108.Local management of current pollution hotspots may address the immediate problem of non-compliance in the short term. However, a longer term holistic strategy encouraging the uptake of clean technologies and removing the most polluting vehicles is needed to ensure sustainable air quality benefits accrue on a national level. Ambitious targets, clear milestones, and detailed planning are required to ensure the UK has cleaner vehicles on its roads as soon as possible.
109.Three key proposals in the 2017 plan addressed the longer term adoption of clean vehicles, namely the pledge to end the sale of new conventional cars and vans by 2040; support for Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs); and a targeted vehicle scrappage scheme.
110.The 2017 plan confirmed the Government’s intention to end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040. This objective was criticised by some for its timidity. Policy Connect said the pledge lacked ambition and was too distant to encourage earlier and more widespread adoption of ULEVs. The Local Government Association also said the ban was too far in the future to drive the behaviour changes needed to protect public health. Greenpeace told us that Norway had set a target of selling only zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and that the Netherlands had confirmed plans to prohibit diesel and petrol vehicles from 2030. India and China were also reportedly considering bans on conventional petrol and diesel vehicles. The Scottish Government has pledged to phase out new petrol and diesel cars and vans across Scotland by 2032, eight years ahead of the UK Government target. Greenpeace called for a ban on new petrol and diesel car sales to be implemented from 2030.
111.Industry bodies maintained that the motor sector needs clarity and time to adjust to new policies. The SMMT said the Government should qualify its definition of ‘conventional vehicle’ and clarify whether this will include hybrid vehicles. Some firms however said however that they were pressing ahead. We heard that Volvo recently announced all new models would be electric or hybrid from 2019. Uber said its target was for all vehicles using its app to be electric by 2028. ABB Ltd expected that “the market will beat the Government to its 2040 ambition, but without clear Government action to support the private sector this won’t happen as quickly as it should”. This evidence indicates the UK Government’s target lacks ambition, and the UK risks falling behind in competitiveness when other countries are pressing ahead.
112.The Under-Secretary of State for Transport Jesse Norman said the Government wanted to “see an end to the sale of new conventional cars by 2040” and noted it “might happen faster than that, because we are seeing radical changes already in the market in the transition towards electric”.
113.There is insufficient urgency in current policies to accelerate vehicle fleet renewal. Whilst we welcome the Government’s commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, this target lacks sufficient ambition. It is too distant to produce a step-change in industry and local government planning, and falls far behind similar commitments from other countries. The Minister believed the UK could phase out conventional cars before 2040, and this ambition should be reflected in the Government’s policy targets.
114.The Government should bring forward the date by which the sale of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles will be ended. The Government should conduct a feasibility assessment to determine the earliest date by which this could be achieved, balancing the health impacts of air pollution with economic and practical considerations. We expect the Government to then require manufacturers to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by this earlier date. The Government should inform us of the outcome of its assessments in response to this Report.
115.The 2017 plan highlighted the Government’s desire to become a “world leader in low emission transport”. In addition to meeting carbon reduction targets, the switch to electric vehicles is expected to improve roadside air quality, as fully electric vehicles have no tailpipe emissions and plug-in hybrid vehicles have no tailpipe emissions if they are in electric mode. Concerns remain however over particulate matter generated by tyre and brake wear.
116.In 2013, the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) outlined its target to make “every new car an ULEV from 2040 and an effectively decarbonised fleet by 2050”. Whilst the uptake of electric vehicles is increasing, the overall proportion remains small. In 2016 only 0.4% of new cars were pure electric, and 1% partial electric, while 4% new buses in the UK were totally electric. Factors contributing to the slow take-up of electric vehicles include consumer concerns over charging, range anxiety, and cost, as well as manufacturing volumes and market incentives.
117.In the Autumn Budget 2017, the Chancellor committed to ‘electrify 25% of cars in central government department fleets by 2022’. The Ministry of Justice has just two electric vehicles in its 1,482 vehicle fleet. Defra also has just two electric vehicles in its fleet. The Government should set out a procurement route map to show how it will achieve this target in the Budget, and extend this commitment to cover the fleets of all departments, agencies and public bodies.
118.Our evidence was clear the Government is not doing enough to address the inadequate provision of charging infrastructure. Key criticisms included:
119.We put it to Ministers that the current speed of infrastructure roll-out was inadequate, and that the UK was unlikely to meet the Committee on Climate Change’s target of 9% ULEV by 2020 and 60% by 2030 without substantial additional impetus. The Under-Secretary for Transport Jesse Norman told us “I don’t think there is any reason for concern”, and said it was “not impossible” to see an increase of electric vehicle purchases that would take the proportion from below its current level of under 1% to between 3% and 7% by 2020. Mr Norman maintained the UK “will be on track to hit the 2030 targets”, despite being unlikely to meet the 9% targets for 2020. He added there was “a lot of uncertainty” in the forecasting figures.
