Shift to electric cars will cause 11% rise in traffic, report claims

Shifting to electric cars will add TEN MILLION more vehicles to Britain’s roads by 2050 and spark an 11% rise in traffic, report claims

  • New think tank report says slams the UK government’s focus on electric vehicles 
  • Although greener than petrol and diesel cars, EVs will lead to heavy congestion 
  • It also claims the government should do more to encourage walking and cycling

A wide-scale rollout of electric cars will add 10 million more vehicles to Britain’s roads by 2050 – taking the total to 40 million, a new report warns.

The shift to the environmentally-friendly vehicles, spearheaded by the UK government, will also lead to an 11 per cent rise in traffic between 2021 and 2050 – causing nightmarish levels of congestion, the authors claim.

It will also lead to a 28 per cent increase in car ownership, rising from 34 million cars owned today to 43.6 million in 2050, according to the report, published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).         

Boris Johnson’s government is currently pushing for the large scale adoption of fully electric vehicles in less than 10 years’ time. 

It is banning sales of petrol and diesel cars from 2030, to help eliminate greenhouse gas emissions and achieve its net zero emissions target by 2050. 

But the report authors say there’s ‘no such thing as a zero-emissions vehicle’ because an electric vehicle fleet large enough to cater to UK drivers will require new roads and charging ports to be constructed.

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Although more environmentally-friendly than petrol and diesel cars, electric vehicles (pictured) will lead to heavy congestion in towns and cities, the Institute for Public Policy Research claims


According to Climate Change Committee, there are around 400,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on UK roads today (including battery electric and plug-in hybrid models). 

To achieve net zero, this will have to rise to 23.2 million by 2032. At this point, EVs would make up up 55 per cent of all vehicles of the roads.

By the year 2050, this will possibly have to reach up to 49 million (EVs making up 100 per cent of all vehicles of the roads). 

IPPR’s report argues that the government needs to adopt a more balanced approach to future transport that also focuses on new walking and cycling routes, while encouraging use of public buses and trains. 

The Government should start an incentive scheme encouraging people to buy cycles, electric scooters or e-bikes instead of owning a private car, it says, which would take up precious public space and lead to potentially even worse congestion than drivers face today. 

Walking and cycling investment by the UK government needs to reach at least £6 billion over the Prime Minister’s term – £4 billion more than is currently committed, IPPR says. 

The report reads: ‘There are concerns about the wider implications of an electric vehicle fleet as vast as the one currently anticipated and planned for.

‘Electric vehicles are an essential part of the global response to decarbonisation of transport, but we must remember that there is no such thing as a zero emissions vehicle.

‘Policymakers’ current preferred strategy for decarbonising transport places an overwhelming focus on the shift to electric vehicles.

‘While superficially attractive because of its offer of continuity, such an approach will not deliver the improvements in quality of life of an alternative strategy which prioritises the needs and wellbeing of all people.’   

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport (DfT) told MailOnline the report was ‘bizarre’ and ‘disingenuous’ because it overlooks other government initiatives, however. 

Meanwhile, Edmund King, AA president, said: ‘One must question whether some of the aspirations in this report are affordable, achievable or desirable.’ 

King called the electric vehicle ‘revolution’ the most significant development over the last half century to help reduce transport carbon dioxide emissions. 

‘Government, manufacturers and drivers should welcome this push towards electrification,’ he said.  

Graph shows the expected growth in car ownership up to the year 2050. The IPPR report claims more should be done by the government to encourage walking and cycling 

The report reads: ‘Rollout of public charging infrastructure must not lead to incentives for the wealthiest in society to continue to own a car’ 

In the UK, installation of electric charging infrastructure like charging ports, or even some more ambitious projects like charge-as-you-drive, will be key to the transition to cleaner vehicles.

As an example, at least 260,000 public chargers will be required by 2040 to support the government’s rollout, the report points out.


MPs have been warned that there’s a ‘mountain to climb’ if they are to hit the 2035 target for banning sales of all new petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

Sales hybrid cars – which combine a petrol or diesel engine with an electric motor – are set to banned from 2035.  

Public Accounts Committee (PAC) says the number of on-street electric car charging points needs ramping up, particularly in rural areas.

Around 26 are being installed every day, but industry estimates say the figure needs to be 507 to hit the 2035 target.

In a report published in May, the PAC also warns ministers must do more to help motorists overcome the up-front cost of buying new electric cars, which can be £5,000 more expensive than equivalent fuel models. 

Read more: Plan to axe diesel and petrol car sales by 2035 faces ‘huge barriers’ 

But this would have to be ‘carefully considered’ as a rush to do so would ‘subsidise the wealthiest’, allocate more street space to supporting private car ownership and ‘lock in a technology-focused transition that does little to deliver wider benefits for people or nature’.  

According to previous research cited by the report, the average car in the UK is parked for 96 per cent of the time – meaning precious urban space will be taken up by the bulky vehicles. 

The report reads: ‘Rollout of public charging infrastructure must not lead to incentives for the wealthiest in society to continue to own a car.’ 

‘Providing space for so many vehicles contributes to making the habitats for wildlife in our cities and towns scarce.’  

Elsewhere in the report, IPPR also points out that electric vehicles just aren’t viable for low income families because of their cost – usually somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 at the more modest end of the price range. 

Many lower income families rely on the second-hand vehicle market, where there aren’t really many electric vehicles available. 

‘Low-income households are priced out of savings because of the upfront costs of an electric vehicle,’ the report reads.  

The government’s petrol/diesel ban means the UK needs new and efficient charging methods fast to complement more EV charging ports around the country. 

The UK’s electric vehicle charging point network will have to expand by up to 20 times current levels to cope with increased demand, it’s recently been estimated.

The UK’s first Electric Forecourt near Braintree, Essex (pictured) is open for business. The government is pumping money into a transition to electric vehicles 

The Government said last year that it will pump £1.3 billion into scaling-up the rollout of charge points for electric vehicles in homes, streets and motorways across the UK. 

According to Department for Transport figures, there were 19,487 public charging devices available as of September 30 last year, up 7 per cent from three months earlier.

More than 1,200 charging devices for public use were installed in the UK between July and September, recent Department for Transport (DfT) analysis shows.  

Britain’s first forecourt exclusively for electric vehicles opened in in Braintree, Essex back in December.  

The forecourt is the first of a £1 billion nationwide network of 100 electric forecourts planned over the next five years. 


A target set by the government in June 2019 will require the UK to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050. 

Former Prime Minister Theresa May had announced the target, saying the plans were ambitious but crucial for protecting the planet for future generations.

The move will require huge changes such as more renewable electricity generation, phasing out new petrol and diesel cars by at least 2035 and a 20 per cent cut in beef and lamb consumption. 

‘The UK kick-started the Industrial Revolution, which was responsible for economic growth across the globe but also for increasing emissions,’ said said Energy and Clean Growth Minister Chris Skidmore at the time.

‘We’re leading the world yet again in becoming the first major economy to pass new laws to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050 while remaining committed to growing the economy – putting clean growth at the heart of our modern Industrial Strategy.’    

Net zero means any emissions would be balanced by schemes to offset an equivalent amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere, such as planting trees or using technology like carbon capture and storage.


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