Chancellor Philip Hammond put the ‘technical revolution’ surrounding transport at the heart of his Budget today but added that while 'our future vehicles will be driverless, but they’ll be electric first'.
Mr Hammond said the electric car revolution was a change that needs to come ‘as soon as possible for the sake of our planet’.
‘We’ll establish a new £400m charging infrastructure fund, invest an extra £100m in Plug-In-Car Grant, and £40m in charging R&D,’ he said, tackling the twin Achilles heels of electric cars – cost and driving range anxiety.
He also pledged that the Government would ‘clarify the law so that people who charge their electric vehicles at work will not face a benefit-in-kind charge from next year’.
Transport experts at TRL have estimated that 300,000 electric vehicles are expected to be on the roads by 2020.
Mr Hammond told the House of Commons that the world is on the brink of enormous change and ‘for the first time in decades Britain is genuinely at the forefront of this technology revolution’ but stressed ‘we must invest to secure that bright future’.
‘No technology symbolises the revolution gathering around us more than driverless cars,’ he added.
The Government has already promised to implement ‘world-leading regulatory changes’ so developers can apply to test their driverless vehicles on the road nationwide without a human operator.
‘A new scheme will also be launched enabling organisations to explore ways of testing self-driving technology through digital simulation. This off-road testing project will be the most significant of its kind in Europe and will involve cutting-edge computer science,’ Treasury officials said.
The chancellor once again froze fuel duty for both petrol and diesel however elsewhere diesel car owners were hit with expected tax rises.
‘From April 2018 the first year VED rate for diesel cars that don’t meet the latest standards will go up by one band. And the existing diesel supplement in Company Car Tax will increase by 1%,' Mr Hammond said.
‘Drivers buying a new car will be able to avoid this charge as soon as manufacturers bring forward the next-generation cleaner diesels that we all want to see. And we only apply the measures to cars.’
Having been stung with reversals and criticism in previous announcements, Mr Hammond was quick to stress ‘no white van man or woman will be hit by these measures’.
On the back of this the chancellor pledged to pay for a new £220m Clean Air Fund to provide support to local authorities as they draw up local air quality plans.
Neil Parish MP, chair of the EFRA Committee, said: ‘Diesel cars contribute significantly to the dangerous levels of pollution experienced throughout the UK, but many people bought them in good faith.
'The Government’s announcement that it will make further attempts to tackle the use of diesel vehicles is welcome, and it must be matched by a legislative drive to encourage greener transportation including through support for low emission vehicles. It should also, where possible, not disadvantage those currently using diesels who are not in the position to change their vehicle in the short term.’