120.We welcome the Government’s optimism that ULEV targets will be met. This now needs to be translated into concrete action. The current pace of change is far too slow and we have no confidence that there will be adequate infrastructure to support the UK’s rapid transition away from polluting vehicles without substantial efforts from both central Government and local authorities. The Government should work with National Grid and local authorities to identify the key practical barriers preventing a more rapid roll-out of charging infrastructure, and provide details and timescales of how these will be overcome in response to this Report. Local authorities also need to be clear that they should be facilitating the switch to ULEVS as far as possible. This should be clearly communicated to residents and planning committees.
121.We are not convinced that the existing framework for delivering charging infrastructure adequately addresses strategic priorities. The DfT should work with Defra and the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government to ensure that charging infrastructure addresses strategic needs and prioritises air quality hotspots. A technology-neutral approach must be maintained whilst ensuring these systems are future-proofed and capable of handling increases in usage and larger battery sizes.
122.Increased ULEV uptake will place greater demands on electricity generation. It is therefore important that measures to encourage the purchase of electric vehicles do not simply shift harmful emissions from the tailpipe to power production. We heard that careful co-ordination between clean energy, economic development, and air quality strategies was needed to ensure that measures to improve urban NO2 hotspots do not result in overall increases in national emissions. It is important that the switch to electric vehicles does not simply move emissions from the tailpipe to power plants. The Government should produce a detailed roadmap outlining how the predicted increase in energy consumption arising from greater ULEV uptake will be produced using clean sources, and the concrete steps needed to ensure these goals are met.
123.The 2017 plan identified a vehicle scrappage scheme as one potential option to remove polluting vehicles from the road. Defra launched a new consultation for a national vehicle scrappage scheme in November 2017. The 2017 plan estimated the cost of a scrappage scheme at £110 million, delivering a 0.4kt NOx reduction over ten years.
124.A scrappage scheme could be designed in many ways. ClientEarth recommended a diesel scrappage scheme that would complement Clean Air Zones and target people on low-incomes and small businesses. The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) highlighted the possibility of a system of mobility credits, under which drivers could be offered credits payable on public transport, car rental or car if they gave up older, more polluting diesel cars. The Mayor of London told us a scrappage scheme should target vehicles owned by the poorest families and businesses operating vans. Over 20 scrappages schemes are available through private industry.
125.A 2016 Defra evidence review found that, whilst many scrappage schemes elsewhere have been successful in reducing emissions, other schemes have failed or generated counterproductive results. Some industry bodies questioned whether there is currently sufficient evidence to determine that a Government-led scrappage scheme would achieve the desired results at a reasonable cost. The SMMT said a scrappage scheme would not offer good value for money and would not be effective in guaranteeing air quality benefits. Greener Journeys concluded that bus retrofitting would provide better value than car scrappage per kilogram of NOx reduction.
126.The Under-Secretary for Transport Jesse Norman also cautioned that scrappage schemes were “not a panacea”. He maintained the Government needed to be “careful and sensitive” about concerns over cost, targeting, fraud. Mr Norman further highlighted the issue of social justice, saying that “the worst vehicles are older and owned by people on limited incomes” whereas it was often the ‘energised middle class’ that would benefit from scrappage schemes.
127.The current rate of renewal of the UK fleet means it will be many years before ultra-low emission vehicles replace all of the most polluting vehicle types. A national scrappage scheme could speed up this process considerably. Any scrappage scheme must include provisions to support low-income drivers and small businesses. The Government should focus on reducing vehicle use and encouraging public transport use where practical, rather than simply switching to alternative vehicle types. Therefore any scrappage scheme must be accompanied by a suite of additional measures and not implemented in isolation.
128.Defra must publish its analysis of the scrappage consultation responses as soon as possible. It should provide details of the fiscal measures it would take to fund any scrappage proposals and the value for money this represents. The Government should also work closely with private scrappage providers to ensure that existing schemes do more to target support at low-income households and small businesses.
233 National Centre for Atmospheric Science () para 49, ClientEarth ()
234 Policy Connect () para 20
235 Local Government Association () para 4.6
236 Greenpeace () para 7.1
237 Scottish Government, , Chapter 1
238 Greenpeace ()
239 SMMT () para 14
240 Friends of the Earth (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) () para 3.2
241 Uber UK ()
242 ABB Ltd () section 2
244 Defra, , July 2017, para 32
245 Office for Low Emission Vehicles ()
246 National Centre for Atmospheric Science ()
247 Office for Low Emission Vehicles, , September 2013, p.11
248 Department for Transport,
249 Greenpeace UK ()
250 Department for Transport, , p.7, Zero Carbon Futures (), RAC ()
251 Autumn Budget 2017, paragraph 4.15
252 , Third Report of the Environmental Audit Committee, HC 545, para 13
253 Defra, , No. 115978
254 Energy Saving Trust (), ABB Ltd (), Addison Lee ()
255 Birmingham City Council (), Institute of Air Quality Management (), Zero Carbon Futures ()
256 The Times, , 24 September 2016
257 City of Cardiff Council ()
258 Committee on Climate Change, , p.130
259 Gov.uk, , January 2017
264 National Centre for Atmospheric Science ()
265 Defra, , July 2017
266 Defra, , July 2017
267 ClientEarth ()
268 British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) ()
270 For an overview see RAC, , September 2017
271 Defra, , May 2016
272 SMMT ()
273 Greener Journeys ()
Published: 15 March 2018