Fleet News

Closer ties needed for green car development

THE car of the future will remain on the drawing board unless manufacturers and the Government develop much closer ties, leading experts have claimed.

Britain is struggling to overcome the first hurdle of creating cleaner transport as fleets and the general public shy away from alternatively-fuelled vehicles, such as liquefied petroleum gas-powered cars.

To those with direct involvement with the technology, it seems clear there is an environmental and financial benefit to these fuels.

Drivers who opt for cleaner fuelled cars are offered cuts in their company car tax bills, massively reduced fuel bills and, in London, the cleanest vehicles are offered a 100% discount from the £5-a-day levy being introduced in February.

However, relatively few fleets have even taken this first step, with about 25,000 gas-powered vehicles on the road, a long way short of the Government's future target of 250,000.

Professor Jim Skea, director of the Policy Studies Institute and launch director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, created as part of the Government's Powering Future Vehicles strategy, believes in closer ties between ministers and manufacturers.

He told a recent RAC conference 'Motoring Towards 2050' that a targeted programme of financial incentives to move to alternative fuels was vital.

'We have already seen that tax and fiscal measures can promote a rapid switch, such as the move from leaded to unleaded petrol. Government and manufacturers need to work together to persuade people to take this technology on. There needs to be a greater degree of co-ordination between what the Government does and what the manufacturers do.

'Collaboration is needed for the LPG network and much more is needed if we are to develop a hydrogen refuelling network in the future.'

The Government can point to organisations such as TransportAction PowerShift as proof that it is serious about alternative fuels. PowerShift provides grants towards the extra cost of buying or leasing alternatively-fuelled vehicles.

But it has only just committed £1 million to developing the nation's LPG refuelling infrastructure, which currently stands at 1,200 stations. This sum will mainly be aimed at rural areas, but that is missing the most important market, argues Skea.

He said: 'A lot of cars are bought by fleets and they look at the economics of new technology very closely. A critical area is depreciation and knowing the vehicle has demand in the second-hand market is critical in persuading fleets to enter the market in the first place.

'Government and manufacturers need to build this demand if they are to encourage the mass market potential of these vehicles.'

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