Fleet News

Norris calls for gas incentives

FORMER transport minister Steven Norris has called for more incentives to persuade fleets to switch to gas-powered vehicles as a poll of public sector fleet managers showed they would not be prepared to make a major investment in LPG.

Speaking at the FNVH Agenda for Action conference last week, Norris accused the Government of being 'fixated' with the development of hydrogen fuel cells, which will not be ready for widescale use for at least 10 years, and failing to make a clear commitment to alternative fuels in the interim.

Norris said: 'Fleets need certainty on alternative fuels. If they have absolute certainty the current lack of infrastructure would be less of a problem. In a municipal environment you can manage the installation of gas much more readily. The Government needs to make a real long-term commitment to alternative fuels and not make changes each year in the Budget.'

Delegates also pointed out that LPG vehicles make the best financial sense when covering high mileage, and that many local authority vehicles would never reach the mileage break-even point.

Earlier this year a consultation document on the future of the TransportAction PowerShift Programme, proposed cuts to grants for LPG conversions for cars and suggested a shift of emphasis to increase the number of gas-powered vans. But Norris said the PowerShift programme needed to be expanded: 'PowerShift needs to be a much bigger programme. We seem to be in the position of wanting it to succeed, but not to be too successful. There needs to be a clear price incentive in choosing LPG over petrol. It might involve raising the price of traditional fuels or removing the VAT from LPG.

'I'm not going to say that fuel prices should go up because there are widespread concerns over fuel duty, but I think there is evidence that the overall cost of motoring has come down in the last 10 years.'

A poll of fleet managers at the event asked if they would consider converting their whole fleet to LPG, only 25% were open to the idea, while 55% said they would rule it out.

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