CEO Update

Still a tonne to do to decarbonise the HGV sector

21 April 2023 #CEO Update

The Commercial Vehicle Show returned to the NEC this week, opening its doors to thousands of visitors who joined more than 200 exhibitors at the UK’s largest automotive trade exhibition. Given the many challenges the industry faces – economic, regulatory, and particularly the need to decarbonise at pace – the Show was timely and provided a platform to talk about these issues and, of course, the products that can help address them.

We were delighted to welcome BBC Breakfast this year who broadcast live from the Show, informing viewers about the ways in which this critical sector is making the transition to net zero, the cutting-edge electric and hydrogen technology set to revolutionise road transport and the importance of the sector to society.

The question now is how we decarbonise a fleet that is still more than 99.4% diesel powered, and on a broadly similar timeline to cars and vans, with an initial end of sale date looming in 2035. The Show provided the perfect platform for manufacturers and operators to discuss this mammoth challenge, and also for the launch of a range of new, cutting-edge electric and hydrogen models.

Despite this enormous investment, the latest SMMT research highlights the many miles still to cover before the infrastructure is in place to give all operators the confidence to invest. The paucity of charging for electric van drivers is well documented, but for the truck sector it is even worse. With not a single HGV-dedicated electric charging or hydrogen refuelling point anywhere on our strategic road network, it is quite simply impossible for the vast majority of operators to consider switching, especially smaller firms and those providing long-distance haulage services up and down our motorways. Similarly, depot-based charging and refuelling – which will be fundamental to the haulage industry – is restricted by the complexity of planning permissions, grid connections and the eye-watering cost of installation.

This situation puts savings of up to 21.1 million tonnes of CO2 a year at risk and, while investment is starting to come on stream for public car charging, there is no equivalent strategy for HGVs. With zero emission models accounting for just one in 600 trucks on the road, it’s clear that more must be done and fast. That’s why we’re calling on government to take action now to create a long-term strategy that drives the accelerated rollout of a UK-wide HGV charging and fuelling network and provides world-leading incentives to stimulate investment, drive uptake and attract model allocation. If we’re to deliver on our ambitions, we need that strategy within the next 12 months.

I’d like to say a special thank you to all those involved in the success of this year’s Show, including the exhibitors, guest speakers who took part in the well-attended live theatre discussions and our sponsors. Next year’s date is already set, and we look forward to welcoming you back on 22-25 April 2024.

Finally, I leave you with a reminder that this year’s SMMT International Automotive Summit takes place on 27 June in London with a focus on industry resilience, and I am pleased to announce that Saul Resnick, UK&I Chief Executive of DHL Supply Chain, will join us as a keynote speaker. The event will include expert speeches and panel sessions, delivered to an audience of some 300 senior representatives from industry, government and wider stakeholders. Tickets are on sale now and you can purchase yours by contacting the Events team.

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