Everything you need to know about the Government’s Road to Zero strategy

The Government has unveiled its much-anticipated Road to Zero strategy, detailing how a £1.5bn investment into electric vehicle (EV) research, development and infrastructure will help phase out petrol and diesel sales by 2040.

The strategy outlines how EV infrastructure, research and development will be improved before 2040

The strategy outlines how EV infrastructure, research and development will be improved before 2040

After months of delays, the Road to Zero plan was presented to Parliament today (June 9), where Transport Secretary Chris Grayling explained how the 46 new policies included in the strategy would “put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles”.

Grayling, who dubbed the strategy “one of the most comprehensive packages of support in the world” for driving the EV revolution, claimed that the plan would help the UK “win a substantial slice” of the global EV market, which he claimed will be worth up to £7.6trn by 2050.

The much-anticipated strategy sets out how the Government intends to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, highlighting low-carbon fuels and hybrid vehicles as solutions to bridge the transition in the meantime.

It sets an interim target of ensuring more than half of new car sales and 40% of new van sales are ultra-low emission by 2030, while capturing 46 new measures to drive a zero-emission road transport sector across seven key pillars. These are reducing emissions from existing vehicles; driving EV uptake; greening heavy goods vehicle (HGV) fleets; investing in green vehicle design and manufacturing; improving EV infrastructure and supporting local action.

Greening existing vehicles

The strategy outlines how the Government aims to drive fuel efficiency and to make existing petrol and diesel vehicles greener, including a commitment to more than double the use of low-carbon fuels nationwide. The pledge includes a legally-binding, 15-year commitment to improve the supply and sustainability of such fuels, enabling them to account for 7% of road fuel by 2032.

The Government has also announced a crackdown on garages and individuals who remove emissions-reducing technology from vehicles, which it will carry out through collaboration with the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA) and the vehicle manufacturing industry.

Meanwhile, the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme, a technology verification scheme which currently only applies to buses, HGVs and coaches, will be expanded to include black cabs and vans. Retrofits have previously been used by several local and transport authorities operating large bus fleets to cut emissions more cheaply and quickly than ordering new vehicles.

Spurring the EV revolution

According to the latest research from Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), ultra-low emission vehicles will make up more than half of global car sales by 2040, despite the fact that petrol and diesel currently still account for more than 99% of global sales.

To spur the uptake of EVs, the strategy promises that plug-in car and van grants will be maintained at the current rates until at least October 2018, while consumer incentives “in some form” will continue post-2020. It also notes that the Government will this year launch a “Go Ultra Low” campaign, which will run until 2020 and see ministers advising carmakers on how they can market EVs through communications.

Meanwhile, it states that the Government will “lead by example” by ensuring 100% of its central fleet is ultra-low emission by 2030.

This pillar additionally notes that as the UK leaves the European Union (EU), vehicle emissions regulation will remain “just as ambitious” as current legislation and may be strengthened post-Brexit.

Heavy goods without heavy emissions

As carmakers push to electrify their models and businesses strive to cut fleet emissions, the EV revolution has just begun within the HGV sector.

The Government revealed that it would work with industry to develop a new ultra-low emission standard for HGVs and will assess which zero-emissions technologies work best for HGVs through a research project with Highways England.

A new voluntary commitment to reduce HGV greenhouse gas emissions by 15% by 2025, against a 2015 baseline, will also be introduced and offered to companies with HGV fleets.

The strategy claims that these moves will ensure that ultra-low emission HGVs are “ready for mass adoption across all vehicle types in a sustainable and affordable way”.

Design and manufacturing

The Government wants EV research and development (R&D) to account for 2.4% of the UK’s GDP by 2027, so the strategy outlines seven measures aimed at championing local R&D programmes.

The headline policy in this section is a 12% tax break for R&D projects, with the Government also pledging to work with the EV industry to encourage it to source parts and raw materials from within the UK.

A new supply chain competitiveness and productivity improvement programme will be launched to help the UK’s EV R&D industry compete with those in other European nations.

Measures to train mechanics on how to repair EVs and other low-emission vehicles are additionally mooted in the strategy, with the Government pledging it will work with the Office for National Statistics (ONS) to collect data on how many jobs and exports attribute to such vehicles.

Infrastructure improvements

After the Department for Transport identified a lack of charging infrastructure as one of the three biggest barriers to EV adoption in the UK, along with distance travelled per charge and vehicle cost, the strategy includes a number of policies surrounding charging networks.

It states that ministers would like to introduce a requirement for all new buildings to include charge points and are set to launch a consultation into planning laws around the matter “as soon as possible”.

The strategy also reveals that ministers would like charge points to be fitted as standard into all new street lighting columns in a bid to “future-proof” the nation’s streets, following a successful trial of the technology in London last year. 

It states that while the Government will not own or operate a charge point network, it will play a role in “creating the right enabling conditions” by opening a new £400m fund for companies wanting to improve their charging infrastructure.

An additional £40m is also earmarked to support research into wireless charging, while businesses installing charge points will be eligible to receive 75% of the purchase and installation costs through a new grant.

Earlier this year, research from the Committee on Climate Change found that nearly 29,000 charging points are needed across the UK by 2030 to meet future EV charging needs. 

Local motion

The strategy’s final pillar details several measures to encourage local and transport authorities to take up green vehicles, including a £48m fund for ultra-low emission bus schemes. 

Investment for local authorities wishing to roll out dedicated taxi charging infrastructure is also on the cards, with each eligible council to receive a minimum of £6m, while ministers will set out definitions of “low-emission” and “ultra-low emission” to be adopted by all councils.  

Finally, the Government will run a series of roadshow events for local and transport authorities across the nation, covering best-practice approaches to encouraging EV uptake on a local basis.

Progress towards all 46 of the measures will be reviewed before 2025, with the Government committing to “make interventions” if insufficient progress is being made, the strategy states. 

Sarah George


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transport | electric vehicles | Green Policy

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