Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:05 pm on 4th July 2019.

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Photo of Mark Pawsey Mark Pawsey Conservative, Rugby 1:05 pm, 4th July 2019

It is a great pleasure to follow Peter Kyle, who during our inquiry became the most vociferous advocate for electric vehicles, drawing attention to the difference in the driving experience. I shall focus my remarks on the impact on my constituency and some of the business opportunities that arise as we run down the sale of vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.

I was an enthusiastic participant in the inquiry and I support the target that the Committee decided on—to bring forward to 2030 an end to the sale of new cars and vans powered by internal combustion engines. That will put the UK in the first tier of EV transition and will help harmonise objectives across the UK. That puts real pressure on some of our manufacturers, but it also provides some very serious opportunities.

I want to talk about commercial vehicles. As the hon. Gentleman said, this is not just about private vehicles but about commercial vehicles too. I shall refer to the London Electric Vehicle Company, which manufactures taxis in my constituency. I also want to make some remarks on charging infrastructure and some of the problems that we are experiencing in my constituency.

I admit at the outset that I am not a driver of an electric vehicle. I have recently been in the market for a new car, but I prefer it if somebody else takes the initial depreciation, so I run a car that is maybe one or two years old. There is not yet an effective market in second-hand electric cars, and there is some concern about the life of batteries. I know that an internal combustion engine car that has 20,000 miles on the clock at two years old is approximately a fifth of the way through its life. We do not yet know that about electric vehicles, and that market will develop. I am also put off by the capital value. On a like-for-like basis, the electric vehicle is currently approximately £10,000 more than the equivalent with an internal combustion engine, although I do very much recognise the lower running costs. I shall refer to those in respect of taxis.

I am also a little concerned about range anxiety. I use a car for travelling short distances around my constituency, but on occasions want to drive 100 miles or so to Westminster or 200 miles to visit friends, and I am concerned about being able to charge the car. I shall return to the subject of infrastructure later.

I am delighted by the opportunities for the west midlands economy and welcome the news in respect of Jaguar Land Rover, which is about to build on the I-PACE vehicle, currently on the market, by developing an all-electric XJ—its big saloon. That will be available in 2020 with 300 miles between charges, and provide a UK-manufactured opportunity to compete with Tesla. I know that the XJ is the car of choice for our Ministers and I very much hope that the Minister at the Dispatch Box will be driving an electric XJ immediately when they become available. It is good news for motor manufacturing at a time of Brexit uncertainty, and it is good news that the batteries will be manufactured at Hams Hall in Warwickshire and the motors will be built at JLR’s engine complex in Wolverhampton. That provides many opportunities for the supply chain.

I mentioned the London Electric Vehicle Company. I am delighted that it is in my constituency. It has produced 2,500 vehicles at Anstey in my constituency, and there are almost 2,000 on the streets of London already. If you see a taxi rank now, there is a pretty good chance that more than half of the taxis will be electric. Each such taxi reduces the CO2 emissions by 9.7 metric tonnes a year, compared with a diesel, and drivers can see savings of up to £100 a week because they no longer have to spend money on diesel.

One of the critical points about electric taxis is that for many people their first ever journey in an electric vehicle is in a taxi. It gives the taxi a pioneer role, and it is important that that is a good experience that people consider when they are purchasing. I was delighted to see the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend Mr Hunt driving a London taxi on the campaign trail only last week. We must encourage the switch, but the London Electric Vehicle Company has told me that lack of infrastructure is still a concern for drivers.

A second company in my constituency to benefit from the move to electric vehicles is Automotive Insulations. It is an important player and in many ways the go-to company for UK manufacturers in the supply of acoustic and thermal solutions. Acoustic material is what deadens the noise. In an internal combustion engine the acoustic material needs to deaden the sound of the engine, but the engine often masks other sounds, such as road noise, battery whine in electric vehicles and the noise made by other moving parts. So electric vehicles need different insulation material and Automotive Insulations is an expert in the field. It already supplies LEVC and the JLR I-PACE. It is also working on the new XJ. It has solutions designed for the Volvo Polestar, whose owners Geely also own LEVC, and is also working with Mercedes-Benz and BMW on developments. It is great to have its expertise in my constituency.

Grid infrastructure poses several challenges. An SME in my constituency provides extra power in the short term when there is inadequate power in the grid for people to recharge their vehicles. It supplies to two locations of interest, the first of which is Oxford Bus. Oxford has a low emissions zone. For visitors who want to tour the city and see the sights on a bus, Go Ahead needed to find a way to electrify its bus fleet. Its depot had insufficient power capacity and development would have taken too long and come at a prohibitive cost. Off Grid Energy in my constituency was able to provide a battery storage system to control the power available, limit the peak load on the network and store energy ready to recharge buses when they returned to the depot.

Off Grid Energy installed a similar system in Camden to provide power for a parcel delivery depot with 170 electric vans. If they all came back to the depot at the same time and wanted to recharge, there was not enough power in the grid, so Off Grid Energy’s batteries draw down power over time, giving the capacity to recharge. Those opportunities will continue to arise.

Charging is the key to solving the problem, and we need to make sure that we build in enough charging facilities for the growth in the market, especially if our objective is to go all electric by 2032. Rugby is at the centre of England and at the crossroads of the motorway network. It is great news that junction 1 of the M6 is getting a brand new motorway services, operated by Moto. I have made it my business to look at the provision of electric charging at the new service area. We might think that a new motorway service area would be an ideal place to include an extensive range of charging for people on their journeys, halfway between Manchester and London, but when it opens in July next year it will have just two charging points. That is extraordinary, and I have talked to the operator, Moto. It has an ambition to have 24, but it will open with just two. That issue needs to be addressed and I hope that the Minister will talk about how National Grid and Western Power, the power provider, can provide what people will need.