(6 months, 1 week ago)Westminster Hall
I beg to move,
That this House has considered energy provision and alternative-fuelled vehicles.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts; it is very good to see you in the Chair. I thank all those who were involved in granting me this debate today.
Let me start with an uncomfortable, some would say inconvenient, truth:
“Each one of us is a cause of global warming, but each one of us can make choices to change that with the things we buy, the electricity we use, the cars we drive; we can make choices to bring our individual carbon emissions to zero. The solutions are in our hands, we just have to have the determination to make it happen. We have everything that we need to reduce carbon emissions, everything but political will.”
Those were the words of Al Gore some 14 years ago. The real truth, however, is that while we have some, possibly many, of the solutions, we are perhaps showing insufficient will.
In that same year, Lord Stern produced his climate change report. Fortunately, those calls were heard by the last Labour Government and they acted fast. In a global first, Labour legislated, with the Climate Change Act 2008 establishing the Committee on Climate Change, which has been responsible for recommending carbon budgets and a series of rolling targets for greenhouse gas emissions, to take the UK on a path to reduce emissions by 80%, compared with 1990 levels, by 2050.
Gore said that we must have the determination to bring about change. The inconvenient truth is that if we do not have it, and if the Government do not lead the way with the necessary determination and conviction, we will all be the victims of permanent climate change. He said that it is about making choices, both as individuals and as Governments. Labour’s Climate Change Act was a turning point. The carbon targets or budgets have been met primarily through addressing power generation, but transport remains an issue.
For the past decade or more, the contribution of carbon dioxide emissions from surface transport has remained broadly flat, at around 27%, having fallen just 3% between 2008 and 2018, according to a Committee on Climate Change report. That is the context in which we must view the importance of challenging the sector. It cannot be left to the vehicle manufacturers or the energy providers to take financial risks in the absence of certainty from Government. Nor should consumers, who rightly want to do the right thing, be penalised or disadvantaged by being first movers, only to find that the Government fail to match their ambition.
Certainly, the industry strongly supports the decarbonisation of road transport, recognising the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, both today and on the pathway to achieving net zero. Across the sector, it is investing significantly to deliver smart and sustainable mobility, and it is rightly calling for the right eco- system and for enablers to support consumers with their transition to ultra-low or zero-emission vehicles. As such, a comprehensive, multi-sector strategy is needed, including key elements of energy decarbonisation, investment in infrastructure and transitional consumer incentives to enable it to happen.
Let me consider in turn the strategies required for the market, industry, energy and skills, for each of which the role of Government is fundamental. It would be easy to leave it to the market and say, “Well, it’s not working. The upfront investments are too great to choose the wrong product or technology.” Manufacturers certainly cannot transform the market alone. Market frameworks and certainties are required to give consumers and businesses confidence to take the leap into these technologies and to power our transition towards alternative fuels. Understandably, until these vehicles are as affordable to buy and as easy to own and to operate as conventional cars or other vehicles, the consumer or business will not travel with the technologies. In the first half of the 2010s, fewer than 25,000 new plug-in cars and vans were sold in total. Last month, battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars made up one in 10 registrations of new models, which is a substantial amount.
It would be easy to compare and contrast with countries such as Norway, but it has a very different industrial base, and very different consumers and energy provision. It is far better to look at our peers, such as France and Germany, and see what is going on there. We need to avoid over-deliberating about technologies and make a decision—not a UK-only decision, but one that reflects where other primary markets and tech developers are moving. We need to decide the appropriate energy power unit for passenger vehicles, both solo and multiple occupancy, as well as for commercial vehicles, both autonomous and manned. The same applies to buses and mini-vans; heavy goods vehicles and specialist industrial, commercial and military vehicles, including refuse vehicles, such as those produced by Dennis Eagle in my constituency; and earth movers and others such as JCBs and those produced by businesses such as Thwaites, just outside my constituency in Warwickshire.
