• Matt Franey


Whilst the media blames EVs for the UK government's 'lost taxes', our co-founder Matt Franey unravels what's really going on here.

Some inconvenient truths about the real cost of travel and what it takes to transport us all around:

  • Getting around has a cost. To you. To others. To your wallet. To the environment.

  • At some point (unless you’re walking barefoot) you’re going to have to pay. So get used to it.

When you read headlines about how the switch to EV is causing governments to consider switching from fuel duty to road tolls, the most honest response should probably be: ‘No shit, Sherlock…’

Whether you’re travelling from, say, London to Manchester by plane, train or automobile, there is a price to pay. It’s just a fact – and some of that is to the Treasury.

I'll be getting the train, right?

A train might well be the most environmentally friendly option right now but it’s often frighteningly expensive too. And bear in mind that for every £2 you spend on a ticket, the government chips in a third, meaning that without the approximately one-third subsidy it gives the rail industry your ticket cost would higher still. That subsidy – it comes out of your taxes.

A plane to Manchester, instead?

Surprisingly cheap at certain times considering what’s involved. But the cost? Well, we know the environmental toll of short-haul air travel and there are plenty of other costs too (just getting to the airport, parking, air passenger duties, rip-off food gateside, that shitty queue at security. The list goes on). It’s like a painful life tax.

So I'll drive up then?

Well, surprise, surprise, that costs too. Right now you’re probably wincing at the price of fuel, working out whether Rishi Sunak’s 5p duty cut makes any real difference, and remembering to sort your road tax too. It adds up.

Pre-Covid the government raised about £37 billion pounds a year taxing the way we use our cars and a cool £21 billion of that came straight from direct fuel duty that you or I pay whenever we fill up. That’s a pretty significant dent in the annual £800 billion tax revenues that the government raises in total.

So imagine we all switched to EVs tomorrow. No more fuel duty and Rishi has a duty to replace that lost duty, right? And what’s the most sensible, and fairest, way to do it? The answer, almost definitely lies in road tolls. Literally paying to drive your car. A price per mile. Or a toll on the busiest roads.

There are arguments that fuel duty is actually a fair tax as it, too, is proportional to the amount of miles you drive. Trouble is, those arguments are ignoring the big EV in the corner… By 2030 (and probably before, in reality) the country will have made a huge switch to electric. Revenues will be falling and future Chancellors of the Exchequer will come looking for replacements. Death and taxes, right?

So our response to ‘Road Toll Shock’ headlines? Get used to it.

Fast. Right now, running an EV will bring with it certain incentives (no road tax, cheapish electricity, no congestion charges) but just as the trains are getting a subsidy, so are you if you’re an EV early adopter. The reality is, once the revolution has become the norm, then perks of being the early bird will begin to fall away.

So does that mean tolls are worse or better than fuel duty? Honestly, taxes are taxes. No one wants to pay them but we do, whether we use petrol, diesel or electricity to push our car along.

What ‘no shit’ headlines do, however, is somehow make it sound like EVs are the evil partner, conniving with politicians to hit us where it hurts. That’s nonsense and we need to debunk it. As we said, travel and transport have a cost. But EV travel – whether on a toll road or not – at least brings with it the promise of cleaner cities, lower CO2 emissions and, we hope, a better place to for us all to want to travel around.

So I’ll pay my motoring taxes. And if they’re tolls then so be it. It’s an inconvenient truth. But at least it’s the truth…