TNB News

CV sector flies the flag for British innovation

27 April 2023 #TNB News

This week’s newsletter is an opportunity to reflect on the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham last week, a fantastic occasion for British industry as more than 220 exhibitors gave operators the chance to get up and close with the latest cutting-edge innovation. Feedback from attendees has continued to be positive, and I would say the event felt busier than ever.

There was a real buzz around the NEC on the opening Tuesday morning, kickstarted with BBC Breakfast broadcasting on site and a broad range of new vehicle debuts. The big reveals included two zero emission truck launches and a good number of LCVs on show in Britain for the first time.

Of course, the CV Show isn’t just about vehicles, but also the ‘eco system’ of the sector, so it was excellent to see a number of specialist component suppliers take the opportunity to launch their new products and present their innovations. As evidenced across the three days, the UK has strong and vibrant CV aftermarket that is key for operators to find their perfect vehicle and ensure it performs to the best of its abilities.

The various sessions and panels at the event’s live theatres were keenly attended, with SMMT having two sessions on the first day, including Chief Executive Mike Hawes discussing the progress and pitfalls of Britain’s path to a decarbonised CV industry. Environment Manager Sukky Choongh, meanwhile, launched SMMT’s position paper on HGV charging and refueling infrastructure, covering critical issues that were heard far beyond the audiences in attendance thanks to the dozens of media attending the show.

This year, we introduced the Truck Zone with a number of low- and zero emission trucks. The Department for Transport also sent a number of representatives for a fact-finding mission on behalf of the Minister of Transport, which left with plenty of information on the vehicles and the sector’s decarbonisation challenges, in particular their electric charging and hydrogen refuelling solutions.

Demand for these solutions will only increase as more zero emission commercial vehicles join Britain’s roads, and a long-term plan is needed to address that infrastructure challenge.

As SMMT’s latest Motorparc figures show, ownership of electric CVs grew in 2022, with vans up some 67.3% and buses and coaches increasing by 34.9%. The number of zero emission trucks, meanwhile, almost trebled last year – but they still account for fewer than one in 600 in use.

The need for investment is high, particularly for the HGV and coach sectors, which do not have a single dedicated public chargepoint or refuelling station. Car chargers may not be suitably located or sized to serve large vans, meanwhile, and if Britain is serious about its decarbonisation agenda, a public infrastructure strategy for vehicles of all sizes and uses is needed – sooner rather than later.

The CV Show next year has been confirmed for 23-25 April – and it will be even better. I hope that by that time we’ll also be able to discuss positive commitments from all stakeholders, not just the industry which, as showed last week, is taking decisive steps towards the future of UK road transport.

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