Unite, the UK and Ireland largest union, has warned that proposals to introduce a car scrappage scheme to help address climate change will, without additional measures to support infrastructure and the UK manufacture of electric vehicles, fail to provide a boost to the UK’s car industry.
Responding to speculation that the government is considering introducing a new car scrappage scheme which would see buyers being given £6,000 to exchange their petrol or diesel car for an electric model, Unite has warned that further urgent investment and infrastructure development is needed to maximise the success of any initiative.
Further, its introduction now could simply delay consumers purchasing existing models, including hybrids, which keep the UK industry alive and provide the investment necessary for the transition to full electric vehicles.
The UK does not currently have the charging infrastructure in place to make electric cars an attractive proposition for many drivers. If the scheme were to be brought in at the moment it would not provide an advantage to the UK’s struggling automotive sector as very few electric-only cars are currently built in the UK.
With the transition to electric cars not realistically imminent in the UK, consideration and support must also be given to highly modern low emission internal combustion engines which are being built in the UK.
Of even greater concern is that the UK does not currently produce an electric (transit-sized) van, which given the type of journeys these vehicles undertake is a huge missed opportunity to contribute to meeting the climate change challenge.
Rapid expansion needed
Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing Steve Turner said: “While as part of an integrated approach to transitioning the automotive sector this could be a game changing initiative, for that to be achieved the government will need to announce a rapid expansion of the charging infrastructure and, in particular, the provision of fast charging points.
“Drivers are not going to invest in an electric car if they are concerned about its range and worried about the difficulty of charging it.
“The introduction of a car scrappage scheme must also coincide with a dramatic move to produce a far higher number of electric models and components in the UK, otherwise the scrappage scheme will simply benefit overseas producers and not domestic production.
“The transition to electric vehicles will not occur overnight. During this period the government must also be promoting and assisting the new generation of low emission, internal combustion engines that are produced in the UK.
“Due to the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit, tens of thousands of automotive jobs are at risk and any initiatives that the government considers must be focussed on securing and promoting skilled employment in the UK.
“It is essential that the government provides leadership right now and introduces any incentives, as the French have done, with measures targeted at promoting UK manufacturers and component suppliers. Incentivising the industry to produce an electric van here in the UK would be a good start.”