UK’s approach to electric cars “flawed” and “inept”, says former Aston Martin boss

The 'Godfather of EVs' has criticised parties for using electric car policy as a "political football", and "letting politics get in the way of our kids’ future health"

Andy Palmer, the former CEO of Aston Martin has criticised the UK Government’s direction of its electric cars policy that could jeopardise the British automative industry, calling it “flawed” and “inept”, adding that parties were “letting politics get in the way of our kids’ future health”.

The Brit, known as the “Godfather of EVs” due to his work in launching the Nissan Leaf in 2010 when he was the COO at the Japanese company, with the Leaf now going on to become one of the world’s most popular battery-powered electric cars. He then went on to serve as the chief of Aston Martin from 2014 to 2020, and was previously also the CEO and Executive Vice-chairman of electric bus and van company, Switch.

In an interview with the PA news agency, Palmer blamed the Downing Street’s lack of vision following 2030, when sale of all petrol and diesel cars would be banned, and all new car sales will need to be zero-emission models, and even upsetting leading EV manufacturers like Toyota.

> Britain’s EV charging infrastructure needs a rethink

He said: “The UK has taken a flawed direction in my opinion. This is not the 2030 deadline itself, as going with this date is fine, but not having a plan around it is inept. By not defining [what vehicles can be sold after 2030], you automatically create tension, such as with Toyota, as they don’t know whether their hybrid vehicles qualify or not.

“You’re risking that relationship with Toyota, and you’re not putting any incentives for manufacturing in the UK – quite the opposite.”

Andy Palmer at e-NV200 launch in Yokohama (by Bertel Schmitt, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Toyota is one of the largest car makers in the UK, producing its Corolla hybrid at a factory in Burnaston, Derbyshire. However, with the government not confirming if these vehicles can be sold after 2030, there’s doubt as to whether Toyota will continue to make cars in Britain in the future, although the firm has never made any official comments about its long-term plans.

> 10 countries at the heart of EV manufacturing

He added: “My view was that electric vehicles were always an opportunity for the likes of the UK to step forward and regenerate its car industry, but in the current climate it’s quite the opposite. We have no industrial strategy. We have no plan on how we’re going to create jobs as a result of this complete retooling of the car industry.”

Palmer, who has recently turned his attention to promoting EVs and technologies surrounding it, and was confirmed as the boss of Pod Point, one of the UK’s largest EV charging providers, claimed that electric car policy was now being used as a “political football” by parties of all colours.

“We’re letting politics get in the way of our kids’ future health. I don’t think that’s the role of any responsible government. They are supposed to think in the long term, not use it as a political football for the next election, and that’s where we find the industry now,” he said.

In response, a government spokesperson said it remained “committed to ending the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030 and for all new cars and vans to be 100 per cent zero emissions by 2035.

They added: “Our plan to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars is giving the industry the certainty they need to invest in the UK, as demonstrated by Tata Group’s recent decision to invest £4bn into an electric car battery gigafactory here.

“We continue to work with the industry to unlock private investment in electric vehicle manufacturing in the UK, including through the Automotive Transformation Fund.”

> PM Sunak confirms dialogue with EU over threat to UK’s EV industry

In May, Stellantis, which owns Vauxhall, Peugeot, Citroen and Fiat, had warned it will be unable to keep its commitment to make electric vehicles in Britain unless the UK made changes.

Ford and Jaguar Land Rover also issued statements supporting Stellantis, with PM Rishi Sunak confirming that he was in dialogue with the EU over threat to UK’s EV industry.

And earlier this month, the chief executive of a motorways services has warned that the UK’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure will fall short of keeping up with the rising number of EV owners, with the lack of power capacity for charge points as a “major problem” facing the electric vehicle industry.

Two weeks ago, Rishi Sunak and the Tory Government’s commitment to net-zero was also questioned after he announced at least 100 new oil and sea gas licences alongside a new carbon capture scheme in north-east Scotland. However, he reaffirmed that the ban still remains in place, amidst more than 40 Conservative MPs and peers writing to the Prime Minister to push back the deadline.

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