Gerry Keaney, chief executive, BVRLA
Car-making is one of the few bright spots of this country’s manufacturing sector.
The Government is desperate for the UK to become a ‘centre of excellence’ for hi-tech, ultra-low emission vehicle (ULEV) technology and this strategy was vindicated when Nissan chose the North-East as the European location for building its plug-in Leaf, the world’s best-selling electric car.
Unfortunately, this success story has only one chapter at present.
Most of the metal rolling off the Sunderland production line is being shipped to Norway or France, while many of the Leafs that do stay in this country end up drifting around dealer forecourts or acting as solitary PR pool cars for image-conscious companies.
The Government earmarked £400 million between 2010 and 2015 to help stimulate the development of the ULEV market, but has struggled to spend it.
The Office for Low Emission Vehicles’ (OLEV) current mix of incentives, which focuses on stand-alone, up-front subsidies for vehicles and charging points, has met with very limited success.
Thankfully, OLEV has been given a further £500m and five more years to come up with a more effective strategy.
It is vital that this Plan B includes the fleet industry.
We recently assembled a group of BVRLA members, who between them owned and operated more than 600 plug-in vehicles, along with a representative from ACFO, to provide OLEV with a fleet-focused plan of action.
They told OLEV more fleet training and information campaigns were needed to correct many of the misconceptions around EVs.
The group also asked the Government to encourage manufacturers to offer more support to ULEV early adopters and ensure a healthy second-hand market.
Finally, they outlined consumer incentives and fiscal measures that would attract people and organisations to plug-in cars and vans.
OLEV is in listening mode and we hope it will include these suggestions when it presents its proposal to ministers.
Fleet take-up of ULEVs will be a marathon, not a sprint, but if the Government fails to create the right policy and tax environment for manufacturers and consumers, we will never reach the finishing line.