Government launches Road to Zero strategy for commercial vehicles

11 July 2018

On Monday the Department for Transport published its Road to Zero strategy, outlining plans to accelerate the take up of Electric Vehicles (EVs) which features ambitious emissions targets for the automotive industry.

As part of the Strategy, the government proposes that 40% of the van market should be ultra-low emitting vehicles (ULEVs) by 2030. While the industry is a leader in this technology, this is a hugely challenging target, given ULEVs currently only make up 0.3% of new van sales.

Nigel Base, SMMT Commercial Vehicle Development Manager, said, “We are concerned about targets for ULEV penetration that go far beyond the high levels of expectation proposed by the European Commission for vans. Achieving 40% market share would require a nearly 144-fold increase in uptake from the current position of just 0.3%.”

“Vans are business tools and drivers are typically far more sensitive to purchase price and return on investment than car buyers, while current electric van technology, which involves large batteries, can mean reduced carrying capacity. In addition, there is currently no bespoke charging network for these vehicles, which require larger parking bays, longer charging times and charge point locations that will fit seamlessly into their day-to-day business operations.”

In a move that has been welcomed by industry, the strategy’s technology neutral approach does not target a specific powertrain. The strategy acknowledges the investment and innovation by manufacturers in cleaner, RDE compliant vans and does highlight new diesel vans role in improving air quality during the transition to zero emissions vans.

“CVs play an important role in driving our economy and there is massive potential in incentivising uptake of the latest models. These new technologies, and the lengthy investment required to deliver them, cannot be fast-tracked. 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,” Nigel Base added.

For larger goods vehicles, the report sets out a Transport Energy Model suggesting how vehicles could be powered, using hybrid electric, hydrogen fuel cell power, pure electric and Compressed Natural Gas, all of which would contribute to reductions in emissions. However, vehicle range, cost and technological readiness remain major concerns if emissions levels are to be reached in line with Road to Zero’s 2030 target.

The SMMT’s full response can be viewed here.