A group of leading businesses is calling on the UK government to beef up efforts to accelerate the adoption of zero emission vehicles by targeting 100 per cent electric vehicle (EV) sales for cars and vans by 2030 and supporting the new target with a raft of supply- and demand-side measures.
The Electric Fleets Coalition, a UK-based group run by international non-profit the Climate Group in partnership with BT Openreach, issues the call in a new policy paper published today which explores how the transition to EVs can be accelerated. The group's 21 members together operate more than 400,000 cars and vans, and includes the UK arms of corporate giants such as IKEA, Centrica, ENGIE, Natwest, Unilever, and DPD.
Transport is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the UK, and transforming the UK's vehicle fleet from internal combustion engine to electric is a central pillar in the UK's net zero strategy. The government is currently consulting on whether to bring forward its commitment to end sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if feasible. Chancellor Rishi Sunak also last week announced a further £10m of funding for the first wave of innovative R&D projects to scale up manufacturing of the latest technology in batteries, motors, electronics and fuel cells, while Ministers are said to be considering a number of wider measures to support the transition to EVs, including plans for a new 'gigafactory' to mass produce batteries in the UK.
However, recent reports have suggested that proposals to introduce a new scrappage scheme that would increase grants for people who replace conventional cars with EVs have been shelved, despite new sales figures showing that demand for new vehicles has collapsed in the past few months.
As such, advocates of EVs remain concerned that the UK is not shifting quickly enough towards zero emissions models if it is to deliver on the government's long term net zero targets. Moreover, businesses that have committed to switching to 100 per cent EV fleets are increasingly frustrated at long waiting times for new models and delays to deploying charging infrastructure.
The Electric Fleets Coalition paper calls on the government to provide a stronger market signal that the transition to EVs needs to acccelerate by bringing forward the end date for the sale of new petrol and diesel models to 2030, with a small number of exceptions for vehicle classes where EVs are not yet feasible.
It also urges the government to support this more ambitious target with a package of demand, supply, and infrastructure measures.
Supply could be stimulated by mandating vehicle manufacturers to produce an annually increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles, it suggests. Simultaneously, the government could drive demand by extending grants for electric vehicles and charging points through to at least 2022, while accompanying these measures with an increase in infrastructure investment to accelerate the rollout of public charge-points across the UK.
"With the country's second largest fleet of vans, I want Openreach to play a leading role in the UK's transition to low carbon vehicles," said Clive Selley, CEO at Openreach.
"But there are still some major hurdles to overcome. For example, the kinds of vehicles, scale of manufacturing, supply-chains and infrastructure needed to electrify large fleets like ours simply doesn't exist today. So, we need Government support to make the transition faster and fuller."
Globally, the 77 members of The Climate Group's EV100 initiative have committed to switch more than 4.5 million vehicles to zero emissions and to install charging points at over 3,000 company locations by 2030.
"Scaling up EV manufacturing and the nationwide charge point network are both huge opportunities for jobs and growth in the UK," says Helen Clarkson, CEO at the Climate Group. "Businesses are making the switch themselves through our EV100 initiative and now they are coming together with a clear message to government: match our ambition and help us move to clean electric transport."
The news comes on the same day as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LOwCVP) is to host its annual conference, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps scheduled to provide an update on the government's zero emission vehicle plans.
"This is a pivotal year for road transport," said Andy Eastlake, LowCVP Managing Director. "With the government now consulting on a phase-out of petrol and diesel cars and vans within 15 years and a new Transport Decarbonisation Plan in the offing, change is coming down the road - and fast. LowCVP and our members are gearing up to help accelerate the transition to net zero."
In other industry news, a new study published in the journal Nature Communications has this week warned that tyres are a major source of ocean microplastic pollution.
The study, the first of its type to try and quantify the contribution microscopic fibres from tyres make to microplastic pollution in the world's oceans and waterways, estimates more than 200,000 tonnes of tiny plastic particles are blown from roads into the oceans each year. Moreover, an estimated 550,000 tonnes of particles smaller than 0.01mm are released by tyres each year and more than 80,000 tonnes are thought to fall on ice- and snow-covered areas and may increase melting.
"Roads are a very significant source of microplastics to remote areas, including the oceans," said Andreas Stohl, from the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, who led the research. He also warned that EVs could exacerbate the problem, as they are typically heavier than conventional cars, leading to more wear on tyres.
Minister's comments came as the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership announced name change to reflect shift in focus to zero carbon road transport
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