Sunak net zero U-turn raises alarm bells for SMEs

Peter O'Brien calls out the PM for putting political gain ahead of UK climate action with his plan to push back the end of petrol and diesel car production.

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The sudden news that Rishi Sunak is considering delaying the ban on the production of new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035, among other significant changes to existing net zero policies, comes as a disappointing surprise – particularly for small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with fleets.

Fleeting chance

At a time when the positive image of sustainability has never been more crucial, deploying a fleet of electric vehicles (EVs) is a lucrative solution for SMEs. Rather than diluting net zero policies, the government has the opportunity to step up and confront the challenges facing electrification. Instead, Sunak’s potential U-turn is bound to hurt businesses, competitiveness and jobs in the UK. 

By deploying an EV fleet, a business can underscore its commitment to reducing carbon emissions and contributing to a greener future while earning 100% of EV charging profits. Additionally, the cost reductions compared to petrol and diesel cars are significant; EVs are cheaper to maintain, break down less often and are cheaper to run.

General election goals

The drastic change of course comes across as starkly anti-business and a poorly planned policy U-turn to mount a pre-election challenge to Labour. Sunak has attempted to reassure businesses, consumers and his own party that he’s putting the long-term interests of the country ahead of his own short-term political needs, but the proximity to the next general election raises questions.

Big brands go electric

The fuel of the future is electricity. In recent years, many of the world’s leading automotive giants have worked tirelessly to manoeuvre towards EVs. Ford, for example, has committed a global $50 billion towards electrification, including a £430 million investment in Ford UK’s development and manufacturing facilities. Lisa Brankin, Ford UK Chair, has stepped forward to call upon the Government to deliver ambition, commitment and consistency, describing the 2030 target as a “vital catalyst” to accelerate a cleaner future. 

As Ford’s damning statement shows, there is clearly interest within the motoring industry to proceed with electrification. Instead, charging infrastructure remains lacking, tariffs loom and consumers, including current and would-be EV drivers, are reeling from the cost-of-living crisis.

Positive steps

There have been steps in the right direction. For instance, SMEs are supported by the EV infrastructure grant; a government initiative that provides eligible businesses with £350 per chargepoint socket installed and £500 per parking space enabled with supporting infrastructure, with a minimum of five parking spaces with at least one working chargepoint (with a total limit of £15,000 per grant). Lessening the cost of infrastructure and installation is a great way to incentivise electrification for businesses, which can, in turn, help as many employees as possible make the transition to EVs.

Banning the production of petrol and diesel cars in 2030 will cause a drastic reduction in carbon emissions, supporting a greener and more sustainable transportation ecosystem. Additionally, transitioning to EVs helps support consumers, who have been hit hard by the cost-of-living crisis and unprecedented petrol prices in recent years. On the contrary, the Prime Minister’s policy U-turn appears aimed at supporting oil companies and comes across as alarming, baffling and outdated.

 What do SMEs need?

Car parks with EV charging are becoming the fuelling stations of tomorrow, but require the right infrastructure, network and support. Unlike other companies which offer EV charging solutions at car parks either cheaply or even free, Go Zero Charge gives its commercial partners 100% of their EV charging profits and only adds a very small fee (5p + VAT) per kW on top of the charge (post-installation). Empowering businesses to monetise EV charging in car parking bays and create huge revenue will supercharge a transformative shift away from conventional petrol stations towards a cleaner, sustainable future is a necessary step.

As a smart EV charger brand, it’s far from possible to support Rishi Sunak’s abrupt U-turn on the government’s net zero policies. For us, delaying the ban on the production of new petrol and diesel cars by five years to 2035 stands out as the most alarming as it hurts businesses, competitiveness and jobs in the UK.

The nature of the ‘announcement’ – a late-night leak after parliament has closed for the conference recess – raises more questions than it provides answers. The immediate backlash from senior figures in the Conservative Party is very telling and the move is possibly the most significant political decision of 2023.

You have to commend Ford for stepping forward and clearly calling upon the Government to deliver better results. The long-term damage of delaying the 2030 target seems apparent to everyone in the motoring industry, but not the Prime Minister. Businesses across the country, but specifically car manufacturers and SMEs with fleets, will await Sunak’s speech on Friday while biting their nails.

Peter O’Brien - Chief Marketing Officer of Go Zero Charge

Go Zero Charge designs, develops, and manufactures their own top-of-the-line electric vehicle chargers. The company's flagship car charger, Optimus, is custom-built to be both durable and reliable within the industry.

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