Though there are a number of laudable commitments in the Plan, there is a continuation of this government’s theme to provide broad-brush messages in nicely formatted documents, pushing the detail into future documents: the plan comes with 79 commitments, consultations and deliverables with most detail to be determined.

Having said that, there are some bones of a plan in the “Transitioning to zero emission cars and vans: 2035 delivery plan” and many consultations were released alongside the plan yesterday. If all of these consultations are followed up on/released then it could put the UK in a very strong position to decarbonise our vehicles (leaving aside aviation and marine transport), but time is of the essence and more delay will not be welcomed by anyone in the transport or environment sectors.

Olly Frankland, project manager and resident EV expert at Regen, provides his take on the Plan and the level of ambition. 

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Below we highlight some of the key points in the Plan and opportunities for influence.

Heavy Goods Vehicles 

“We are consulting on ending the sale of new non-zero emission HGVs by 2035, for vehicles 26 tonnes and under, and 2040, for vehicles over 26 tonnes. We are proposing two different dates to encourage the faster uptake of zero emission technology in smaller vehicles, where this product is already reaching the market.”

The headline is the phase out of petrol and diesel HGVs (above 3.5t) sales by 2040, with an earlier date of 2035 for 3.5-26t HGVs, subject to consultation. The proposed target comes alongside an overarching commitment to “phase out all new non zero emission road vehicles, from motorbikes to HGVs, by 2040”. This is an ambitious set of target dates as there is currently a lack of charging infrastructure to deal with the added demands of an electrified HGV fleet, as well as uncertainty on the role of hydrogen vs electrification to fuel larger HGVs – the plan leaves any decisions to the upcoming Hydrogen Strategy.

The government is also consulting on a phase out date for the sale of non-zero emissions coaches, as well as the target for buses which had already been announced.

Smart charging

“We will regulate later this year to ensure charging infrastructure is smart, to help delay or reduce the need for new electricity generation or network infrastructure investment, reducing costs for all bill payers.”

Crucial for allowing the electricity system to benefit from the flexibility EVs can offer, the government has published the smart charging consultation response, committing to laying legislation later this year to ensure that all new private EV charge points meet smart charging standards. The Plan also points towards the upcoming Smart Systems and Flexibility Plan as an opportunity to implement reforms needed to secure flexibility from EVs.

We will be looking in more detail at the government’s response to the consultation and assessing its impact shortly, and we will provide an update on the content of the Smart Systems Plan upon its much-anticipated release.

New carbon regulatory requirements for road vehicles

“A green paper on our new road vehicle CO2 emissions regulatory framework, which will be ambitious in decarbonising road transport and tailored to the UK’s needs. This could include a zero-emission mandate for manufacturers, so they sell an ever-increasing proportion of zero emission vehicles.”

One of the strong policy levers that government can use to increase EV uptake is the carbon regulatory requirements for new road vehicles. This policy has been implemented using the existing EU version that applied before Brexit and sets a fleet-wide average emissions target (gCO2/km) for manufacturers and fines for non-compliance. This needs to be strengthened given the new 2030 phase out date for petrol/diesel cars and vans, as well as HGVs. This “green paper” is a consultation on the options available and is a very welcome addition to accelerating the EV transition, ahead of the previous levels of ambition in the EU.

Local support 

“Leadership and climate action at a local level is also crucial. The vast majority of all transport journeys are local. We will continue to collaborate with local authorities and other regional bodies to identify and support local solutions across the UK.” 

“We will better coordinate local transport funding by engaging local areas about their investment priorities in the round, achieving key objectives such as decarbonisation through better strategic planning and more joined up infrastructure projects.”

The Plan’s recognition of the role of local government and ‘place-based solutions’ in developing a low carbon transport system, and the proposal for more ‘joined up’ thinking, is a particular positive – something we called for in our local leadership paper. Local authorities are well-placed to deliver strategic decarbonisation of the transport system, but support from central government is needed to enable this role, and a more whole system approach will prevent local authorities from having to reinvent the wheel.

There is specific recognition of the role of local authorities in accelerating the roll-out of charging infrastructure, with a suite of commitments to provide support for this role, including the publication of an EV infrastructure guide, an information support pack provided to all UK local authority CEOs and a series of webinars to support the sharing of best practice and expertise.

 We recently held a forum with local authorities to explore their role in accelerating the EV transition – watch the recording of the event here

Shifting transport habits

It’s not about stopping people doing things: it’s about doing the same things differently. We will still fly on holiday, but in more efficient aircraft, using sustainable fuel. We will still drive on improved roads, but increasingly in zero emission cars. We will still have new development, but it won’t force us into high-carbon lifestyles”

The government’s focus is clearly on accelerating the uptake of EVs – and continuing new road developments on the assumption that vehicles will be zero carbon. But, as we set out in our EV paper, to fully harness the EV opportunity, infrastructure investment and measures to manage vehicle charging ought to promote, and not displace, other low cost and low emission alternatives.

 2035 delivery plan

The Plan does tentatively propose steps to shift transport habits, mainly to increase the uptake of public transport and active travel to reduce road vehicle traffic. This includes a “new aim that half of all journeys in towns and cities will be cycled or walked by 2030”, a new funding body and inspectorate “Active Travel England”, and working closely with MHCLG in upcoming planning reforms.

Published alongside the wider Plan, the ‘2035 delivery plan’ sets out a pathway and timeline for achieving the government’s commitment last year that all new cars and vans will be zero emissions at the tailpipe by 2035. It is the closest we’ve seen to an actual delivery plan, and does set out some key dates and a roadmap.

  • “We will publish an Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Strategy in 2021”. Many of the commitments around charging and infrastructure are repetitions of previous commitments. Yet another strategy is due to give further detail – apparently this year.
  • There is broad acknowledgment of the difficulties of connection costs for EV charge points and commitments from Ofgem to improve this through network charging – see our response to the Forward Looking and Access minded-to decision which we’ll be responding to.
  • Ofgem will publish an EV Action Plan this year which will look at consumer issues with the EV rollout and Ofgem’s role in supporting EV uptake.
  • Batteries are mentioned a few times, with commitments to improve recycling and reuse, publish a legal framework for domestic batteries, and improve the reliance and resourcing of raw mineral supply.

 

We will be working on the areas outlined above, in particular looking at smart charging, infrastructure and role of local actors in transport, and will provide more detailed analysis of the 2035 roadmap, the smart charging consultation, the CO2 emissions regulatory framework. 

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