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Road tax doom and gloom


Active Member
Supporting Member
Aug 22, 2019
Beyond the pale
Don't kid yourself: electric cars won't save you money
Road pricing would obliterate the incentive to buy an electric car

Ross Clark
31 August 2021 • 12:37pm
Does anyone really believe that owning an electric car will end up saving them money? If you have fallen for the claims that lower running costs will more than make up for the higher purchase price of an electric car then you haven’t spotted something rather large that is barrelling down the middle of the road straight towards you: road pricing.

It would be easy to write off today’s report by the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change -- which calls for road-pricing -- as the work of a powerless and frustrated man trying to re-live his glory days as Prime Minister. Blair, you might just remember, attempted to lumber road-pricing upon us in the dying days of his premiership but was beaten back by public opposition. But he has a point. The switch to electric cars is going to cost the Treasury so much -- £30 billion a year or the equivalent of six pence on income tax by 2040 according to Blair’s institute – that it is simply going to have to try to recoup that cost somehow. If it isn’t in the form of jacking up taxes on electricity – a political impossibility given that the government will be simultaneously trying to persuade us to dump our gas boilers for heat pumps – it is likely to come in the form of charging us for every mile we drive on the roads.

Yes, owners of electric cars currently pay less for their energy than do drivers of petrol and diesel cars, but it is not a fair comparison because it ignores the tax differential. For every pound you spend on petrol or diesel, around 60 pence goes to the Exchequer in tax. Charge your electric vehicle at home, on the other hand, and you pay just five percent VAT. Take into account that pure electric vehicles pay zero Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and, according to the calculations by Blair’s institute, electric vehicle-owners pay just two percent of the motoring taxes paid by drivers of petrol and diesel cars.

Just wait, then, until the government tries to make up its losses. You won’t be so impressed with your electric vehicle then, not when the whole of Britain is peppered with London congestion charge-style levies. It is a precondition of road pricing schemes that all vehicles are monitored constantly. We will have to be followed around, either through an enhanced network of number plate recognition cameras or by GPS devices fixed in our cars. Every journey we make will logged and the data stored. Given how DVLA already co-operates with private parking companies by flogging them our home addresses, don’t be surprised if it assumes the right to start selling our mobility data to all kinds of marketing organisations who can then target us with ads tailored to which places we frequent.

Then there is the question of how we will be charged. If it is via a myriad of charges like those imposed in Central London and on the Dartford crossing we face a nightmare future of forever trying to remember where we have been and trying to pay online before the deadline expires for being charged a hefty fine. It would be less offensive if the system was rationalised and motorists were presented with a monthly bill, as happens, for example, with road tolls in Norway. But we face being ensnared all the same. Blair’s favoured proposal – which has been floated in the past – involves charging us variable rates according to the time of day and the level of congestion. Get delayed by an unexpected traffic jam and we face being stung even if we had tried to avoid the rush hour – it would be as if train passengers on a delayed off-peak train were made to pay an extra levy because the late-running of the service had pushed it into peak hours.

Over the next few years we are going to be enticed to buy electric cars on the promise that they will save us money in the long run. They won’t. We will just end up having to cough up in some other way.

© Telegraph Media Group Limited 2021
Hmmm... so much for the tax on fuel being related to the CO2 emissions. Early in the days when global warming was becoming recognized as an issue one commentator wrote that global warming would become the next world war... an excuse for governments to raise taxes. Now that they have done that they will as you say need to find a new source of funding.


Active Member
Mar 16, 2018
Few people present balanced maths on the topic, I've heard everything from the energy used in the refining of a gallon of petrol could have powered the EV the same distance as that gallon of petrol through to the other extreme that its all from coal fired power stations. So I'm not surprised that one persons take is off centre, its either overtly against or for compared to your own slant

It is slightly concerning that if you charge your car at a public charger, the cost per mile is not far from the cost of petrol or certainly an efficient diesel, yet the tax take on the electricty is 20% and on the diesel something like 70%. Charge at home and the tax take is tiny per mile. Government will somehow need to fill that gap, and if public charging had the same tax levels as traditional fuel, we'd be paying £1 per kwh before we knew it at public chargers. It needs to be squared off somewhere, the question is how and where?

One argument is the cigarette argument. The health benefits of reducing smokers is a reduction in NHS cost and that partly aleviates the reduction in taxation, ie the costs associated with dealing with smokers reduce if smoking reduces, but that doesn't work with cars, it might if the drive was to reduce driving overall. Quite a few EV drivers actually end up thinking they're now doing no hard and do twice as many miles which probably gets close to similar gross emmisions. (Risk here of broad brush stereotypes, but I think its fair to say the greenest mile is the one you don't do in any vehicle).

