This week saw the government announce its eagerly anticipated net zero strategy ahead of COP 26, including news of a zero-emission vehicle mandate. As we await the finer details, it is fair to say that a well-designed, flexible regulatory framework could – if created with the consumer in mind – help maintain or even increase the pace of uptake of these vehicles, ensuring the industry and society delivers on our shared decarbonisation ambitions.
The automotive industry is, however, already delivering zero-emission vehicles onto Britain’s roads at a speed beyond all forecasts, such is the choice and appeal of the more than 150 models of battery electric, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell and hybrid vehicles now available. The vehicles are ready, and the regulatory direction for the automotive industry is becoming clearer, with the end of sale for new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030 already confirmed and these latest announcements suggesting that regulation will be forthcoming.
But whilst automotive manufacturers are putting ever-more zero emission vehicles on the market, we cannot dictate that customers will buy them. Customers will look for affordability, convenience and reassurance that these new technologies will be as easy to live with – perhaps even more so – than the conventional technologies with which they are familiar.
One of the main barriers remains the infrastructure. To ensure the market for these new vehicles continues to move in the right direction, therefore, we need to ensure we have a reliable, accessible and nationwide charge point network. The announcement of additional funds for on-street residential charging must energise much-needed private sector investment but consumers will only have confidence in the future if there are commensurate and binding regulatory requirements on the infrastructure sector.
It’s only by combining regulatory commitments with financial ones like these that will be the key to a successful transition to zero-emission road transport.
Funding to support the UK’s zero emission vehicle manufacturing sector is also crucial, and manufacturing will be central to Government’s ability to deliver on its national ambitions to level up the whole country, reach Net Zero by 2050 and become a global science super-power.
Manufacturing matters to the UK economy, and SMMT came together this week with four other trade associations – the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), ADS, the Chemical Industries Association (CIA) and the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) – to launch a report as the Manufacturing Five. The first report of its kind, it sets out how Government can work with manufacturing industries to seize new economic opportunities, sustain jobs, and deliver growth and prosperity as we emerge from the pandemic as well as setting out a long-term strategy that puts manufacturing at the heart of the UK’s domestic and global agenda. My thanks to all the MPs and Peers who attended the launch event and I encourage you all to read it here.
Finally, with COP26 approaching fast, SMMT is delighted to have participated in a sector roundtable with global automotive association leaders to exchange views on national developments and commitments in the transition to zero emissions vehicles and how trade associations can best support their members in the drive to sustainability.
Supporting the transition to zero emissions vehicle is a priority issue for nations across the globe and a key topic for discussion at COP26. As a global industry, international dialogue and cooperation on zero emission vehicles is absolutely critical and will continue to be for years to come. It was reassuring, therefore, that there was so much commonality between the differing Associations, whether they be from Europe, Asia or North America.
All sought technology neutral policies, longer term support through incentives, targets that are conditional on infrastructure expansion, and policies that support the manufacturing sector in this transition. This is all perhaps no surprise as the industry is, after all, global, as are the challenges we face.