While we’ve seen a number of green shoots already in 2023, some of the best appeared this week, as new SMMT data showed Britain’s new van market grew by 8.5% in February, representing the highest total for the month since 1998 – the same year that the UK’s bi-annual plate change was introduced.
The February van market is often less predictable, due to smaller volumes as operators tend to delay procurements until ‘new plate month’ in March, but the record-high registration total also means that we have seen two consecutive months of growth, spelling good news for the British economy and society – both of which depend on these critical vehicles.
With more new battery electric van models due to enter the market in the coming months, and a number of launches planned at the highly anticipated CV Show in April, the latest market outlook anticipates that electrified van registrations will rise by 64.5% during 2023. This would mean that around 28,000 new, green vans are set to join UK roads.
However, long-term and sustainable growth in zero emission vehicle uptake must be the objective, which depends on a resilient and flexible market. As many regular TNB readers will be aware, a crucial element of establishing a more resilient electric van market is the greater delivery of van-suitable chargepoint infrastructure and fiscal measures that encourage uptake. Sadly, these chargepoints are so far lacking across the CV sector, with significant investment required in order to meet the UK’s ambitions, in particular for zero emission-only van registrations from 2030 onward.
The Chancellor’s Spring Budget on Wednesday must be an opportunity to deliver the required solutions, such as an extension and increase of the Plug-in Van and Truck Grant, Zero Emission Road Freight programmes and ZEBRA bus fund, to support the development, adoption and total cost of ownership of zero emission commercial vehicles beyond 2023.
The Budget could also take steps to ensure that everyone has a ‘right to charge’, by mandating delivery of public chargers through binding targets to ensure that public investment is effective. This would lead to a significant uplift in all types of public chargers ahead of need, and there should be a clear commitment to the rollout and funding of commercial and heavy duty charging networks.
As we make progress on this collective journey, the celebration of International Women’s Day (IWD) yesterday provided an important opportunity to reflect on the significant role played by women across the whole UK automotive sector. SMMT welcomed Alison Jones, Vice President of Circular Economy at Stellantis and SMMT President, who gave a personal account of her career journey from accountancy to automotive, with some great insights on the importance of equity, not just equality, as well as advice on how we can bring positive change to the industry and wider society.