Sale of New Petrol and Diesel Cars and Vans

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 2:13 pm on 4th July 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Andrew Stephenson Andrew Stephenson Assistant Whip, Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) 2:13 pm, 4th July 2019

I will come on to that, but I think we are making good progress on a range of fronts, although significant barriers remain. Our wider commitments on climate change have been bold, and we have achieved a faster reduction in our carbon emissions than any other country in the G20 has done. There is no reason why we cannot go faster than the targets that we have set ourselves. Meeting those targets requires an adequate supply of ultra low emission vehicles, a strong consumer base and a fit-for-purpose infrastructure network.

Government cannot deliver our ambitions alone. At the heart of our strategy is a commitment to working in partnership with industry, business, academia, environmental groups, devolved administrations, local Government, consumers and international partners. We need new charge points in homes, workplaces and public places. The consumer experience of public charging needs to be improved. The system must be easy to use, affordable, efficient and reliable. That is why we passed the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018, which allows us to regulate further in this area; that is why on Monday the Prime Minister asked OLEV to undertake a review, setting out our vision for a core national network of rapid charge points along the country’s key roads; and it is why we are encouraging people to charge at home overnight, both on and off street.

On Tuesday this week, I attended a roundtable convened at 10 Downing Street with companies such as Jaguar Land Rover, LEVC, Tesla, PSA and the National Grid to discuss how we can best build on our core infrastructure network for electric vehicles in the UK. Those who were present were supportive of Government schemes, such as the up-front £500 off the cost of installing a domestic charge point; the provision of grants to businesses for workplace charge points; and the provision of grant funding to local authorities to install charge points for residents who lack off-street parking. We accept that we need to go further and faster; for example, by ensuring that all new homes are electric vehicle ready. We will soon consult on requiring every new home to have a charge point where appropriate.

We are already in a strong position. Government funding and leadership, alongside private sector investment, has supported the installation of more than 20,000 public charge points to date. That includes more than 2,000 rapid charge points—one of the largest networks in Europe. We want to build on that and encourage private sector investment to build and operate a self-sustaining public network.

Overall, we are investing nearly £1.5 billion between 2015 and 2021 to support ultra low emission vehicles and address the barriers to uptake. As Richard Burden mentioned, we have grants available to offset the up-front cost of ultra low emission vehicles, which currently cost more than petrol or diesel equivalents. As an incentive to make the switch, our plug-in grants offer up to £3,500 off the purchase price of an electric car, up to £7,500 for a taxi and up to £8,000 for a van. We are also funding the development of new cleaner technologies. With £300 million of funding from OLEV, we are supporting vehicle manufacturers, technology companies and academia to deliver a major programme of research and development in the UK.

I am pleased to say that a year on from the publication of our strategy “The Road to Zero”, we are making progress against our ambitions. In 2018, the UK was the second largest market in the EU for ultra low emission vehicles, and there are now more than 200,000 of them on our roads. We are also building in large numbers—last year, one in five electric cars sold in Europe was made in the UK—and I am proud to say that Europe’s best-selling electric vehicle, the Nissan Leaf, was made in Sunderland, as the hon. Member for Washington and Sunderland West mentioned.

Let us not forget that this sector is hugely important to the UK economy: with a £77.9 billion turnover, it directly employs 165,000 in manufacturing alone. As someone from the north of England, that is particularly important to me. Manufacturing is still a major employer in my constituency, with companies such Wardle Storeys, part of Uniroyal Global, employing more than 150 people in Earby, making automotive components. That is why I am keen to see the industry’s rapid evolution, rather than revolution, supported by our automotive sector deal, which was published last year. As I speak, the Automotive Council, which I would have attended were it not for this debate, is meeting just down the road.

It has been a real privilege of my role to see at first hand some of the technologies and innovations that are already delivering for us on the Road to Zero. Just last week, I visited the BMW Mini plant in Oxford, and I have also visited Bentley in Crewe; the Advanced Propulsion Centre in Coventry, where I got to sit in—they would not let me drive it—the first all-electric Aston Martin, which will be built in St Athan, south Wales; and McLaren in Wokingham. We are supporting innovation in the sector, with the Advanced Propulsion Centre, the Faraday battery challenge and the connected and autonomous vehicles programme, focusing on the key technologies that will drive the global transition to low-carbon mobility and form the basis of future vehicle supply chains in the UK.

Battery technologies are of course integral to the market, which is why we have committed more than £270 million to the Faraday battery challenge, to ensure that the UK builds on its strengths and leads the world in the design, development and manufacture of electric batteries. In May, I announced additional funding for the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry, a project in which we have so far invested more than £100 million and which will provide a stepping stone in our ambitions for a gigafactory in the UK. The Government and industry have committed around £1 billion over 10 years through the Advanced Propulsion Centre, to fund the research, development and commercialisation of the next generation of low-carbon technologies and keep the UK at the cutting edge of low-carbon automotive innovations.

We have reached the tipping point with the ULEV market and made a strong start on the Road to Zero, but we cannot be complacent. The closer that we can work together across Government, manufacturers, innovators and industry, the quicker we can make that transformation and allow future generations to enjoy the benefits of cleaner air, low carbon emissions and a thriving low emission automotive sector.