TNB News

Industry leaders must stay fully charged

21 September 2023 #TNB News

In the last 24 hours, the news agenda has been centred on government’s announcement that it will push back Britain’s end of sale of pure petrol and diesel vans to 2035, shifting the legislative timeline upon which automotive manufacturers across the UK have moved at speed to make major green investments in their production lines since those targets were set almost four years ago. There are some things that will not change, however. Firstly, the whole automotive sector has full commitment to delivering the UK’s net zero transition, which cannot happen without decarbonising road transport. Stakeholders’ sense of urgency cannot be allowed to dwindle, either, and more action than we’ve seen in recent years continues to be essential in order to guarantee a stable, accessible transition, particularly for the commercial vehicle sector.

It means that while manufacturers will continue to put innovative zero emission models on the market – many of which are already perfectly ready for use on UK roads – operators still need encouragement to place orders, and now more than ever. Government’s announcement must therefore be backed with suitable incentives and a national plan for accelerating the delivery of public, dedicated electric charging and hydrogen refuelling infrastructure. Whatever our deadline for decarbonisation, businesses in every region of Britain must be confident that our strategic road network is viable for zero emission fleet operations.

That message has been clear enough for some time, and was reiterated at this week’s sold-out SMMT Electrified, which brought together industry leaders, stakeholders, senior government and the media to explore the challenges and opportunities of decarbonising UK road mobility. Many of those discussions remain relevant, too, be it the importance of optimally-designed regulation and supportive policy measures, overcoming the challenge of decarbonising heavy vehicles, prioritising sustainability and circularity to avoid unintended consequences, and the unavoidable relationship between infrastructure, the energy system and the electric vehicle transition.

Recognising the importance of the event, the Rt Hon Sectary of State for Transport, Mark Harper MP, delivered the Ministerial Keynote address and said SMMT was the sector’s biggest champion and loudest voice – and that because transport is the source of 20% of carbon emissions, its decarbonisation represents the biggest challenge and greatest opportunity for the UK to reach net zero.

While the requirement to end the sale of new fossil fuel LCVs may have been moved from 2030, the fact remains that the overall target – all new LCVs must be zero-emission from 2035 – remain. Now is not the time to take our foot off the pedal and we need to remain fully charged to deliver Net Zero.

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