Your editorial of March 29 (“Electric vehicles’ success is a headache for Sunak”, FT View) recognises the loss of revenue to the UK exchequer from the transition to electric vehicles, suggesting a broad-based carbon tax as the most efficient replacement.
While there is economic logic to this idea, a charge for the use of electric vehicles may be a more practical possibility. The rationale would be that EVs need to pay their share of the costs of the road system and contribute to government revenue, as conventional vehicles currently do.
A charge for use of EVs could not be introduced until the purchase costs of the vehicles falls to match internal combustion counterparts — to avoid discouraging EV uptake. This allows time to put in place a road user charging mechanism.
For this we should take advantage of almost 20 years’ successful experience of congestion charging in London, migrating the technology to a smartphone app, since a smartphone knows where it is in time and space and so knows when a charge must be paid.
A daily cap at the level of the standard daily charge, currently £15, would incentivise adoption of this charging system in London, which could be extended to other cities for traffic management, and ultimately nationally to EVs.
Honorary Professor, Centre for Transport Studies, University College London
London WC1, UK