Finally, journalism stopped being about insight years ago, its now largely about pandering to a view the people who follow you largely already hold so they buy your paper, visit your website, give you clicks. Reading the contrary stories, dismissing the specifics but thinking about the broader implication of what they're saying is no bad thing to do. Whether you agre with the "only saving money" or "the power grid will collapse" or the "ev's catch fire" stories or not, there is a little bit of something in all of them that is in part true.
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Active Member
Feb 24, 2020
When I was kid back in the 60’s, I lived in North London. At pretty much any time of day, I could go to a bus stop, wait no more than 5 minutes and hop on a bus to just about anywhere in a 5 mile radius. Same for the return journey. Trains had a longer wait but never more than 30 minutes.
few people had cars and fewer needed cars. To be a ‘green’ world we need good, reliable and frequent eco-friendly public transport.
Sadly the world we live in now has no guarantee of safety from mindless thugs while using public transport. We all prefer the safety of our own transport.
since I got my first car in 1969, I haven’t been on a bus since with the only exceptions being four holidays in the channel isles in the mid seventies.
I‘ve lived in Norfolk for over 30 years And in in my present home for 24years. Bus services have diminished to all but the busiest routes. There is a bus stop 200 yards from my door. It hasn’t seen a bus in 20 years!
I fear that whatever any Government does, few will get it right and we shall generally be on a road to nowhere!


Oct 16, 2020
Standard Torygraph drivel. The main problem is that so many people think in this way. EVs and electrification are at worst a symptom of the overall problem and at best part of the solution. Instead of trying to wrestle with this Ross Clarke opens with a loaded question in order to drive his myopic vision of the future. No attempt has been made to come with solutions. No, it's far easier to sling shite and whine in a thinly veiled attempt to keep things as they are.

The future will be different from today. Shock, horror. The future generations will look back atg us and shake their heads that we managed to burn through in little more than a century the vast majority of a resource that took millions of years to create. And in doing so we also managed to drastically change our own atmosphere. Talk about urinating and defecating in our own front rooms!

Solutions are needed NOW. Ideally we would be at this point 40 years ago instead of burying our heads in the sand. What people like Ross Clarke can't seem to wrap their tiny intellects around is that we have to change. There is no alternative. And that change is going to cost. That's the bill for squandering fossil fuels.
Once you have grfown fat and lazy gorging on the low-hanging fruits then it is much harder to climb to get anymore.


Active Member
Jul 5, 2020
Surely being recommended by Tony Blair 'Institute' makes it less likely that a Conservative (or Labour TBH) Government would follow this route.

I read the report, it's built on a fairly flimsy assumption that fuel tax reduces congestion today, I think that's patently false, it's always going to be cheaper to drive than take public transport. It does make a realistic point that to bring in a new form of taxation needs to be done swiftly, personally I don't see how there is possibly enough time to bring in a pay-per-mile scheme, how long has Smart Meter rollout taken already? If a large number of people have already switched it just looks like a new tax being created, and that's not very Conservative. Would it apply only to EVs, making owning a petrol car more attractive? None of this seems credible.

Why does the £30Bn have to be re-attributed to road users, or income tax payers? The global corporate income tax agreed at the G20 in the Summer will bring in £15Bn extra to the UK, and what's left is 1.8% of the total tax revenue, chicken feed. It's also a rather conservative fantasy that tax income needs to match spending, that's not how countries work, we have £2.1 Trillion in debt, these matters are triffling. We could tax aviation fuel like the EU is going to do, that would help.

I can see there will be more congestion zones, but really to me the only thing that will get people out of their cars will be if it's far, far cheaper or free to take public transport.


Oct 16, 2020
I can see there will be more congestion zones, but really to me the only thing that will get people out of their cars will be if it's far, far cheaper or free to take public transport.
And there's the rub.
The private companies that run our "public" transport are only interested in shareholder value. I live 12 miles from Lancaster in a semi-rural area. To get into Lancaster I can take a bus, then a train to Preston then a train to Lancaster. Total cost about £18, total time spent travelling 1 hour 15minutes (at best). Or I can jump in the car, be there in 14 minutes for a total cost of bugger all.
Good luck to anything trying to predict 19 years ahead. The recent governments have hardly encouraged rapid transition to cleaner transport thinking back to the hundreds I paid in VED in 2018 and 2019 after 20% new vehicle tax. Why not just continue with increasing tax on fossil fuels once alternates become more widely available? Perhaps try to stop wasting billions on inefficient/legacy/non-functional government IT.
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Where's the news in this story?
We all know that more EVs mean more congestion because cost per mile is far less than petrol/diesel.
Electricity can't be taxed (but it and gas should be at 20p VAT) so road charging is a very sensible way to ease congestion. Its not the end of the world, rather the start of a very exciting new world.

Why not adopt a simple approach though? Pay per mileage difference at MOT, how hard can that be to implement?
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