I turn to the industrial strategy that is required. Naturally, we all want to ensure that the UK is at the forefront of any new technologies. Of course, the UK should have the ambition to take a lead in the ultra-low emission vehicle market and be a leader in manufacturing. We need to attract new investment, including upskilling the workforce, which I will come back to. We need battery factory investment, with the supply chain development to go with it, and strategic research and development investment at a globally competitive level, such as that at the Advanced Propulsion Centre at Warwick University. We also need the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, which is currently being built just outside Coventry and is due to open later this year. The Government supported the collaboration by Coventry City Council, the local enterprise partnership and Warwick Manufacturing Group, which were awarded £80 million.
Developing the technology is one thing; commercialising it is another. We presently have zero gigafactories, while other countries already have them or are establishing them. Sadly, we missed out on Tesla, which decided to invest in Germany, in a factory just outside Berlin, to produce batteries, battery packs, powertrains for use in Tesla vehicles, and to manufacture the new Tesla Model Y. It will produce 500,000 units a year, employing 7,000 people. The company was attracted to the UK, so Elon Musk says. However, it wanted to be at the centre of Europe, so, sadly, the Brexit decision meant that it was a safer bet for Tesla to invest elsewhere.
As Tesla shows, an industrial strategy needs to be underpinned by a super-low-carbon energy strategy. The energy needs of manufacturing must be supplied by renewables and low-carbon sources, particularly given that the manufacturing processes demanded in EV production cost up to one-third higher than those for an internal combustion engine vehicle.
Energy strategy is a crunch area for the UK and, ultimately, a deal breaker. UK electricity prices are 68% above the EU average, according to data from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2018, having risen by 55% since 2010. It is a seriously burdensome premium that the manufacturing sector has to pay. A 2018 University College London report found that our European neighbours had reaped the benefits of better interconnections, more cross-border trading and long-term supply contracts. Although the Prime Minister announced in the last 24 hours more offshore wind-generation capacity, we need to embrace more onshore wind, to seriously drive down energy costs.
I turn to network and planning and the importance of delivering energy locally to manufacturing and to the consumer. The present infrastructure is far from adequate. Significant and urgent investment is required to create an accessible, ubiquitous and interoperable network of public electric charging—likewise for natural gas and hydrogen refuelling points—so that consumers find it as easy as filling up from a petrol pump.
National Grid says that net zero will require significantly higher levels of electricity generation. In one scenario, it forecasts that by 2050 we will require almost three times more capacity than we have today. Even in the slowest decarbonising scenario, it foresees a 75% reduction in total energy demand for road transport, which is really positive. Although hydrogen will play a role, electrification is key to the decarbonising of transport, with at least 60% of all road transport being electrified in National Grid’s forecasted scenarios.
Critical to this is a massive increase in the number of charge points, which will require a strategic national plan, delivered locally. I appreciate that the Government announced Project Rapid 12 months ago, with a £500 million investment. According to Frost & Sullivan’s analysis for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, however, a total of 7 million charge points will be needed by 2030, of which just under 2 million would be public. By 2035, the requirement will increase to a total of just under 12 million.
For motorway travel, 7,000 150 kW charge points will be needed in motorway service areas. According to the electric vehicle charging app Zap-Map, the UK currently has only 19,000 on-street charge points. That means we will need to install more than 500 chargers across the UK every day to meet our 2035 target. Although those numbers seem huge, they are what is needed if we are to address consumer perceptions and recharging fears. According to a recent Savanta ComRes survey on behalf of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, 44% of car owners are discouraged from buying an EV because of a perceived lack of local chargers. If we are to meet this challenge, Governments at every level need to work with the private sector and the local energy distribution networks, and in partnership with charge point providers such as Tesla, BP Chargemaster and others, to deliver the EV charging infrastructure.
According to the Renewable Energy Association, the number of companies developing charging networks in the UK has increased significantly in the past 24 months. Few of the UK networks—major or minor—are members of interoperability platforms, which stands in contrast to other countries, where that is rapidly becoming the norm. The Netherlands is probably one of the best examples. One of the solutions is interoperability or roaming platforms, which would allow the consumers of individual charge point operators to charge on other networks that are also associated with that hub. The hub would monitor EVSE—electronic vehicle supply equipment—usage and could settle payments between operators. The roaming platform does that for a small fee.
