Grant Shapps LowCVP Conference

LowCVP Conference 2020: Now is the time to focus on a move to zero carbon vehicles

As we start to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for a step change in the move to zero carbon transport, according to the 2020 Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership Conference.

The online event provided a forum for policy ideas and proposals to help inform the Government’s 2020 Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Featuring a ministerial keynote speech from Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, to tie in with action needed to achieve the UK’s Net Zero target, the issue of a name change for the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership was raised – with the Zero Carbon Vehicle Partnership presumably being one of the obvious options …?

Host of the event was James Murray, Editor-in-Chief, Business Green, who suggested that due to the 2050 Net Zero target, a key change has been a new sense of urgency to decarbonise.

There was also talk about the need to be bold, as it is felt that the public will now accept more radical policies. So what actions to transform transport to zero carbon were discussed at the Conference?

Unique opportunity for a green transport revolution

Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP, Secretary of State for Transport, said that we have a unique opportunity for a green transport revolution, rethinking the way that we travel. Supporting the development of low carbon vehicles is no longer the goal – we now need to decarbonise altogether, which will be the focus of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan, due later this year, and implementing the plan will need collaboration.

New focus on a Net Zero future

The LowCVP’s Managing Director Andy Eastlake agreed that ‘low carbon’ is now not good enough, and he welcomed the heightened ambition towards road transport decarbonisation; we have to remove rather than reduce carbon. As a result, the LowCVP will focus on a Net Zero future.

However Andy raised the issue of being clear about what Net Zero actually is in terms of transport. Does this mean zero tailpipe emissions, or zero well-to-wheel emissions, or zero lifecycle impact? This is one of many tasks for the LowCVP – in partnership with its members and other organisations.

Strong leadership is needed from the government

Net Zero has made the pace of change more urgent, and to achieve the ending of all new petrol and diesel car and van sales by 2035, or possibly earlier, more EV charging infrastructure will be required, according to Sir John Armitt, Chair, National Infrastructure Commission. There are 37.5 million vehicles registered in the UK, and most of these will need to make the switch to EVs – and that will only happen with confidence in the charging infrastructure. There will need to be a national rapid charging network, although most charging will be ‘smart and slow’. EVs can be an asset rather than a burden to the electricity system.

Strong leadership, direction and action is needed from the government, and from local authorities, especially in rural areas, where rapid charging will not be delivered by the market, so intervention will be needed.

Government agenda must have CO2 emissions at the heart of everything

Caroline Russell AM, National Green Party Spokesperson for Local Transport, said that the climate crisis is at our door and we need to tackle it now. We need an agenda moving forward with CO2 emissions at the heart of everything, rather than just a bitty, fragmented approach to green issues. Government projects should be reviewed, with only low CO2 projects going ahead.

Caroline suggested the idea of ‘15 minute neighbourhoods’, where everything is accessible in 15 minutes, to reduce the need for driving, and to encourage more walking and cycling. Longer journeys by car should involve paying for the miles travelled.

Transport Decarbonisation Policy Ideas

The conference featured two-minute policy pitch videos from stakeholders with ideas to prompt discussions around the Government’s Transport Decarbonisation plan. Here’s a summary of the pitches.

Doug Parr, Chief Scientist, Greenpeace:

Scrap the road building programme and put money into, for example, improving cities through better walking and cycling, and improved broadband.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, Greener Journeys:

Introduce transport pricing, through measures such as increasing fuel duty, to create the green transport that we need.

John Siraut, Director, Economics, Jacobs:

Road user pricing, with three elements: a maintenance charge for every vehicle, congestion charging, and an environmental charge based on a vehicle’s tailpipe emissions test rather than its official emissions.

Greg Archer, Director UK, Transport & Environment (T&E):

We need regulations not just words. There is an increase in EV choice and marketing, driven by effective EU car regulations. When the UK leaves the EU, the supply of EVs for the UK could dry up. The UK needs regulations that go further, to ensure car and van manufacturers sell more EVs per year.

Peter Mock, EU Managing Director, International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT):

Taxation – the UK government needs to increase incentives for EVs. In Germany the Volkswagen e-Golf has an incentive of 6,000 Euros from the government, plus 3,000 Euros from the manufacturer – so EVs are much cheaper. The current UK government plug-in car grant of £3,000 isn’t enough. Any purchase incentives to support the automotive industry as we emerge from COVID-19 should just be for EVs rather than for all cars, as this goes against CO2 targets.

Greg Harris, Horiba Mira:

Retrofit buses with an EV powertrain. Most buses are diesel. Replacing them means they are scrapped or taken to different cities. Retrofitting buses with an EV powertrain would be more sustainable.

Toby Poston, BVRLA:

0%. 1: The current 0% rate of company car tax for 2020 should be extended to 2021 and 2022. 2: There should be zero VAT for EV car rentals and car clubs.

Summary

There was lots of talk at the 2020 Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership Conference, but we need action. Green Car Guide believes that the UK government should have one overriding mission: sustainable development. If all of the UK’s development had a sustainability focus, then by now we should have a thriving UK automotive manufacturing sector including a massive element developing EVs and EV batteries – as well as charging solutions. As it is, significant investment in EV and battery manufacturing has happened in countries such as America, China, Korea, Japan and Germany rather than the UK. So is the UK government doing enough to drive a green transport revolution, and is it doing it quickly enough? Based on the conference, it sounds like the government will have to take significant action this year to prove this. But the government can’t do it all itself. So in the meantime it is hoped that the government will create a landscape in which individual private sector companies such as Green Car Guide can continue to do their bit to communicate effectively and independently about electric vehicles to consumers to encourage increased levels of adoption – ideally in partnership with the government and the LowCVP.

Paul Clarke

Paul Clarke Green Car Guide