Government Support Needed For Zero Emission Switch

In March 2021, the government confirmed that the phase-out date for the sale
of new petrol and diesel vans will be 2030, with the sales of new hybrid vehicles ending
from 2035. This forms part of the government’s “10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution” – its path to taking the UK to a net zero emission economy. In this month’s column, I provide an overview of the industry’s response and outline some of the actions needed to enable the transition to cleaner vehicles. 

Logistics UK and the wider industry is committed to ensuring the success of the government’s plan and will play its role in improving the environment and air quality. But to achieve the 2030 and 2035 deadlines – and before any mass transition to electric vehicles can happen – the government must ensure the correct power supply capacity and infrastructure is in place at both depots and homes, and there must be a fair and equitable way of funding electricity supply upgrades at commercial vehicles premises. 

Logistics UK was disappointed to see the recent changes announced to the government’s plug-in car, van and truck grants, which have been reduced for most available models. Logistics UK’s members are committed to making the switch to alternatively fuelled vehicles, but with the market still to reach maturity, options are limited for operators and reducing the financial support will hinder this transition.

To enable operators to make a change within the lifecycle of their normal vehicles, it is imperative that the government lays out a clear policy road map to facilitate the switch. This willallow operators to invest confidently, while encouraging manufacturers to develop and launch a wider range of suitable vehicles.

Much Uncertainty

Within the government’s 10 Point Plan is an intention to launch a consultation on the phase-out of new diesel HGVs, which is expected in spring 2021. However, there is still much uncertainty among the government and industry over which fuels will be the most appropriate to deliver net-zero HGVs, with differing views around hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric and electric road systems. 

We welcomed the announcement of a £20 million fund for freight trials to pioneer hydrogen and other zero emission lorries to help industry to develop cost-effective, zero emission HGVs in the UK.

The refuelling network will also need to be overhauled to provide choice across the country so that vehicles can move with confidence of finding a suitable location at which to fill up while travelling, as required.

Our ongoing and future emphasis is focused on urging the government to align the phase-out date for diesel HGVs with the EU’s target date, while also factoring in timelines for ensuring appropriate infrastructure is in place to support the use of alternative fuels. Although the EU date is yet to be formally agreed, aligning the dates would be a practical solution as most UK businesses purchase finished HGVs from European manufacturers. This would especially be relevant for operators here who operate both in Ireland and NI.

On Monday 22 March, a private member’s bill was introduced in the NI Assembly and if proposed, it would commit NI to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2045. However, in the same week, the Environment Minister also proposed his own climate bill and if passed it would give a longer timeframe and less stringent target. 

The reason for this unusual occurrence of having two competing bills is that the Environment Minister’s proposal takes account of NI’s reliance on agri-food production and would equate to an 82% cut in emissions by 2050.

Logistics businesses support the government’s aim to transition to a low-carbon economy, but the switch must first be feasible and affordable for businesses.  While much progress has been made in the decarbonisation of road transport, there is still much to be done on the path to the UK’s zero emission future.