Business leaders call for post-Brexit vehicle emissions roadmap

A coalition of leaders from business, politics and civil society have today (11 September) called for "much greater clarity" on how vehicle emissions will be reduced post-Brexit, on the same day that the UK Government is hosting the world’s first zero emission vehicles summit in Birmingham.

The briefing paper urges the Government to make four key changes to support the EV revolution

The briefing paper urges the Government to make four key changes to support the EV revolution

In a new 11-page briefing paper, the Aldersgate Group has pressed ministers to seize the opportunity for Britain to become a global leader in the low-emission vehicle sphere – an industry that the Group predicts will be worth £1-2trn a year by 2030 and as much as £7.6trn a year by 2050.

Entitled Driving Ambition: Accelerating the Transition to Zero-Emission Vehicles, the paper argues that the need to decarbonise the UK’s notoriously carbon-heavy transport sector is now “urgent”, and that the opportunities for doing so are “ample”. It refers to Nissan’s Sunderland manufacturing plant, which produced 20% of all-electric vehicles (EVs) sold in Europe in 2016.

“Significantly cutting emissions from road transport is both an urgent environmental imperative and a unique economic opportunity for the UK,” Aldersgate Group‘s executive director Nick Molho said.

“We will only get there however if the Government provides much greater clarity on how vehicle emissions need to reduce in the 2020s, provides stable grant and tax incentives to drive consumer demand and stands ready to take the necessary measures to ensure that manufacturers play their part in meeting the public and business demand for clean vehicles.”  

Policy recommendations

In order for the UK to reap the benefits of the EV revolution, the paper recommends that ministers should first clarify whether UK will remain part of the current EU regulations surrounding car, van and heavy goods vehicle (HGV) emissions after Brexit. It additionally suggests that mandatory zero-emission vehicles sales targets should be introduced “as a backstop” to bridge any gaps in legislation.

The paper also urges the Government to extend Britain’s current range of plug-in car and van grants until EVs become cost-comparable to diesel and petrol vehicles – a cost reduction it claims is unlikely to happen until the mid-2020s. The Government is currently committed to maintaining the grants at their current rates until the end of next month, with consumer incentives “in some form” set to continue post-2020. 

In addition to the recommendations around grants and Brexit plans, the briefing paper reasons that policymakers should introduce a sustainable road tax system to incentivise drivers to make the EV switch. It argues that increased rates of tax on diesel and patrol vehicles, coupled with tax breaks for zero-emission alternatives, would also encourage a shift from road to rail in the freight shipping sector.

And when it comes to EV charging, the Aldersgate Group recommends that ministers should accelerate the current roll-out of charging infrastructure at a pace that will provide public charging points for 100% of new EV sales by 2030. Specifically, the paper states that public funding to support EV infrastructure should “be targeted where the market will not deliver”, such as in rural areas. It additionally calls for the introduction of regulatory standards on smart charging, compounded by guarantees against the unknown cost of connecting the chargers to the electricity grid.

Zero-emission Vehicle Summit

The Aldersgate Group paper has been released to coincide with the international Zero-emission Vehicle Summit, which is taking place today and tomorrow in Birmingham.

Following on from the release of the Government’s Road to Zero strategy in July, the Summit will see ministers, industry leaders and sector representatives convening to champion low-carbon mobility.

At the time of announcing the Summit earlier this year, Business Minister Greg Clark said: "Our modern Industrial Strategy sets out plans for the transition to ultra-low and zero emissions vehicle technology and this summit, bringing together global leaders in the green vehicle revolution, is an important step on the road to making that ambition a reality."

Sarah George


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