Low-carbon policies drive investment in greener vehicles

The positive impact that environmental policy can have on the green growth of a sector has been seen in the UK car industry, with increased investment contributing to a significant reduction in tailpipe emissions over the past 10 years.

A new report released this week from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) found that more than £17bn had been invested in low-carbon vehicles between 2003 and 2013, which had revitalised the UK automotive industry. It also reported an average reduction in tailpipe emissions of 25% and a steady uptake in low-carbon buses, with 1,500 in operation in 2013. (Scroll down for full report).

“Our report shows that low-carbon vehicle policies have been an important factor in improving the economic performance and the environmental performance of the car industry in the UK,” explained professor Peter Wells of Cardiff Business School, which co-authored the report with sustainability consultants E4Tech.

And members of the automotive industry were given further assurances about future Government investment in the UK’s low-carbon transport sector at the LowCVP’s annual conference earlier this week.

Upcoming investments in low-carbon and energy efficient vehicles were announced In a speech given by Baroness Kramer from the Department for Transport, who said: “We will invest £200m to cut the upfront cost of an ultra-low emission vehicle – making the choice to go green cheaper in the showroom as well as on the road.

“Second, we will introduce the infrastructure necessary to end range anxiety, investing £37m to make it cheaper to install fast charging at home and on the street; £21m to provide rapid charging at strategic locations from stations to town centres; and then thirdly, we will be backing British businesses with at least £100m for research and development.”

VIDEO: LowCVP Annual Conference 2014

At the conference, Kramer acknowledged that many vehicles will still require low-carbon liquid fuels for years to come and that other countries are currently ahead of the UK in producing biofuels. “That’s why last year we announced a £25m competition and we want to see up to three demonstration-scale advanced biofuel plants in the UK as a result,” she added.

The direction of Britain’s low-carbon vehicle policies – much of which have been driven by the LowCVP over the past 10 years – have been welcomed by Nissan UK’s general manager of innovation and performance projects, Jerry Hardcastle, who said: “When Nissan makes an investment decision, globally or here in the UK, there are many contributory factors.

“Clearly Britain’s low carbon policies have been an influence when we made decisions to invest in production of the LEAF and also in manufacture of the battery here in the UK.”

Government cars

It has been a good week for plug-in vehicles such as the Nissan LEAF. Yesterday (17 July), the Department for Transport and the Treasury also announced plans to introduce a fleet of the Government’s own plug-in cars and vans.

The £5m ultra-low emission vehicle readiness project will introduce more than 150 plug-in vehicles in the first wave of the scheme. The Government Car Service will order the first electric cars in autumn and there are plans to add electric vehicles throughout the public sector including the NHS, police force and local councils.

The LowCVP report highlighted areas of success in the automotive industry, but also acknowledged that the journey is just beginning. The organisation’s managing director Andy Eastlake concluded: “This represents the first strides on the road to meeting the environmental imperative of decarbonising road transport by 2050. There are, however, no grounds for complacency and the job is far from done.”

REPORT: LowCVP – Investing in the low carbon journey

Matt Field

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