Electric and Hybrid Electric Cars

Part of Olympic Games: Doping – in Westminster Hall at 5:10 pm on 6th July 2016.

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Photo of Drew Hendry Drew Hendry Shadow SNP Westminster Group Leader (Transport) 5:10 pm, 6th July 2016

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mr Turner. I congratulate Neil Parish on bringing this important subject for debate today. I agree with a lot of what he said. This is an opportunity for us for the future. I also reflect his ambition to see electric cars going up dualled carriageways. In my constituency, I am delighted that the Scottish Government are investing in dualling the A9, and I am looking forward to seeing electric cars on it soon. He is also right about the contribution of clean air and carbon reduction and mitigation effects. He is also right to call for faster action. There is an imperative to move more quickly to ensure that more people can take advantage.

My hon. Friend Alan Brown talked about the impact of energy policy on the ability to use these vehicles, which I will come to. He was right to point out that Scotland has 15% of UK rapid chargers. We are punching above our weight, as he said. He made an important point about ensuring that there is some maintenance regulation. The safety of people working on these vehicles—the kind of voltages that these vehicles carry have the potential to kill instantly—must be a priority going forward.

The hon. Members for Taunton Deane (Rebecca Pow) and for Strangford (Jim Shannon) rightly talked about infrastructure being vital. If we are to encourage the use of such vehicles, we have to see infrastructure coming forward. James Heappey was absolutely correct that the journey is not only for electric vehicles; alternative fuels will be involved, and I will touch on that if I have a moment or two. I do think, however, that it is a bit of a stretch of the imagination to ask the UK Government to come up with a plan for these things.

The Scottish Government have an ambitious climate change target that includes phasing out all petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles by 2050, although I am sure we will continue to see classic car events to look at the history. The electric vehicle road map, “Switched On Scotland”, which was published in 2013, sets out the Scottish Government’s ambitious vision to free Scotland’s towns, cities and communities from the damaging emissions of petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles by 2050. This year has already seen the introduction of more than 200 electric vehicles across Scottish local authorities.

To support the delivery of that vision, the Scottish Government have invested more than £11 million since 2011 in the development of ChargePlace Scotland—a network of more than 900 publicly available electric vehicle charging bays. We are also supporting electric vehicle uptake through our “Switched On Fleets” initiative, which offers free, evidence-based analysis of public sector fleets, in turn identifying new opportunities for the cost-effective deployment of electric vehicles. A total of £2.5 million of grant funding is being offered to each of the 32 community planning partnerships between 2014 and 2016 to help them to buy or lease electric vehicles. Through that scheme, we expect to introduce more than 250 new electric vehicles into the public sector fleet, reducing fuel use and emissions in the process.

The “Switched On Scotland” road map focuses specifically on battery electric vehicles and plug-in hybrid vehicles, which are collectively referred to as plug-in vehicles. Electric vehicles have a positive impact on health, wellbeing and the environment. They can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve local air quality and reduce noise pollution. In Scotland, a third of all car journeys are less than two miles long, and nearly a quarter of all trips are one mile or less. Regular cars making those journeys emit a disproportionate amount of carbon into the air, whereas electric vehicles provide a cleaner method of transport.

I do not have time to go into all the issues, but I want to point out that the Scottish Government have been a key funding partner, along with the European Union, in the Aberdeen hydrogen project, which has seen Europe’s largest fleet of hydrogen-powered buses entering service on two routes in the city. As has been mentioned, we fully intend to reflect Scotland’s overwhelming democratic vote and retain our EU status, and we look forward to continuing that into the future.

Electric vehicles require power to run them, and the Scottish Government have done an incredible amount of work to ensure that renewable energy powers 100% of our energy use by 2020.