Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) (VTAB 19)

The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA), would like to thank the Public Bill Committee on the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill for the opportunity to provide written evidence in response to the bill. PRA requests that the following submission is considered during the review process as reflective of PRA member views.

Overview

PRA is a trade association representing independent forecourt retailers across the UK, with a membership totalling over 70% of all Petrol Filling Stations (PFS). The association sits within the Retail Motor Industry Federation (RMI).

PRA members range from small rural PFS facilities to larger convenience retail outlets and Motorway Service Areas (MSA). These include the majority of MSA operators, such as Welcome Break, Euro Garages, Rontec, Westmorland and MRH. Additionally, PRA represents the interests of 90% of the Top 50 Independent forecourt owners/operators.

Due to the importance of the consultation subject matter, the PRA has consulted its Executive Committee; Technical Committee and several members who are potentially affected. Those consulted include businesses operating across each of the UK’s devolved nations.

PRA members are keen to invest in commercially viable alternative fuel provisions, such as electric charge points. PRA works closely with members to ensure that the fuel network remains proactive and develops in support of market trends.

The PRA’s position

1.1 It is universally accepted that any form of Electric Vehicle (EV) technology is in its infancy and has a long way to go yet before it can become a practical alternative to either petrol or diesel vehicles. Therefore, to make any decision to impose EV upon the independent fuel retailing sector would be illogical, penalising small and medium-sized businesses for no just reason. As has already been acknowledged in the second reading of this bill, comparisons can be made with VHS/Betamax dilemma. Therefore, it should be market forces, not government intervention, which directs the development of EV. PRA would encourage the government to be wary of placing too much risk on the industry.

1.2 With regards to Electric Vehicle charging, the Government should insist upon a standardised charging system, to make future development for motorists and retailers as simple as possible. In addition to points made by SMMT’s David Wong during the committee’s first sitting, which focused on making it as easy for the consumer to charge an electric vehicle as possible, we would like to stress the burden it would place on PFS.

1.3 At this point, there should be no plans to mandate the installation of EV charging points for PFS. Some of our members have been quoted a price of nearly £30,000 to purchase and install a Rapid Electric Vehicle Chare Point. To provide some context, the average single site PFS generates an annual profit of between £50,000-£100,000. In October 2016, one PRA member was forced by planning conditions to install an EV charging point. The installation cost alone was approximately £2,000, however the charging point is still yet to be used at all. This is just one example of the considerably large outlay installing EV charging equipment not yielding an adequate Return on Investment. PRA members have made it abundantly clear that there is not yet enough demand to justify investing in EV charging equipment. Until there is sufficient demand to justify the installation of this equipment, the Government should not force the installation of EV charging points upon PFS. The development of alternative fuel sources should be driven by market forces rather than Government regulation.

1.4 The focus of the bill should be pointed towards greater Research & Development of alternative fuels so that we have a clearer indication of what technologies the UK will ultimately adopt. This will alleviate the costs on PFS and ensure a smoother transition from petrol/diesel to electric. With the assumption that certain technologies will develop faster and become more popular than others, it would be completely irrational for petrol retailers to invest in providing access to a variety of charging points knowing that much of the equipment will be unused and ultimately become a drain on their business.

1.5 If the Government is intent on expanding the UK’s EV charging point network, it must ensure that PFS are significantly subsidised for the purchase of and installation of the equipment, as this is the only way many PFS could provide this service whilst remaining commercially viable.

March 2017

 

Prepared 23rd March 2017