If MPs have their way, your diesel van and petrol car’s days are numbered even sooner than planned. But is a ban by 2032 realistic?
Two years ago, we took delivery of our first electric rental vans. It was a clear sign of the future and a clear statement of intent that one day, we fully anticipate all our rental vehicles to be electric. Yet as a total percentage of the vans and cars we hire, electric vehicles make up a very small proportion. Petrol and diesel remain the dominant fuels and, under existing commitments, the chances are they would remain that way until 2040 when petrol and diesel would be banned for all cars and vans with the exception (at present) of hybrids like the Toyota Prius.
But a parliamentary business committee has recommended a significantly earlier shift to a zero emission transport infrastructure. The committee believes that the UK’s momentum regarding clean vehicles is being lost, and is urging a tighter deadline of 2032 to renew efforts to improve technology, ensure electricity supply, install charging points and ban high polluting vehicles.
Is the date realistic?
At time of writing we’re just 14 years away from the MPs’ proposed zero emission deadline. Presently, most car and van hire companies are dipping their toes in the electric market, but none are jumping in wholeheartedly because, as yet, recharging speeds, recharging points and range remain a limiting factor for most drivers.
To overcome this we need more recharging points, and that is some way off, with autocar reporting that Rachel Reeves MP, Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, said: “Our EV charging infrastructure is simply not fit for purpose. We cannot expect consumers to overcome ‘range anxiety’ and switch to electric vehicles if they cannot be confident of finding convenient, reliable points to regularly charge their cars.”
For the people who hire our cars and vans, those recharging points must amount to more than a handful of bays at the motorway services. If our hirers live in apartment blocks or in houses with on street parting, then every lamppost and every parking bay needs to become a charging point too.
More needs to be done to incentivise owners and car and van hire companies to buy low or zero emission vehicles, but as this article notes, all but 100% electric vehicles are about to see subsidies cut.
And then there’s the issue of how we generate the power for all that additional charging. Fortunately, as The Guardian notes, at least that part of the equation seems doable without the need for multiple new power stations.
Too ambitious or not ambitious enough?
As The Independent reports, The SMMT’s Mikes Hawes has called the target too much of a stretch.
“Zero emission vehicles make up just 0.6 per cent of the market meaning consumer appetite would have to grow by some 17,000 per cent in just over a decade.” He labelled the challenge “nigh on impossible” yet other sectors – from mobile phones to entertainment on demand – have demonstrated that rapid uptake can see industries change virtually overnight. With the right levers pulled, why could the same not happen in the automotive market? After all, it took no grants or government edicts for the iPhone and Netflix to become part and parcel of virtually every household.
That’s certainly the view of other countries. You might expect the traditionally forward-thinking Scandinavians to be ahead of the curve – and they are, with Norway pledging to ban petrol and diesel vehicles by 2025. But India, the third most polluting nation on earth and some 13 times larger than the UK, has pledged to have zero emission transport by 2030.
Which rather puts our own country’s objections in perspective.
We’re all for a zero emission car and van hire sector. It seems a way off at present, but the technology is improving fast. So it may well be that the MPs have their work done for them. Because if the technology continues to improve at its present rate and the infrastructure keeps pace, we won’t need to convince anyone to hire electric cars and vans – every time.