James Sunderland calls for the UK to be a world leader in electric vehicles

James Sunderland calls for the UK to be a world leader in electric vehicles, an expansion of the rapid charging fund to increase the number of charging points and a wider role for local government in this area.

James Sunderland (Bracknell) (Con)

Once again, I commend the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for giving me the opportunity to support him. He has been a proud champion of this subject for many years, and I am proud to join him in this debate.

For me, the issue is a no-brainer. It is about the environment, cost and pollution. Embracing this important issue is the right thing to do. It is also a huge opportunity for the UK. It is what I call non-discretionary; we have to act, and we have to act quickly. It pleases me that both the major parties are aligned on this. Last year’s Labour manifesto aspired to end

“new sales of combustion engine vehicles”

by 2030. I agree with that. The Conservative manifesto wanted to invest £1 billion in

“a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles”

of a charger. Again, I commend both.

I want to talk briefly about electric cars and charging, and then I will make some recommendations. First, the electric car market is growing quickly, with more than ​142,000 pure electric cars on the road as of today, and 339,000 plug-in models, or so-called hybrids. Electric models accounted for 6.4% of all new registrations this year and hybrid 10%. In August 2020, notwithstanding covid-19, there was a 78% increase in pure electric registrations compared with the same month last year. This is happening whether we like it or not. It will be consumer-driven to the point where the Government might follow suit rather than lead it.

Charging is a major issue. As of 2019, there were just over 8,000 petrol stations in the UK that could fill up more than one car at one time. Some 50% of the charging points are fast, but it still takes three hours to charge each vehicle. Changes are therefore needed rapidly to expand the number of charging points across the UK.

I will finish with some recommendations. The roads are good in the UK, so, ultimately, this is about improved charging points. The rapid charging fund of £500 million should be expanded. I agree that there should be an expanded role for local government. Let us invest in it the power to make changes locally. Motorsport, of which I am a huge fan, needs to race in this area. At Pikes Peak, two records were broken in successive years with electric vehicles. Formula E is also an exemplar. The lessons from motorsport can certainly drive this issue.

I want the UK to be a world leader. Why not? We did it with McLaren and ventilators, and other car manufacturers. It is something we have to do. We have an opportunity post Brexit to lead the world on this, and I commend that idea.