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Government reveals ‘Road to Zero’ strategy

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Half of all new cars sold in the UK by 2030 will be ultra-low emission models, if the Government has its way.

The ‘Road to Zero’ strategy has been unveiled, with the Government pledging to take steps to enable a massive roll-out of infrastructure to encourage motorists into electric vehicles.

Currently, there are around 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) on UK roads. New car sales are running at around 2.7 million a year, with ULEVs claiming just over 2% of the market. The Government wants to see such vehicles claim at least half of the market by 2030, and preferably 70%, along with 40% of new vans.

The strategy also confirms that hybrid vehicles will be exempt from an already-announced ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars planned for 2040.

Announcing the Road to Zero strategy, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling confirmed a Government ambition to “make the UK the best place in the world to build and own an electric vehicle”.

“The Road to Zero Strategy sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero-emission revolution – ensuring that the UK has cleaner air, a better environment and a stronger economy,” he said.

Electric car charging point.
The strategy calls for a vast increase in the number and variety of electric charging points.

New measures revealed as part of the programme include a push for charging points to be installed in newly built homes, and in lampposts, which will greatly increase the charging network available to plug-in car owners and help to kill off the range anxiety that currently holds back sales growth in electric cars.

Owners of electric vehicles who install a charge point in their home will be able to claim grants of up to £500 towards the cost, and grant aid to companies who install charge points for their employees will be increased.

A £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund will be launched, backing companies that make and install charge points, while a £40 million programme will pay for the development and trials of low-cost wireless and on-street charging technology.

The Government’s Plug-in Car and Van grants, which effectively reduce the price to the buyer of new plug-in vehicles by between £2,500 and £4,500, will continue at their present rates until at least October of this year, and in some form until at least 2020.

Millions of charging points will be needed to make all of the UK car's electric
Owners who install charge points at home will be able to claim grants against the cost.

Industry body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) backed the ambitions of the Strategy, but added that huge challenges around consumer demand as well as refuelling and charging infrastructure need to be addressed for the transition to zero-emission vehicles to be a success.

The SMMT also cast doubt on whether the figures for ultra-low emissions are ownership are achievable in the timescale. “We are concerned about targets for ULEV penetration that go far beyond the high levels of expectation proposed by the European Commission,” said SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes.

“Achieving 50% market share would require a nearly 23-fold increase in uptake from the current position of just 2.2%… We need realistic ambition levels and measures that support industry’s efforts, allow manufacturers time to invest, innovate and sell competitively, and provide the right incentives and infrastructure to take the consumer with us,” Hawes added.

Hawes also welcomed the Strategy’s recognition of the progress in making conventional engines, including diesels, cleaner, saying they will continue to play a vital role in the transition to 2040 and beyond – a message constantly related by the SMMT in recent months in the face of slumping sales of cars with diesel engines.

“The latest advanced diesels meet the world’s toughest emissions standards, helping to reduce climate change and improve air quality – while also providing affordable mobility to millions of motorists, particularly those that travel longer distances and deliver our essential goods and services,” Hawes said.

“Consumers should now have the confidence to purchase the car that best meets their driving needs – whatever the technology – secure in the knowledge there are no bans.”

The choice of electric and plug-in hybrid cars is growing – but sales will need to rocket to meet Government ambitions.

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Andrew Charman
Andrew Charman
Andrew is a road test editor for The Car Expert. He is a member of the Guild of Motoring Writers, and has been testing and writing about new cars for more than 20 years. Today he is well known to senior personnel at the major car manufacturers and attends many new model launches each year.