensate for or make up any reduction in such tax revenues resulting from increasing electric car ownership?
Noble Lords will probably realise that it is very dangerous for me to speculate on what the Chancellor might do in future Budgets with regard to tax levels.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that insuring electric cars appears to be extremely expensive? Certainly my attempts were declined: I could not get insurance, even though I have a complete no-claims bonus—the full length. When I did eventually find an insurer, it was going to cost me £1,500—so I have not got an electric car.
I think the noble and gallant Lord might find that that was less to do with the car and more to do with his personal circumstances.
I am sure that were he a female driver, it would be much cheaper.
My Lords, would the Minister confirm that you do not need an expensive, fast-charging point for an electric car? You can charge an electric car with a 13 amp domestic plug and a 3 kilowatt feed.
That is of course true—it just takes longer.
My Lords, I am truly enthused by my noble friend’s enthusiasm for electric cars. Being an old romantic, when I look 10 or 15 years ahead, I see electric and autonomous vehicles changing the way that we live, transporting people safely and cheaply, taking them from the point they start to where they want to go. Where does HS2 fit in with this?
In my brief period answering Questions in this House, I have come to marvel at the ability of noble Lords to get off one subject and on to another. HS2 is also an environmentally friendly mode of transport, similar to electric cars.