Yesterday’s decision to slash the Plug-in Car Grant and Van and Truck Grant is the wrong move at the wrong time – in a year the industry has been badly hit by the pandemic and when the UK hosts COP26. It sends a confusing message to the consumer, especially private customers, and to an industry challenged to meet the Government’s ambition to be a world leader in the transition to zero emission mobility.
New battery electric technology is more expensive than conventional engines and incentives are essential in making these vehicles affordable to drivers. Cutting the grant and eligibility moves the UK even further behind other markets, markets which are increasing their support, not reducing it, making it yet more difficult for the UK to get sufficient supply of the latest zero emission cars and vans.
The sector also faces the significant challenge of shifting heavier, commercial vehicles to new zero emission powertrains. The changes to the truck incentives do not help but there was better news this week with the publication of the government’s long-awaited National Bus Strategy. The bus and coach sector has been hit extremely hard by the pandemic, as a result of falling passenger numbers, with fleet operators and local authorities under severe financial pressure and a consequent drop in demand for new vehicles. The strategy must also address the needs of the bus and the coach industry which itself faces a crisis deepened by more than a year of lockdown restrictions.
Despite the strategy providing a measure of clarity, if we are to bring back stability and assure bus manufacturing competitiveness – fundamental to the sector’s future survival – we need funding allocated to new bus purchases now, not in a year’s time. It is important too that any allocation of funding is impartial, giving rural communities an equal chance to upgrade their bus fleets to the latest, greenest technology.
Significant investment, as well as improvements in planning policy, is also needed to deliver the necessary infrastructure to accommodate the green revolution in passenger transport even though the future fuel for these vehicles is not yet set. By far the majority of the UK’s buses and coaches are still diesel powered and while battery technology is already being seen on our roads, and hydrogen too, these remain expensive compared to conventional fossil fuels. More needs to be done by Government and others to make these technologies more commercially viable for fleets and SMMT is looking forward to working with government and all stakeholders to ensure “Bus Back Better” can deliver for the sector.
The issue of how to decarbonise commercial, bus, coach and heavy-duty vehicle fleets will be a key part of the discussion at SMMT’s Electrified conference taking place next Thursday from 10:15-15:00.
We are delighted to be joined by Andreas Krüger, Head of E-Mobility, Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Rt Hon. Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, Anneliese Dodds MP, Shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer, Peter Rawlinson, Chief Executive Officer and Chief Technology Officer, Lucid Motors andJonathan Goodman, UK Chief Executive and Head of Global Communications for Polestar all of whom will be giving keynote speeches throughout the conference.
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