THE Government’s announcement of a delay to the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel-powered cars by five years to 2035, bringing the UK into line with Europe, is a “pragmatic decision” according to the Managing Director of Mazda UK.
Jeremy Thomson made the comments during the launch of the Mazda MX-30 R-EV, a new variant of the Japanese brand’s first electric vehicle (EV) with a small rotary petrol engine to replenish the battery when required.
According to Thomson while the benefits of EV ownership are clear, recent sales data suggests that consumer interest in such cars is cooling off – a Which? survey recently concluded that while 46% of consumers would consider buying an electric car, just 8% are considering a BEV as their next car. This is borne out in the latest SMMT sales data that shows that less than 25% of EV sales in 2023 have been to private buyers, only vibrant fleet sales keeping electric growth on track.
There appear to be several reasons for consumers being put off making the electric switch including the cost of living, the Government removing incentives to buy an EV, falling residual values, the cost of electricity and concern about the charging infrastructure and battery range of EVs.
“There is still a clear pathway to the decarbonisation of the auto sector and a move to 100% battery-electric vehicles by 2035 which we fully support,” Thomson said, while adding that the requirement for manufacturers to sell increasing numbers of BEVs each year will be challenging. “This transition to mass adoption needs consumers to embrace the move to electrification in line with Government ambition.”
Charging infrastructure is a particular barrier to such adoption, according to Thomson. “The climate change committee has called out the slow rate of charge-point deployment as a potential serious risk to EV uptake – recent studies have also shown that public charging is not distributed evenly across the UK. Distribution of charge points and the ratio of those to EVs registered in the same area is very mixed – for example in the northwest there are 85 EVs in operation per public charge point, in London the figure is a much healthier 11.”
In the second quarter of 2023 3000 standalone public chargers were installed and at the end of July the UK total of chargers topped 44,000. “But in order to reach the Government target of 300,000 public chargers by 2030, the installation rate has to be trebled to 10,000 per quarter, every quarter to 2030, a huge stretch.”
Thomson added that Mazda is committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050, the manufacturer’s programme focusing on enhancing its technology to make possible development for the age of electrification between 2022 and ’24, then making the transition between 2025 and ’27 ready for a full-scale launch of new battery-electric vehicles from 2028.
Yet as other manufacturers announce they will drop all their internal combustion engines for EVs, Mazda has always refused to follow the industry trend to full electrification and insists there is more development to come from both petrol and diesel – earlier this year it unveiled what was described as the cleanest diesel engine yet for its CX-60 large SUV.
“We remain committed to investing in the i/c engine to make it cleaner and more efficient,” Thomson said. “As this will still be the main power source for the majority of cars for some years we must ensure that it’s as clean as possible, if we are to reduce our targets for reducing CO2.”
Mazda is also one of the most enthusiastic supporters in the industry of carbon-neutral e-fuels. “In Europe the EU has agreed to consider the inclusion of efuels in plans for post-2035, and we are waiting to hear if the UK will follow,” Thomson said. “At the very least it will be a huge contribution to decarbonising the existing 30 million i/c cars on UK roads today.”