The MOT vehicle safety inspection is in line for a significant set of updates in light of the increase in hybrid and electric vehicles on UK roads.
Among the Department for Transport’s proposals that have been put out to public consultation are plans to inspect the batteries of electric vehicles for damage (and the resulting potentially elevated fire risk) and to test the emissions output of hybrid-electric vehicles.
Despite around 70,000 tests carried out on electric vehicles and more than 550,000 tests on hybrids in 2021 and 2022, neither battery inspections nor a specific emissions test for hybrids currently form part of the MOT.
There are “issues around these technologies that need further attention,” the DfT said.
“For example, a damaged battery could have safety implications if it fails in use. With ongoing technology advancements, data may increasingly be available to assess the health of the battery in an electric vehicle.”
According to the DfT, the current failure to test the tailpipe emissions of hybrid vehicles also represented a “significant issue” affecting “the ability to identify whether these newer vehicles are polluting or contributing to existing or new air-quality issues.”
Another major aspect of the government’s plan to overhaul the MOT is the proposal to delay the first test for a new car to four years after its first registration as opposed to the current three.
Roadworthiness testing after four years is already standard practice in many European countries including Belgium, Denmark, France, Italy, Portugal and Spain.
The DfT said “major developments in vehicle technology” had improved road safety since MOTs were introduced in 1960, but stopped short of pushing ahead with the plan to reduce the frequency of the the tests from annually to every two years, as proposed in 2022 by the then-Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps. The idea was to reduce costs for motorists but it was roundly rejected by motoring groups such as the AA on road safety grounds.
The government’s latest plans, however, appear to have been given a warmer welcome by the automotive sector, with the industry’s professional body, the Institute of the Motor Industry (IMI) describing the current MOT regime as “well overdue for review”.
Hayley Pells, policy manager at the IMI, said: “Although never a substitute for the recommended maintenance and repairs that motorists are responsible for to maintain roadworthiness, the current MOT test could be improved and new methods explored that better fit the current car parc [a term used to cover all vehicles within a defined geographic area] and the automotive technology of the future.
“For example, autonomous emergency braking is now more widely adopted and it is critical that motorists have the confidence that these systems are working correctly.
“The question of MOT testing frequency is also part of the consultation; an important issue that has dominated conversation about testing for some time. What is important to ensure is that a focus on cost-saving does not put road users at heightened risk.”
The RAC greeted the plans with a little more caution, however. Its head of roads policy, Nicholas Lyes, said: “While we’re not opposed to delaying a new vehicle’s first MOT, we believe there should be a requirement for particularly high mileage vehicles to be tested sooner.
“If the government is looking to improve the MOT, now is the ideal time to take into account how much a vehicle is driven alongside the number of years it’s been on the road.”
The AA, on the other hand, remained totally opposed to some of the proposals, particularly the one to increase the duration between a car’s registration and its first MOT.
“With one in 10 cars failing their first MOT, we strongly discourage the government from extending a car’s first MOT to the fourth anniversary due to road safety concerns,” said AA president, Edmund King.
The public consultation runs until March 1.
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