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Motor manufacturers unite to promote low emission vehicle benefits

Motor manufacturers unite to promote low emission vehicle benefits

Motor manufacturers joined forces to promote the benefits of low emission vehicles with the largest display of alternatively fuelled vehicles demonstrating the range and diversity of cars and vans available.

Set against the backdrop of London’s Tower Bridge, 26 vehicles from 16 different brands underlined the diversity and appeal of alternatively fuelled vehicles now on sale across the UK.  

However, David Bushnell, product manager mobility at vehicle leasing and fleet management company Alphabet, said “inconsistent government tax policy” was penalising not rewarding company car drivers switching to electric vehicles.  

He called for incentives for alternative, ‘greener’ forms of travel to be a major government priority and urged more clarity from Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond in Wednesday’s (8 march) Budget.  

Mr Bushnell said: “We’ve heard talk from the government about the urgent need to clean up the air in a number of UK cities and the London Mayor has looked to enforce stricter measures to get high-polluting vehicles off the city’s roads with his £10 ‘toxicity charge’ on the most polluting vehicles, mainly diesel and petrol registered before 2006, but the move towards ‘greener’ travel needs positive incentives for company car drivers that switch to electric vehicles.  

“The problem we have is that electric vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles risk being thwarted by inconsistent government tax policy that penalise instead of rewarding motorists moving to alternative, greener vehicles, as well as an ongoing lag in the development of our charging infrastructure together with a published Advisory Fuel Rate that recognises electricity as a fuel for transport.”  

Furthermore, Mr Bushnell suggested that cuts in company car tax from April 2020 could delay the wider adoption of ultra-low emission vehicles before that date and added: “The government needs to use taxation as a means of incentivising electric vehicles and ultra-low emission vehicles rather than simply focusing their policy of cleaning up UK air quality through punitive measures and maximising company car tax revenues.”

There are currently some 83 different alternatively fuelled cars and vans available to British buyers, designed to suit all lifestyles and driving needs - from hybrids to plug-in hybrids, fully electric and hydrogen powered vehicles; and from city run-arounds to SUVs, saloons, and sports cars, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturer and Traders (SMMT).  

Alternatively fuelled car registrations have grown more than threefold over the past five years, and in January this year they recorded their highest ever market share at 4.2%.   

The UK is currently the European Union’s biggest market for plug-in electric cars, with 36,917 registered in 2016.    Growth has been rapid but market penetration still remains at a relatively low level considering around 2.7 million new cars were registered last year, said the SMMT.

According to a new YouGov survey commissioned by SMMT, UK adults would be more likely to buy an electric car for reasons including low running costs (51%), cheap or zero car tax (46%) and purchase incentives such as the government’s plug-in car grant (36%).  

But the survey also found that just 13% of those in the market for a new car said the next vehicle they buy is most likely to be alternatively fuelled.  

The most common reasons not to choose an electric vehicle were linked to charging and financial outlay, with 48% worried they wouldn’t be able to find an available, working and compatible charge point; and 41% stating they were put off by higher than average purchase prices.  

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “Thanks to massive investment by vehicle manufacturers, British car buyers have never enjoyed so much choice. However, our survey highlights the need for ongoing government support for this new market. We want to encourage more people to switch to ultra-low emission vehicles in meaningful numbers but more must be done to boost buyer confidence. A consistent approach to incentives - fiscal and otherwise - and, most importantly, greater investment in the charging network is essential if we are to grow this emerging market.”

Transport Minister John Hayes said, “Alternatively fuelled vehicles help clean up our environment and save motorists money in day-to-day running costs. 

“We are working with determination to get more people switching to low emission vehicles. Our Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill, will make sure the right infrastructure - such as electric charge points and hydrogen refuelling stations - is in place for this growing market.  

“We’ve committed more than £2 billion since 2011 to increase electric vehicle uptake and support greener transport schemes. This includes £290 million, announced in the Autumn Statement, to support electric vehicles, low emission buses and taxis, and alternative fuels.”