CEO Update

A realistic shift to zero emission transport will take time

18 April 2019 #CEO Update

Protestors have delivered gridlock to central London this week, with one of their suggestions being that the government should reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2025 – including the removal of all petrol and diesel vehicles from the road by this date. We all agree that climate change is one of the biggest long-term challenges facing the planet, and the whole industry is working hard and investing hugely in developing technology that will continue to reduce the environmental impact of road transport. But this change won’t come overnight – not if we expect our society and economy to operate as we know it.

SMMT Motorparc figures released this week illustrate the makeup of vehicles in Britain. There are now more than 620,000 AFVs being driven in the UK, a number growing all the time. But with nearly 35 million cars on the road, this number needs to be kept in context – the shift to zero emission transport will take time. Manufacturers ensure their model ranges offer the latest and most efficient powertrains available so that consumers and businesses can select vehicles that best suit their driving needs. Every new generation of vehicle is more efficient than the last, with reduced CO2 emissions and better fuel economy, and these are now filtering through from the new car market into the broader motorparc.

The overwhelming majority of vehicles on our roads are still powered by petrol or diesel engines. The latest diesels are still the right choice for many buyers in the right circumstances, and these modern powertrains will be essential in the delivery of the ambitious environmental goals facing both the industry and government. Indeed, looking at commercial vehicles alone, diesel is the most cost-effective option for transporting goods over long distances – no surprise, therefore, that 99% of the UK’s HGV fleet is diesel powered. Alternative technologies are not yet competitive or even agreed.

Our latest new car registration figures do show a strong take-up of AFVs but plug-in hybrid registrations have really suffered since the removal of the plug-in car grant. More than ever, we need a strong package of incentives to promote technology that is, let’s not forget, still in its infancy. That includes infrastructure improvements to the charging network and more consumer education about EV technology; we have to drive consumer demand to see these technologies move quickly from early adopters to mainstream success.

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