Supporting the electric revolution

What are the key considerations for policymakers and the public as they move away from petrol and diesel-powered cars?

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Convincing customers to join us on  the journey to a more sustainable future is one of the hardest challenges we face. We must be able to present an argument for electric vehicles (EVs) in such a way that does not compromise on convenience or performance. Infrastructure is a key consideration – the argument for EVs is too often undermined by anxieties about their battery life, range, and the ready availability of charging points – alongside cost.

We need to work with the government to use the fiscal tools that are available to people to encourage them to make the right choice. Looking at the government’s annual taxation tools such as Vehicle Excise Duty and Company Car Tax, these should encourage customers to purchase low-emission vehicles.

As the upfront purchase prices of EVs tend to be higher, we have to ensure that there are longer-term savings to incentivise people to make the switch. We need to see long-term certainty in the government’s plug-in car and plug-in van grant and request the incentive of a zero per cent VAT
rate for both battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids that emit under 50g/km CO2.

Broadly speaking, the success and uptake of EVs depends on them having good range, being competitively priced and adjusting urban and rural environments to support them. The Peugeot e-208, Vauxhall, Corsa-e, and DS 3 Crossback E-Tense are proof of what is already possible in this space, with a range of over 200 miles based on the EU’s Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure, and with 100kW fast charging capability.

Should we just encourage all customers to drive battery electric vehicles?

Policymakers should reflect technology neutrality. For example, plug-in hybrid EVs such as the Vauxhall Grandland X Hybrid4, Peugeot 3008 HYBRID4, or DS 7 Crossback E-Tense, have a really important role to play in the transition to lower CO2 vehicles – getting customers used to new technologies while having the need for a longer range.

In the future hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, being developed and tested by Groupe PSA, will have a big role to play alongside the battery electric vehicles we see today like the Vauxhall Vivaro-e commercial vehicle. We are concerned that with the government having withdrawn grant support for plug-in hybrid EVs, the transition to new technologies will be even harder for customers. That is why it is important to ensure that we see VAT reductions for such vehicles that are below 50g/km CO2.

Furthermore, studies have shown that a plug-in hybrid EV, if charged appropriately, can accumulate more electric miles than pure battery
electric cars. This is because over 80 per cent of all daily car journeys cover less than 50km and can be accomplished by driving the plug-in hybrid only from the battery.

As a manufacturer, we work hard to get our customers the right vehicles for them. A battery electric vehicle might not be the right solution for customers who regularly need to drive longer distances. For these customers a plug-in hybrid would be more suitable.

Should manufacturers pay towards new EV-supporting infrastructure?

While we think that building public charging points is not part of Groupe PSA’s core business, we encourage all growth initiatives of the public charging network and support the continuation of charging grants. It’s important that access to charging is as wide as possible for customers.

When it comes to the charging infrastructure for all forms of electric vehicles the aim must be to make it as easy as possible for all customers. To help with this part of the journey, we have developed a partnership with a charging provider so that we can offer our customers access to home and workplace charging solutions, as well as access to a public charging networks to give those customers without off-street charging the chance to drive an EV.

We are also building charging infrastructure for our employees. For example, at our joint Opel/Vauxhall/PSA engineering centre in Rüsselsheim, Germany, we are installing over 1,000 charging points in co-operation with regional authorities and energy providers, a project that is co-funded by the German government.

Is the government’s target of every new car on the road being zero-emission by 2050 achievable?

In a perfect world, with long-term consumer incentives, continuation of grants, zero per cent VAT, infrastructure issues addressed, and with an integrated approach from charging providers, governments, energy companies, and distributors, it may be possible. It is certainly something that we at Groupe PSA are working towards.

In 2020, Groupe PSA will have half of its model range offered with an electrified version. By 2025, we have committed to having a battery electric or plug-in hybrid version  of every single car and van that we offer. These all have amazing range  and we are really excited about how
the market will respond to these sector-leading products.

Helen Lees is head of electric vehicles and connected services at Groupe PSA. Groupe PSA encompasses the Peugeot, Citroën, DS, Free2Move, and Vauxhall brands in the UK.