A second solution is peer-to-peer arrangements, which involve the negotiation of direct commercial relationships and agreements between chief procurement officers, to allow for a consumer to use multiple networks while using a single app or account without the involvement of a roaming platform.
We also need to ensure that we deliver smart charging. National Grid has estimated that 80% of electric vehicle drivers will use smart charging by 2050, which will help balance almost half of the UK’s energy demands brought on by the move to zero-emissions driving. Imperial College has done a huge amount of work with Nissan looking at this issue, and there is a massive opportunity for the parking of electric vehicles to be a huge energy storage for the grid.
Let me turn to the strategy for heavy goods vehicles and large vehicles, because it is very easy to talk simply about passenger vehicles. I appreciate that the Prime Minister has talked about massively investing in hydrogen, but we are falling behind other nations on hydrogen mobility. In Germany and elsewhere, a number of buses are being run on hydrogen. I appreciate that plans are afoot in certain parts of the UK for this to be introduced, but we need to get it behind it urgently. I know there is news of a hydrogen hub in the Tees valley, which is really welcome, but the South Korean Government have set a target of 200,000 hydrogen vehicles and 450 hydrogen refuelling stations by 2025. Why can the UK not set similar ambitions?
Let me finally turn to education and skills, because while we need strategies, we also need to ensure that we have the skillset to deliver them. That will involve not just higher education, which is always highly regarded, but the development and supply of skills through our further education colleges, which is critical, as is developing science, technology, engineering and maths subjects through our schools. That applies not just to the research and development of new technologies; it also means providing training for those who will maintain and service the huge number of vehicles that will come on to the UK’s streets, whether they be passenger cars, commercial vehicles or heavy goods vehicles.
This is a really important sector for the UK economy. It is worth £82 billion in turnover and £20 billion in additional value to the UK economy. It is the UK’s largest exporter of goods, accounting for 13% of all UK goods exported. It employs 168,000 people in manufacturing, supporting 820,000 people across the wider automotive sector. It is critical that we invest heavily in this incredibly precious industry, and show support and direction.
The Government have made great progress in encouraging EV ownership, through VAT exemptions and the plug-in car grant, but more needs to be done in the rapid development of charging infrastructure, as well as in encouraging consumers to consider switching over to electric vehicles. We should consider tax breaks; free or reduced parking costs; generous, long-term plug-in grants; and readily available, reliable, fast EV charging on streets and in shopping centres and at places of work. We need better battery tech and more ambition from the Government to secure the giga-manufacturing plants in the UK. I and other west Midlands MPs wrote to the Government to see if we could secure investment in a gigafactory in Coventry, to support companies such as Jaguar Land Rover and, of course, Aston Martin.
The grid and direct district network operators need a clear road map from the Government for the transition in electricity use. We need a joined-up, multi-sector strategy and road map that targets long-term, positive consumer messages on all technology choices. It is Labour’s policy to end the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans by 2030. We talked about the electric car revolution at the last general election, with our plans to invest £3.6 billion in EV charging networks and £2.5 million in interest-free loans for the purchase of electric vehicles, saving buyers up to £5,000. The Government need to get behind the agenda urgently.
We need new cleaner diesel as part of the mix, because without that, we will not ensure a managed transition. Diesel, together with plug-in hybrids, battery electric vehicles and hydrogen-powered vehicles are, as Al Gore said, the solutions that are there. We need a managed transition, which is critical in ensuring that manufacturers and consumers are not left high and dry by legislation, and Government policies that impact on the value of their investments or purchases. A willingness and, above all, an ability to invest is premised on the immediate profitability and future returns, but the sector needs a coherent industrial strategy, conjoined with the market strategy, underpinned by major public investment in infrastructure, in parallel with the private sector. Together, we can achieve that ambition of delivering zero-carbon vehicles by 2030 or 2035.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on securing this debate. I will focus my remarks mainly on electric vehicles, a concept whose time has well and truly come.
