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New nationwide road pricing system must include zero emission vehicles

Published 22 February 2021 by Transform Scotland

Transform Scotland is publishing its response to the UK Parliament’s call for evidence on zero emission vehicles and road pricing.

The call for evidence is set in the context of a commitment by the UK Government to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, which has been matched by the Scottish Government. This will not only impact the number of petrol and diesel cars on UK roads but also the income that the UK Government currently derives from Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty, which currently add up to £40 billion per year, according to the call for evidence. This shift will not only deprive the UK Government of income but also of a valuable tool to impact the the levels of car use through use of these fiscal powers.

Transform Scotland’s paper recognises the role that zero emission vehicles play in the transition to net zero but cautions that, irrespective of fuel source, the over-use of private cars will continue to impose vast negative economic, environmental and social cost externalities on others.

If not carefully-targeted and time-limited, subsidies to adopt zero emission vehicles could have the perverse unintended impact of increasing private car use. A much greater focus should be placed on supporting the uptake of zero emission technology in public transport and for freight, and the greater uptake of appropriate forms of electric micromobility.

Government will also need to continue to have in place incentives that manage car use, even after the phase-out of fossil fuel cars. It is therefore crucial that the UK Government reforms its fiscal and pricing regimes for road use.

Transform Scotland’s Policy Officer, Marie Ferdelman, said:

“While the move from petrol and diesel cars to zero emission cars will lead to a reduction in tailpipe emissions, it remains important to acknowledge the wider costs of private car use that are not associated with fuel type. In addition, Government subsidies for EVs currently make running an electric car much cheaper than running a petrol or diesel car and while the number of EVs on UK roads is still relatively low today, this is likely to change very quickly over the next few years. The Government must prevent the low running cost of electric vehicles leading to an overall increase in traffic levels. We therefore strongly support the introduction of a new road pricing system that includes EVs.”