This week marks 12 months since the announcement of the government’s Road to Zero strategy, where the prime minister outlined an aggressive ambition for the transition from the internal combustion engine to zero emission vehicles. She has, in effect, doubled down on that ambition now with a legislative commitment to ‘net zero’ enshrined in law.
The automotive industry has, of course, already demonstrated its commitment to the goal of transformation, with billions invested in new technologies that will substantially reduce emissions on our roads. Ambition is one thing, achievement is another – we can get to zero, but we need to deploy all the technology available at our disposal to do it, and we need a framework which encourages purchase, investment and a sustainable transition.
So we were surprised this week by the government’s decision to leave VED rates unchanged when taxation switches over to WLTP-based figures next year. Although the new, tougher test means CO2 numbers may look higher, new models are, in fact, around 8% lower emitting on average than their predecessors, meaning that consumers will be hit by higher tax for buying cleaner vehicles. Such a move makes no environmental sense and will do nothing to speed up fleet renewal, the fastest way to get new technologies on the road to address air quality and climate change concerns.
Drivers still need to be able to buy the vehicle and powertrain combinations that fit their lifestyles and business needs – whether they be efficient petrol or diesel, hybrids, plug-in hybrids, battery electric or even hydrogen powered. If we’re to encourage more people to invest in newer and emerging technologies, we need a firm and long-term commitment from government to provide the infrastructure, education and incentives that will give them the confidence to do so.
Of course, the shift to zero emission mobility isn’t the only technological challenge facing the industry as the sector seeks to reap the benefits of connected and autonomous technology. To help this transition, we recently opened up submissions to the 2019 SMMT Future Mobility Challenge and have seen a strong response from all over the world, already surpassing last year’s number of entries. Given the popular demand, we have extended the deadline for entries by a week to 12.00pm on Friday 19 July.
We’re excited to see what comes out of this year’s event. There are very few opportunities for start-ups and scale-ups with great ideas to get in front of the right people. The Future Mobility Challenge will bear some exciting fruit over the coming years, as our partners help turn the ideas of today into the fascinating new technologies and services that will enhance our lives tomorrow, redefining the automotive sector in the process.