It been another week high on the political agenda for the UK’s commercial vehicle sector, with new legislation for longer semi-trailers, fresh innovation funding and an upgrade for the Plug-in Van Grant putting the sector’s net zero progress in the spotlight.
Hydrogen received the bulk of the latest Advanced Propulsion Centre funding, with £77m awarded to seven projects that cover a variety of vehicle types and powertrains, including hydrogen fuel cell range extenders for emergency service vehicles, a hydrogen van, and a hybrid electric fuel cell powertrain for a double decker bus. It is welcome that hydrogen is being taken seriously alongside battery electric as a long-term solution to decarbonising fleet operations of all types.
However, as shown by the broad range of battery electric van models – with new registrations up by 62.6% in April, representing just 6.6% of the market – delivering the next generation of zero emission commercial vehicles to market alone is not enough to ensure the levels of uptake needed to meet Britain’s ambitious green targets. It is good news that the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles has confirmed the end-customer limit for Plug-in Van Grant orders of 1,000 units, introduced in December 2021, will rise to 1,500 units per financial year until further notice.
The move will help fleet renewal to take place a faster rate as we move towards 2030, but there must also be a commensurate plan for van charging infrastructure, given that car chargepoints are not always suitable – particularly for larger vans. New funding support will enable the CV sector to thrive on its journey to net zero, but the paucity of public chargepoints remains a major barrier to operator confidence in light and heavy commercial vehicles.
In further news this week, the Department for Transport (DfT) confirmed that it will lay out new legislation to allow longer semi-trailers (LSTs) measuring up to 2.05 metres greater than a standard semi-trailer on Great British roads from the end of May, following DfT’s 11-year trial. Operator guidance will be published shortly so that these trailers make a vital contribution to decarbonisation while supporting safety.
As ever, the sector continues to play a vital role in delivering a greener and more prosperous future.