Following the PM’s announcement of the much-anticipated move to bring forwards the ban on new diesel and petrol cars, Natalie Middleton asks the experts on the impact to fleets.

Providing a stringent call to action to the fleet sector, the PM confirmed late-2020 that sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned by 2030.

It’s a major fast-track of the previous 2040 date and follows a public consultation in summer 2020 that also included potentially banning hybrids from the same date. But Johnson has set out that the sale of hybrid cars and vans “that can drive a significant distance with no carbon coming out of the tailpipe” will be allowed until 2035 – the Department for Transport later clarified that hybrids could mean both plug-in hybrids and full hybrids, and this will be defined through consultation.

The reaction has been mixed. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) cautiously greeted the initial announcement, in particular the Government’s acceptance of “the importance of hybrid transition technologies” – the trade body had previously warned of the devastating effects of a 2030 ban on hybrids – and the investment in EV manufacturing capability.

But chief executive Mike Hawes said: “Success will depend on reassuring consumers that they can afford these new technologies, that they will deliver their mobility needs and, critically, that they can recharge as easily as they refuel. For that, we look to others to step up and match our commitment.”

The BVRLA also welcomed the phased approach on ending the sale of petrol and diesel car and vans – it had said earlier in 2020 that a single date would be a mistake. But as with the SMMT, the BVRLA stated that setting dates is only the start of the process as it warned of the differing impacts on its members. Chief executive Gerry Keaney added: “2030 is an extremely aggressive phase-out target, but one that will be embraced by many drivers and fleet operators.”

However, it did welcome the 2035 extension for plug-in and full hybrids, which it said provides “an essential lifeline”.

“Success will depend on reassuring consumers that they can recharge as easily as they refuel”

Mike Hawes Chief executive, SMMT

Charging is one of three main areas that the Government needs to work on, according to the BVRLA
“Moving to an electric vehicle can be daunting for drivers, so companies need to design a policy that helps to inform employee choice and remove the perceived barriers.”

Alan Bastey Customer relationship director and EV specialist, Zenith

The BVRLA also highlighted three support areas that the Government must focus on: a set of powerful tax incentives and grants that will drive demand across all segments of the UK fleet and retail automotive market; work to ensure that the UK remains an attractive market for OEMs to sell their products; and finally implementing a comprehensive strategy on charging infrastructure.

The Association of Fleet Professionals (AFP) also warned that much more detail is needed on the Government’s support programme for its plans but said the actual announcement should concentrate the minds of those involved in fleet decision-making.

AFP chair Paul Hollick said: “The deadline is only two to three replacement cycles away for most businesses and managers need to have a structured plan covering how to get there from here. Of course, the support that the Government intends to offer over the whole of the transition period needs to be spelt out in explicit terms, from the future of Benefit-in-Kind taxation to vehicle subsidies. However, probably the single biggest issue that needs tackling is recharging infrastructure.”

Hollick also stressed the AFP’s commitment as an organisation to zero emissions as a target.

He continued: “We have been preparing training, tools and guides to help fleets through the process of EV adoption for some years and already had plans in place to accelerate this support in 2021. A number of our members have already adopted non-petrol and diesel purchasing policies, and these individuals especially are a valuable source of expertise.”

Many fleet management and leasing firms are also lending their support, not just to the news, but also to help fleets now pressing ahead with the transition to EVs.

Zenith, for example, said the confirmation will help businesses focus on their future mobility requirements and pointed out that demand for battery electric vehicles (BEVs) continues to grow in passenger cars. BEVs currently account for around a third of its new car orders, supported by growing choice, improved affordability and availability.

But Alan Bastey, customer relationship director and EV specialist at Zenith, said all within the industry have a role to play to help fleets make the switch.

“Moving to an electric vehicle can be daunting for drivers, so companies need to design a policy that helps to inform employee choice and remove the perceived barriers. We see that engagement and education are pivotal to successful uptake.”

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