A partnership created to promote the use of low carbon vehicles and fuels will this year launch a major offensive to better educate fleets about the benefits of going green.
The Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) is celebrating its first anniversary and marked the occasion with its annual meeting. It is a partnership of industry, Government, environmental organisations and academics created to promote the shift to low carbon vehicles and fuels.
One of its board members is Roger Glenwright, head of transport at the John Lewis Partnership.
Speaking at the event, Glenwright said: 'I read a piece about the organisation in Fleet News and contacted Professor Jim Skea, director of the Policy Studies Institute and launch director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, to express my interest and he suggested I join the board. We have 63 liquefied petroleum gas-powered cars among our fleet of 820 cars so it is definitely something the Partnership is interested in – it shows good community spirit.
He continued: 'I am concerned over the future of LPG but then again the price would have to go up by an awful lot to outweigh the benefit. It will still be cost-effective but we do need to be able to see over the horizon.'
Glenwright said his work with the partnership gave it an informed view from a fleet perspective.
'This group is really moving things along – it is not just a talking shop,' he added.
Toyota managing director and LowCVP chairman Graham Smith added: 'We have representatives from Government departments such as the Department for Transport and the Department of Trade and Industry as well as vehicle manufacturers, fuel companies and other representatives from people who will encouragingly challenge what we do, such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. This is not a cosy group.
'We also have academics represented and organisations like the Carbon Trust and the Energy Saving Trust, so it is a diverse structure.'
Smith said that although the group invited differing opinion and debate on the way forward, all board members and other interested parties shared one single point of view.
'That is to map out a route forward for the UK to ensure that road transport has a sustainable future,' he said.
Before last week's AGM, the board reviewed its work plans for the coming year. One of its objectives this year is to involve the fleet sector as much as possible.
Smith said: 'I am encouraged and excited at what will happen this year. This is an issue that affects the UK as whole and beyond. We are trying to support our Government in its involvement with the EU to ensure we bring forward approaches that meet Kyoto challenges for example and do it in a way which engages consumers and is supported by industry and the environmental lobby.
'The one thing fleet operators want more than anything else is a planning horizon. They want certainty in terms of regulation, legislation, cost and product availability.
'The partnership, by bringing together all the stakeholders and by informing Government, is trying to bring some of that certainty to the UK marketplace and this has to be an advantage to fleet operators. It will mean the UK Government is not commenting in isolation to the EU but that its comments are informed by the views and opinion of commercial players and always under the steady gaze of environmental groups.'
Smith spoke about liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), whose future suffered a double blow in last year when Ford announced it was considering pulling out of the market for LPG-powered cars and news that grants to help fleets buy LPG cars had run out with five months of the financial year left (Fleet NewsNet November 13).
In December, Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown announced that the Treasury had decided that the environmental benefits of LPG did not warrant the current level of fuel duty incentive. It was confirmed that duty on LPG would gradually rise during the next three years to a level more consistent with its perceived benefits. He will announce full details in this year's Budget.
Smith said: 'LPG clearly has made a contribution and will continue to make a contribution. The Govern-ment's announcement represents progressive change. But it is also is a very good example of the kind of change that clearly is unwelcome by LPG players.
'It is that kind of short-term change that the partnership is seeking to avoid in the future by trying to encourage a view on longer-term horizons.'
He added: 'While I can't comment on the pros and cons of that particular change, it is the process that we are keen to be involved in.'
Ford of Britain chairman Roger Putnam said: 'I think in the bigger scheme of things but I can't talk on behalf of all manufacturers, LPG has been a good interim step and I think that the EU voluntary CO2 agreement is driving so many harder challenges and creating a breakthrough in new technology. Obviously we don't yet know what that breakthrough will be. It'll take a long time and will come with huge costs.
'In my opinion, diesel, and its continued development, is certainly the short to medium-term fuel that most manufacturers will follow, particularly those in Europe.' Putnam said there were many different elements on which the industry had to strike a balance.
'One element is how we match all of this to new car legislation because some of it is counter-intuitive to the objectives that vehicle efficiency has and will probably make cars heavier.
'It's a really fine balance. Also, we have to choose what technology is the right one for the short-term, medium-term and the long-term. That's why we have different working groups addressing supply chain, R&D, passenger cars, trucks and buses. Each of them are at different stages of development.'
Speaking at the AGM in London, Energy Minister Stephen Timms said this partnership was important for setting a vision and he congratulated everybody involved.
'I welcome the work on the consumer information which has been started by the passenger car group. It is often remarked by automotive companies that they only make vehicles that consumers want to buy and that performance of the CD or the number of cup holders is sometimes more importance to consumers than the car's green credentials, so this communication is a very good start.
'We do need to persuade consumers to make a green choice. The Government is very committed to the low carbon transport agenda.'
He told the audience the LowCVP was key to helping the Government meetings its targets set out in the Powering Future Vehicles strategy, the Government's 10-year green car plan launched in August last year.
It wants one in 10 cars to be 'low carbon' within the next 10 years and aims to achieve it through taxation that benefits cleaner cars, such as company car tax.
The definition of a low carbon car is one that emits less than 100g/km of CO2, or the equivalent of about 70mpg.
In February, the LowCVP will launch a revamped website for fleets wanting more information. It can be accessed at www.lowcvp.org.uk
Other companies represented on the board include Lloyds TSB autolease, RAC Foundation and BMW GB.