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The RAC Foundation says mass migration to battery electric vehicles (EVs) will enable the UK to hit climate change targets. However, experts say this is a “monumentally steep challenge”. 

The Climate Change Committee’s Sixth Carbon Budget (2033-2037) requires annual carbon emissions from cars to fall around 40% between 2021 and 2030.

The RAC Foundation says three factors will be critical in achieving this; the potential increase of EVs, the proportion of the UK’s road miles driven by EVs, and how quickly the number of petrol and diesel cars decreases. The research charity ran a model using 14 factors, including the three above, to determine the scenarios where the UK would hit its carbon emissions target.

The results demonstrate that if car mileage stays the same or increases, EVs would need to make up 35% of the total car fleet in 2030. This would require a big jump, as recent government data shows that less than 2% of the UK’s cars are currently EVs.

The analysis also accounts for current policies, such as the ban on the sale of new pure petrol and diesel cars from 2030. However, the model does not recognise affordability or public reactions that might result from future policies.

Another challenge posed is the rise of car ages. In 1994, the average car was six years and two months old, and at the end of 2021, the average car age was eight years and four months.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, states: “From the point of view of the planet the next car people buy is critical.

He adds: “Bearing in mind that annual mileage per car was already falling way before COVID, maybe planning for a reduction in total car mileage wouldn’t be as contentious as some fear, particularly if accompanied by complementary policies, such as support for public transport.”

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