I consider myself to be a relatively young man whose childhood was not very long ago, but when I was a child, the epitome of an electric vehicle was the Sinclair C5 —a low-volume, hopelessly impractical vehicle that could only ever appeal to the eccentric. Only a short few decades later, the exemplar of an electric vehicle, as the hon. Gentleman has outlined, is the Tesla, a car which has made manufacturers
“sit up and take notice.”
Those are not my words; they are the words of Top Gear magazine.
I am grateful to Malcolm and Mark of Vehicle Procurements in Mapperley in my constituency for building my knowledge of electric vehicles. They run a vehicle leasing business and have been champions of electric car use. They even offer one of their electric charging points to any local business free of charge, and that is a fantastic example of corporate social responsibility.
I do appreciate that there are barriers to the market. Price is an obvious one, but, as with any consumer good, that is falling and will fall over time as more are produced. There are also fears about batteries. We have mobile phones and we worry that their batteries will run out. A car battery running out is an even bigger fear, because that causes more problems. I understand that that is a worry, but most journeys, such as commuting to work or shopping, are local, and there are now more and more electric cars with longer ranges. I saw some in Mapperley with ranges of up to 200 miles that could do significant long journeys.
Electric vehicles are therefore becoming increasingly like so-called ordinary motorcars. That confidence will be reinforced by Government funding alongside private sector investment that has provided 24,000 public charging points—one of the largest networks in Europe. I appreciate, however, as the Member for Warwick and Leamington said, that more needs to be done to expand that provision. I further understand that charging points will be made compulsory in homes, and I welcome that.
We are 14 years on from the release of the documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”—a film that has not aged well. Electric cars are now part of our everyday conversation. Noah and Ethan, pupils at Arnold Mill Primary School in my constituency, wrote to me about the need to protect the environment, and both cited the need for electric car production. I completely agree. The electric car is not dead, and long may it flourish.
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Betts. I congratulate the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on securing this important debate. Recent news on the hydrogen front has been heartening, with the recent pilot of the first hydrogen train. We can all congratulate the scientists and engineers behind that important stepping stone on our hydrogen pathway, yet within the wider hydrogen economy it is clear that the UK needs to make further progress in certain key regards. As the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington mentioned, when we compare ourselves with countries such as South Korea, which has set a target of 200,000 hydrogen vehicles and 450 refuelling stations by 2025, we see that the UK lacks a clear hydrogen industrial strategy. I therefore add my voice to those calling for a clear and ambitious hydrogen strategy that works for all, and with all four nations of the UK.
I will concentrate my remarks on hydrogen-fuelled personal vehicles and the need for a balanced approach towards both the supply and demand sides of the hydrogen economic equation if we are to make significant and swift progress along the pathway. In case the clock gets the better of me, I contend that a local approach offers the best way forward. People may be surprised to learn that hydrogen—a fuel of the future—has a long association with Wales, a country that is perhaps best renowned the world over for its coal deposits. Indeed, the first ever hydrogen fuel cell was developed way back in 1842 in Swansea by a lawyer and physicist called Sir William Robert Grove. Perhaps I may cheekily suggest that, when he sums up, the Minister could be tempted to consider the idea of establishing a specific industrial strategy challenge fund on hydrogen fuel, perhaps named after Sir William Grove.
Returning to the present, it is easy to see why it is suggested that hydrogen as an energy source had in mind Wales—an energy-rich nation with an abundance of water—at its very inception. Wales is also blessed with a world-leading hydrogen sector, from the hydrogen centre in Baglan Park to Riversimple, a hydrogen vehicle manufacturer. However, a supply-side focus risks missing the opportunity offered by Wales’s strategic depth in hydrogen.
I urge the Government to consider how they can support the development of small and commercially viable markets based around individual hydrogen refuelling stations. That could involve exploring different models, such as leasing personal and commercial hydrogen vehicles around individual stations, and encouraging hydrogen vehicle use for shorter, more local journeys, thereby stimulating manufacturing demand for those vehicles in the local area. Such an approach could work for Wales, addressing our often hyper-local use of transport, while allowing for more a geographically distributed manufacturing and infrastructure base for the hydrogen economy.
