The Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP’s Autumn Statement included good news for electric vehicle enthusiasts with a large £390 million toward boosting zero emission vehicles and driverless technology.

Mr Hammond said, “we choose in this Autumn Statement to prioritise additional high-value investment, specifically in infrastructure and innovation, that will directly contribute to raising Britain’s productivity…”

He continued, “I can announce today a new National Productivity Investment Fund of £23 billion to be spent on innovation and infrastructure over the next five years. Investing today for the economy of the future.”

I will commit an additional £1.1 billion of investment in English local transport networks, £220 million to address traffic pinch points on strategic roads; £450 million to trial digital signalling on our railways to achieve a step-change in reliability…

And finally, £390 million to build on our competitive advantage in low emission vehicles and the development of connected autonomous vehicles; plus a 100% first year capital allowance for the installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructure.

As most EV drivers can attest, infrastructure is a key component in the uptake of plugin vehicles and the government has set aside £80 million has been to boost charging infrastructure, as well as a 100% capital allowance in the first year for companies installing charge points. The aim is to encourage zero emission commuting, which would dramatically reduce carbon emissions in our cities particularly.

Charge points range in price from the inexpensive £150 16 or 32Amp offered by companies including Rolec, to the high-end £20,000 rapid chargers that are now a familiar sight at motorway services. The £80 million fund is enough to pay for several thousand new rapid chargers, or tens of thousands of slower chargers. There are currently some 12,000 plug-in vehicle charge points located around the UK, with two-thirds accessible to the public.

It is expected the new round of funding will facilitate a smoother transition toward zero emission vehicle adoption, particularly as EVs are becoming evermore popular with longer range to aleviate the perceived problem of range-anxiety.

Electric vehciles are fast being seen by government as a key tool in lowering overall UK emissions and reaching their legally set targets by 2030.

Erik Fairbairn, CEO of charge point instlaler POD Point said, “The combination of this new investment, and the generous tax incentive, really is a game changer for our industry, which will essentially fuel the first wave of mass adoption of electric vehicles in the UK. It is exciting to see that the Government now clearly recognises the central role that EV can, and will play in reducing the environmental impact from transport.”

Duty on petrol and diesel has been frozen at the current rate, however, insurance premium “stealth” tax, which includes vehicle insurance, will rise by 2%. Currently, the rate is set at 10%, rising to 12% in June 2017. The increase is being justified by the additional spending commitments made in the statement.

Critics were quick to point out that many drivers remain uninsured because of the already high premiums, with the average car insurance costing nearly £600 per annum. However, Hammond added that the government is committed to putting an end to whiplash claims, which he says will save the average motorist £40 on their annual premium.

Additionally, Hammond will set out a new tax system that doesn’t differentiate between cash and benefit in kind payments. Fortunately, ultra-low emission vehicles are excluded from this. He said,

The majority of employees pay tax on a cash salary. But some are able to sacrifice salary and pay much lower tax on benefits in kind. This is unfair, and so from April 2017 employers and employees who use these schemes will pay the same taxes as everyone else. Following consultation with stakeholders, ultra-low emission cars, pensions saving, childcare and the cycle to work scheme will be excluded from this change. And certain long-term arrangements will be protected until April 2021.

A £100 million fund will be dedicated toward the development and progress of autonomous vehicles, including testing sites. Previous government funding saw the start of autonomous trials in towns and cities, including Milton Keynes, Coventry, Bristol and Greenwich in London. Those tests are still underway, although most focus on autonomous technology rather than necessarily for cars. Milton Keynes testing, for example, focuses on pods that navigate pavements, not roads.

 

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