Ultra Low Emissions Vehicles

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 4:52 pm on 1st February 2017.

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Photo of James Heappey James Heappey Conservative, Wells 4:52 pm, 1st February 2017

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Moon. I echo the words of my hon. Friend Rebecca Pow in congratulating my hon. Friend Andrew Selous on securing the debate.

I agree with all that has been said about the need to promote ultra low emissions vehicles. It is clear that we have to do so to meet the carbon targets that we have committed to and because air quality is increasingly featuring in the public conscience. Court cases about air quality may force the Government’s hand more quickly than the requirement to meet our carbon plans.

Our plans to reduce transport emissions by 2020 are already quite challenging. The Energy and Climate Change Committee, on which I previously served, produced a report that looked at how the Government are progressing towards meeting those targets. It was apparent that hitting the targets we set for 2020 will be very difficult indeed. The transition to biofuels will help, of course, but there are real challenges to achieving that transition, given the capability of some of the cars currently on the road. Obviously the quickest way to meet those targets, both for 2020 and beyond, is to adopt ultra low emissions vehicles.

The technology is hugely exciting. When the Select Committee visited California just before we finished compiling our last report, we visited Tesla. Seeing the vehicles there, I came to understand that they are no longer golf carts or milk floats; they are proper cars that will really excite people the world over and will achieve significant saturation, even if the market is left to its own devices. A small plug: I am delighted that Tesla is going to come and speak to the all-party parliamentary group for Globe UK, which I chair, in a few weeks’ time to explain its vision to colleagues in Parliament. Of course, other manufacturers are doing great things, too—it is not just Tesla—but I have seen that factory, and what it is doing really is very impressive.

The argument for such cars is compelling. They are not milk floats. They have all the gadgets and oomph—I think that is the technical term—that cars need to turn the heads of proper petrolheads. They are also amazingly cheap to run. Of course, they now accelerate like proper cars and have all the gadgets inside like proper cars, but it is the fact that they can run for hundreds and hundreds of miles for pence that makes the real difference.

I agree with colleagues that the existence of a second-hand market is important. As my hon. Friend the Member for Taunton Deane rightly said, the Government should focus their attention on really screwing down on the fleets to ensure that they are aggressively encouraged to become ULEV fleets as quickly as possible. Vehicles are invariably in fleet service for only a very short time—a year or two—and it is those vehicles that filter through to the second-hand market most quickly.

The Government need to address three barriers to the roll-out of electric vehicles, which the Minister has heard me talk about previously. First, we need to get the charging network right. The challenge is not the charging network at service stations on motorways and trunk routes, because service stations all over the country now have electric charging points. Nor is it the charging network on driveways at people’s homes, because the Government’s excellent grant scheme ensures that when someone buys an electric vehicle they can install a charging point on their private land. It is residential curbside charging, particularly in areas of high population density. If someone goes out in any direction from here, it will not be long before they find high concentrations of people living with no private parking. Having a curbside charging network—probably buried in the curb stone—would be an extraordinary infrastructure project.