Covid has caused a slump in new car sales that could slow the switch to electric vehicles, pushing up emissions
The Government should slap a 50 per cent tax on the most polluting cars from next year to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles over the next decade, experts have said.
New analysis from the UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) suggests the dramatic slump in car sales during the pandemic could have worrying consequences for transport emissions over the next decade and beyond unless the government takes radical action.
Sales of new cars this September were the worst in a century, as the financial impact of Covid-19 began to take its toll. UKERC analysis suggests the slowdown in the car market could last until 2025, keeping older, more polluting cars on the road for longer.
Meanwhile people who put off buying a new car in 2020 or 2021 may buy a similar model later in the decade, delaying the date they make a switch to electric, UKERC added. Manufacturers may also try and offload stock of petrol and diesel models ahead of the 2030 ban on their sale.
Such a scenario could lead to an extra seven million tonnes of tailpipe CO2 emissions between 2021 and 2030, UKERC’s director Professor Rob Gross told i.
“You might think that people not buying cars is a good thing for the environment. But it’s not a good thing if they delay buying a relatively inefficient car, and that car is still being used for longer,” he said.
Those cumulative emissions matter, he said: “Every gram of CO2 that enters the atmosphere stays there, potentially for hundreds of years.”
Tax polluting cars
UKERC says more must be done to make polluting cars less attractive to buyers. It proposes imposing a 50 per cent levy on the purchase price of the most polluting vehicles. The tax would start in 2021 with the highest emitting cars, such as performance SUVs and sports cars. It would gradually tighten over the decade until only zero emission cars were exempt.
New cars with high tailpipe emissions already pay a higher rate of tax under the Vehicle Excise Duty, but only for the first year. After that, petrol and diesel motors face a flat charge regardless of their emissions.
“As the car market recovers we think the government needs to strongly steer it towards cleaner vehicles, not just by providing subsidies for electric vehicles but also strongly steering people away from relatively inefficient models,” Professor Gross said.
UKERC’s proposals are similar to Norway’s system, where all non-electric cars are subject to a tax on their purchase price based on their tailpipe emissions.
The system makes most EV models cheaper to buy compared to a similar petrol model, even if the import price for the EVs is much higher.
Read more: inews