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Fleet procurement could put UK in EV fast lane, says Unite

The UK car market’s successful transition to electric vehicles will require measures to drive fleet EV take-up, as well as action to protect the manufacturing sector.

Unite union sets out a roadmap to retain skills and jobs through the transition from petrol and diesel to electric powertrains

Unite union sets out a roadmap to retain skills and jobs through the transition from petrol and diesel to electric powertrains

So says Britain’s largest union, Unite, as it highlights the risk of the UK falling behind in the EV marketplace and calls for a range of government and industry measures to promote the successful take-up of electric vehicles.

In a new report, Electric Vehicles, Autonomous Technology and Future Mobility, the union sets out a roadmap to retain skills and jobs through the transition from petrol and diesel to electric powertrains.

These include a series of holistic measures identified by Professor David Bailey of the Aston Business School to remove barriers to wider EV take-up. Measures called for in the report cover targeting procurement of company and public sector fleets, lowering car tax for company EVs and better marketing and awareness raising over range anxiety and the ability to recharge.

The report also sets out that government investment is needed to provide an incentive package that goes beyond ‘first wave’ consumers. Although Unite says that the UK Plug-In-Car Grant can successfully target such ‘first wave’ consumers or those who may have already been considering the purchase of an EV. The report adds that, “it pales compared to the £15,000 (€17,000) incentive package offered to Norwegian drivers over five years”.

Other suggested measures include greater vehicle choice, embracing new, flexible ownership models such as ‘on demand’ services and a national car scrappage scheme to encourage sustainable transition from ICE and diesel models to EVs.

In the report, Unite also highlights the need for government support to retool, reskill and develop the UK’s automotive supply chain as it points to news that BMW’s electric Mini will be assembled in Cowley from 2019, but the electric powertrain and electric batteries will be imported from Bavaria. Likewise, Jaguar’s latest vehicles the E-Pace and electric I-Pace will be wholly built in Austria.

Unite also calls for massive investment in infrastructure to remove barriers to UK investment and the mass take-up of electric vehicles. This includes more investment in vital infrastructure, including charging stations, the national grid, domestic lithium extraction and battery recycling facilities.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “No industry is static. The emergence of electric, internet-connected and driverless technology, herald changes unseen since the end of the horse-drawn era.

“The biggest barrier to investment and innovation remains government inactivity. Without proper investment in research and development, public infrastructure, procurement and public transportation, the UK will continue to lag behind.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.