There were good reasons to pop the corks on New Year’s Eve as the UK commercial vehicle sector rounded off a widely successful 2023 with the cherry on the icing – that being the UK-EU agreement to extend TCA rules of origin exemptions for electric vehicle batteries until 2027. That extra three years can make all the difference, allowing industry on both sides of the English Channel to sell EVs in each other’s markets without penalty – driving decarbonisation while scaling up gigafactory production.
The UK van sector has already taken a massive stride towards achieving its green goals in 2024, with the ambitious Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) Mandate coming into effect on 3 January. Light commercial vehicle manufacturers now have zero emission sales quotas starting at 10% this year, with the required proportion rising gradually up to 2030.
Setting targets is important but commensurate action will be critical to a successful transition this year, with investment van-suitable public charging infrastructure an absolute must, particularly given their additional size requirements compared with cars. A long-term commitment to the Plug-in Van Grant will also be necessary, while other priorities need to be front of mind for UK decision makers.
For instance, industry is eagerly awaiting legislation for driver flexibility for 4.25-tonne LCVs, removing the five-hour training the driver needs to complete and allow to tow a combined ZEV and trailer weight of up to 7,000kg. LCV manufacturers want to hit their sales targets and deliver for operators and the UK populace, and timely legislation can facilitate that – but it must come sooner rather than later.
Positively, Local Transport Authorities that have successfully secured grants from the second round of Zero Emission Bus Regional Area fund – which does include some funding for charging infrastructure – will be announced in March. Orders must be placed within roughly one year’s time, however, the timetable for the scheme is very tight, requiring effort from all stakeholders to ensure the application and allocation process are as smooth and simple as possible.
With the ZEV Mandate for LCVs and cars up and running, government now has the opportunity to turn its focus towards HGVs, with the Green Paper set to seek views on a range of HGV regulatory options. Drafting has begun for the UK version of VECTO, to record vehicle CO2 emissions, and it remains to be seen whether that will set more stringent targets than the EU.
Whatever the case, a clear plan on heavy vehicle charging infrastructure and hydrogen refuelling station is needed to provide confidence to operators to purchase clean zero emission vehicles. There is a clear trend in the obstacles and opportunities for driving decarbonisation in 2024 – and it is more important than ever that all stakeholders, not just industry, are playing their part in delivering success.