On 4 February 2020, the Prime Minister announced that Government is consulting on bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a faster transition appears feasible, as well as including hybrids for the first time.
This reflects the Independent Committee on Climate Change’s advice on what is needed in order for the UK to end its contribution to climate change by 2050. The proposals relate to new cars and vans - owners of existing petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans will still be able to use these vehicles and buy and sell them on the used market.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is interested in views on:
- the phase out date
- the definition of what should be phased out
- barriers to achieving the above proposals
- the impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society
- what measures are required by Government and others to achieve the earlier phase out date.
- The phase out date
It is our view that the date of the phase out is a necessary step to achieving our commitment to being Net Zero by 2050. Given the nature of fleet cycles vehicles tend to remain in use for around 15 years. There would seem to be no option but to have a date that allows conventionally fuelled engines to work their way through the fleet before the date for transition.
This date should not be the limit of our ambition and we should make every effort to achieve our net zero goal as soon as possible. The 2050 date should be considered a last possible date rather than the limit of our ambitions especially in transport where we understand the changes and technology we need.
- The definition of what should be phased out
We are not proposing to comment on this section.
- Barriers to achieving the above proposals
There is a chicken and egg relationship between the provision of a charging network and the uptake of electric vehicles. Consumers want to be assured there will be adequate charging capacity if they take up an electric vehicle and providers of chargers need to be assured there will be demand for charging in order to justify their investment in infrastructure.
We welcome the steps the Government has taken to encourage the introduction of a comprehensive charging network. Councils have supported those efforts, including through the various national funding opportunities and the LGA has supported local efforts through our own guidance and working with organisations that encourage low carbon vehicle uptake.
However the long term future of this technology will need a robust private sector market which can invest for the long term. We do not see charging infrastructure as a long term function for councils in the way that providing a highways asset currently is. Councils should not be regarded as the default provider for the national network given their lack of sufficient capital and expertise for the scale of investment required; this is a role for the private sector.
However, councils do have a role in incubating the industry and have been active in procuring charging capacity or facilitating its installation on our assets. This has been made difficult by the fragmentation of the charging market. There are lots of providers in the market all with different products and a different commercial model. Whilst this is understandable as the industry is in its early days it does make it difficult for council officers to make comparisons between different providers and commission services fairly. As we are using public subsidy and public assets to incubate a new industry it is important that infrastructure is commissioned fairly and competitively. This is not always easy to do given the diversity of views on how to profitably operate a charging network.
We also know that the capacity of the motor industry to produce sufficient volumes across a range of vehicle models has been a significant impediment to widescale uptake. Before the start of the current pandemic there were long waiting lists for the more popular affordable models of electric cars. Whilst a lot of capacity was planned to be delivered this year with many new models it is not clear how the economic impact from the pandemic will impact manufacturers’ plans. It is important that any measures that help the car industry recover are focussed on bringing forward this capacity and investments in electric vehicle technology.
- The impact of these ambitions on different sectors of industry and society
As we have stated councils do not see themselves as the default fuel provider for car charging. Different councils will have different levels of ambition in EV infrastructure investment in the short term, especially as speeding the adoption of electric vehicles will help us achieve our goals around air quality and decarbonisation. Despite this ambition we do not believe councils will provide charging infrastructure to the same extent that they currently do to maintain the highways asset.
Provision of charging will almost certainly have an impact on our provision of highways and parking space. These are two key council functions. The need for charging points may affect our parking strategies in the future. This is a key area for councils too understand as we need to understand the likely long-term models for charging in order to plan provision in our parking spaces both on street and off street. Will charging be needed for every space or merely on a limited number of spaces. Will the future of rapid charging mean that it is unlikely people will need access to charging when away from the home or workplace or will continual trickle charging be necessary every time vehicles are stationary? We need to understand this in order to plan adequate provision on our networks.
Many communities rely on the automotive industry as a base for advanced manufacturing skills. We need to ensure that our car manufacturing industry is ready for the transition. In order to achieve our decarbonisation goals we need to encourage people out of private cars (electric or otherwise). We need to ensure that we have the skills to make this transition and maintain highly skilled manufacturing jobs.
- What measures are required by Government and others to achieve the earlier phase out date
There needs to be clarity on the future tax regime for vehicles. The current system of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) and fuel duty will need to be replaced. As the transition to an electric fleet ramps up the revenues associated with these forms of taxation will dwindle.
They are both major revenues streams that underpin significant public investment. VED is currently hypothecated for the roads fund and therefore these revenue streams will need to be replaced in the overall tax take. We need clarity from Government on what their long-term tax strategy is for motor vehicles. Many consumers and fleet operators may be making investments in the transition to electric vehicles under the current generous tax regime for these kinds of vehicles. They need to be given a fair warning of how that regime is likely to evolve in the years ahead.
The LGA has been supportive of many of the programmes and funds that have been made available to councils through OLEV. These programmes have been based on working intensively with a handful of places to offer targeted support to trial interventions aimed at the very early stages of the transition. This approach has been sensible in order to understand what interventions are practical and impactful. However we now need to transition the support offered by OLEV to more authorities and design programmes that offer support to a wider range of places. The LGA has worked constructively with OLEV and other Government agencies and would welcome discussions about how we could help design programmes that could support a wider number of councils in the future.
The current COVID crisis has led to new travel patterns and therefore a new set of transport priorities especially around encouraging walking and cycling and supporting public transport. The need for a green recovery along with responding to the climate crisis means it is crucial that our plans around electric vehicles are integrated into a wider plan for decarbonisation. Simply converting the entire vehicle fleet to electric or other low emission technologies like hydrogen will not achieve our net zero goals. The electrification of the vehicle fleet must be based around electrifying those journeys that are necessary but cannot be made through active travel or public transport. We cannot lose sight of this principle when formulating electric vehicle policies.
Andrew Jones, Policy Adviser
Phone: 020 7664 3178
Mobile: 07464 652669