A leading ‘think-tank’ says that the market for ultra-low emission vehicles presents an ‘unmissable window of opportunity for the British automotive industry’.
The Institute for Public Policy Research’s (IPPR) report presents a roadmap for how Britain can both win a greater share of the international market and develop domestic demand for ULEVs. It explains how doing so can secure jobs and growth, help achieve environmental targets, and improve the energy grid.
The report – “Leading the charge: Can Britain develop a global advantage in ultra-low emission vehicles?” says that tightened international standards for vehicle emissions have spurred the growth of a global market for ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEVs) and the development of new technologies such as hybrid and pure electric vehicles.
In order to develop the UK’s comparative advantage in the expanding international ULEV market, it recommends that government and industry must take unprecedented concerted action. This should focus on three areas of industrial policy:
• Ensuring that domestic firms in the automotive supply chain have access to the finance that they need.
• Providing greater public investment for the application and commercialisation of innovation.
• Adopting new strategies in higher education, immigration and apprenticeship policy to ensure that the supply of engineers keeps pace with demand from the automotive industry.
The report says, however, that this comparative advantage can only be maintained by the development of a vibrant domestic ULEV market. To achieve this, action is required in several areas:
• Purchase incentives currently provided by the government should be more actively promoted, and guaranteed for longer periods to give greater certainty to buyers.
• Current usage incentives such as free parking spaces should be expanded, and other incentives such as free use of toll roads for ULEVs considered. A single ‘green badge’ scheme should be introduced to make it easier to identify qualifying vehicles.
• As a major procurer of vehicles, government should do more to drive demand for ULEVs by phasing in more stringent emission standards to the government buying standards for transport.
• Government should ensure that all ULEV buyers have access to safe charging point infrastructure for home, public, and private business use.
• New rapid charging stations should be placed at locally-identified strategic locations.
• Efforts to decarbonise the electricity system should be strengthened to ensure that drivers are not switching from dirty petrol-fuelled cars to dirty electricity-powered cars.
• The electricity network should be upgraded to meet additional demand from ULEVs.
Speaking about the report’s launch, author Will Straw, IPPR Associate Director, said: “Although early days, Britain is currently behind other European countries and the USA in terms of the take up of electric cars and other ultra-low emission vehicles. A ‘green badge’ scheme would help increase demand, giving a much needed boost to the industry and supporting other government policies like the ‘plug in’ grant.
“While we want to encourage innovation from local authorities, they need to act together to make sure their policy is uniform across neighbouring areas. This will provide clarity for drivers about the privileges that they are entitled to as they travel around.”