Neil Wallis, LowCVP

Fifteen years of LowCVP

It’s hard to believe but nearly 15 years have passed since the government’s Powering Future Vehicles Strategy, launched in summer 2002, paved the way for the establishment of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership; our unique stakeholder collaboration, established to help accelerate the shift to low carbon vehicles and fuels in the UK and deliver benefits for UK business.

It’s been a roller-coaster ride at times, but the imminent 15th anniversary (which we’ll be celebrating with a Parliamentary Reception on 20 March – see link) has encouraged us to reflect on the current ‘state of play’ in terms of low carbon/emission vehicles and fuels.

We’ve seen pretty consistent progress in new car CO2 emissions for almost all of the LowCVP’s first 15 years. However, the disappointment of learning that 2017 showed the first annual rise in new car emissions in all that period (commented on in last month’s blog) was a timely reminder that progress is not guaranteed and that the focus must be maintained.

Despite that setback, there has been a positive start to 2018; the news, for example, that Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs) exceeded three per cent of all sales for the first time in January.

The rise of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles has, indeed, dominated the news agenda in recent times and there are growing signs of ‘take-off’ in the market. Plug-in vehicles are now such a common sight around our offices in Westminster – and increasingly present in many places outside the capital – that they’re not even considered worthy of comment when spotted.

Much of the drive for plug-ins, of course, is coming as a result of the push to improve air quality. London’s ULEZ and the introduction of other Clean Air Zones around the country can only help to further encourage sales.

2017 was punctuated by a plethora of announcements from car companies promising bigger investments in plug-in vehicles and a much greater choice of model range. In 2018, the UK’s focus has moved to the provision of recharging infrastructure and there have already been several welcome developments.

The passage of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill (now approaching its second reading in the House of Lords) will give the Government greater powers to mandate and effectively coordinate the availability of recharging facilities. Meanwhile, both Shell and BP have announced plans to introduce rapid charge facilities on their forecourt networks – their dominance of the road fuels market challenged by a growing range of private competitors and start-ups – and there are moves afoot internationally to harmonise equipment standards and improve coordination in the provision of infrastructure.

Many local authorities are getting in on the act too; Wandsworth Borough Council in London, for example, has announced plans to install charging plugs in hundreds of lamp-posts for residents who have bought, or are about to buy, a new electric car.

So, as we approach the LowCVP’s 15th anniversary, there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future for low emission vehicles and about the industrial opportunity they represent for the UK. So, we’re looking forward to the celebration while mindful that there’s still much to be done to ensure the low carbon transition in road transport.

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