We have a golden opportunity to rebalance the way we fuel our economy and protect the environment. Let us not miss it.
Once again, I commend the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for giving me the opportunity to support him. He has been a proud champion of this subject for many years, and I am proud to join him in this debate.
For me, the issue is a no-brainer. It is about the environment, cost and pollution. Embracing this important issue is the right thing to do. It is also a huge opportunity for the UK. It is what I call non-discretionary; we have to act, and we have to act quickly. It pleases me that both the major parties are aligned on this. Last year’s Labour manifesto aspired to end
“new sales of combustion engine vehicles”
by 2030. I agree with that. The Conservative manifesto wanted to invest £1 billion in
“a fast-charging network to ensure that everyone is within 30 miles”
of a charger. Again, I commend both.
I want to talk briefly about electric cars and charging, and then I will make some recommendations. First, the electric car market is growing quickly, with more than 142,000 pure electric cars on the road as of today, and 339,000 plug-in models, or so-called hybrids. Electric models accounted for 6.4% of all new registrations this year and hybrid 10%. In August 2020, notwithstanding covid-19, there was a 78% increase in pure electric registrations compared with the same month last year. This is happening whether we like it or not. It will be consumer-driven to the point where the Government might follow suit rather than lead it.
Charging is a major issue. As of 2019, there were just over 8,000 petrol stations in the UK that could fill up more than one car at one time. Some 50% of the charging points are fast, but it still takes three hours to charge each vehicle. Changes are therefore needed rapidly to expand the number of charging points across the UK.
I will finish with some recommendations. The roads are good in the UK, so, ultimately, this is about improved charging points. The rapid charging fund of £500 million should be expanded. I agree that there should be an expanded role for local government. Let us invest in it the power to make changes locally. Motorsport, of which I am a huge fan, needs to race in this area. At Pikes Peak, two records were broken in successive years with electric vehicles. Formula E is also an exemplar. The lessons from motorsport can certainly drive this issue.
I want the UK to be a world leader. Why not? We did it with McLaren and ventilators, and other car manufacturers. It is something we have to do. We have an opportunity post Brexit to lead the world on this, and I commend that idea.
It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Betts. The last time I spoke on this issue, I cautiously welcomed the Government’s consultation on the acceleration of the phasing out of new petrol and diesel vehicles to 2035, with the important caveat that it still lagged behind the Scottish Government’s target. There has been no confirmation yet of that, but it was progress, as was the doubling of investment in EV charging infrastructure, which was absolutely necessary as England lags considerably behind Scotland in charging points per head of population.
In the year to March this year, ultra-low emission vehicle sales in Scotland grew by 46%—40% faster than in England. That is thanks not only to the better charging network that I have described, but to the more generous support provided by the Scottish Government in the form of interest-free loans to purchase electric plug-in hybrid cars to the value of £35,000, which is over and above the UK Government’s plug-in grant. More than £85 million has been provided by the fund to help to drive the behavioural change that we want to see. We are not yet Norway, where roughly half the cars that are bought are ULEVs. We have a lot more to do, but we are heading in the right direction and taking bold action within the parameters of the fiscal envelope that devolution allows. Perhaps if the UK Government were to show more urgency in this area, we could ramp up our own ambition and help to deliver carbon neutrality even earlier.
Although the cost of electrics are coming down, they can still be prohibitively high for many, particularly for family-sized cars. In the used market, which perhaps is not yet fully mature owing to availability, cost remains high, with no support offered to those who purchase new vehicles—until last Monday. Last week, used ULEVs in Scotland became eligible for an interest-free loan of up to £20,000. That is fantastic news, particularly for those who are priced out of the new market. I am sure that as the availability of used ULEVs improves, the take-up will accelerate. I urge the Minister to convince colleagues to incentivise the purchase of used ULEVs, perhaps by extending the reduced plug-in grant to the used market.
I do not have time to discuss the advances in rail and aviation, although I was pleased to see the ambitious plans outlined by Airbus in the past fortnight, and I am forever hopeful that Rolls-Royce will continue to expand its excellent work in this area, and utilise its expertise and space at its Inchinnan plant in my constituency. However, nearly 400 million bus journeys a year are made in Scotland—four times the number of ScotRail journeys—so getting some of our older, more polluting vehicles off the road, to be replaced by electric or hydrogen buses, is one of the easiest fixes available to us, and that must be accelerated.
The £3 billion bus fund is welcome. We have not seen hide nor hair of it yet, but since then thousands of tonnes of carbon have been emitted, and hundreds of bus manufacturing jobs have gone. To summarise, the Government’s intentions and rhetoric on climate change issues have improved, but our generation and the Government will be judged by their actions, not their slogans.
I draw Members’ attention to my entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. I thank the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for introducing the debate.
Members may or may not know that until December last year I worked on exactly the subject of the debate, for Shell oil, looking at the future of fuel and of transport. One thing that is clear from all the work that has been done is that there is no one future—no one size fits all. We have heard great advocates for electric and for hydrogen, although we have yet to hear anyone talking about biofuels. I am trying to say that there is no one solution. There may be someone here with an electric car, and someone with a hydrogen car, but we must look at the issue in the round. It is important that we, and the Government, consider all options. There is no single track that leads forward in the right direction. We need to look at everything.
My concern about the debate generally is that there is a lot of talk about electric. I agree that the future for most passenger vehicles will be electric; that is undeniable. However, I also care about UK plc and our economy, and I fear that if we—the Government and the nation—put all our eggs in the electric basket, we will miss the boat. Germany, China and even south America are doing so much great work with battery technology. Can this country get the financial dividends from investing heavily in electric? I say, “Not necessarily.” We need to invest in it for the good of the climate and the country, but for the good of the economy I argue that we need to try to steal a march on areas of transport that have not yet fully taken off. Hydrogen is incredibly important for heavier vehicles—HGVs, trains, planes and boats, which cannot electrify. We have to stop kidding ourselves. For large chunks of the sector, electricity is not the answer. Heavy haulage will not be electrified. We cannot talk about that; we have to be realistic.
Aviation is also relevant. When coronavirus is over, people will go back to flying. Batteries are not going to be the answer for planes—not for 50, 60 or 70 years. We need to look at alternatives—hydrogen—but also at sustainable aviation fuel and biofuels. We need to look at the whole thing in the round. Once again, not that much work has been done internationally on sustainable aviation fuels, so the Government need to look at those options. If we get the formula right, whether for aviation fuels or hydrogen, we can develop those things in this country—in my constituency, I hope—and export that technology and those fuel supplies to the wider world. Not only can we then get to a low-carbon future, which we all want, but we can make money for the country, and financial dividends.
We have only a short window in which to do that—I would say five to 10 years—before other countries steal a march on us; but if we invest heavily in those new technologies, while also using electric vehicles, we can bolster our economy. I want to use this opportunity to implore the Government to look at the whole range of options. Do not just go down the electrification route, which is important for passengers and consumers, but look at the technologies that we can develop as British technology—good Sheffield and south Yorkshire technology —and export across the world once again. This can be the industrial revolution of the next 150 years.
It is always a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Mr Betts. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on an excellent and comprehensive speech. As he said, fuelling vehicles through alternative means will be vital if we are to meet net zero, and there are exciting developments in the field.
I confess that I was a sceptic about the role that alternative fuels would play in significantly reducing carbon emissions from aviation. It seemed that often they were put forward to deflect discussion of the demand for flights. However, since taking up my current role as shadow Minister for green transport I have spoken to a lot of firms in the sector, such as Velocys, which will be producing sustainable aviation fuel sourced from waste in the UK, and the Electric Aviation Group, which hopes to have hybrid electric planes operating in UK skies by the end of the decade. It is not the only answer to rising aviation emissions, but it is part of the mix. I have discussed alternative fuels with Maritime UK, and we are closely watching ongoing and planned trials of battery-fuelled and ammonia-fuelled shipping in Scandinavia.
Electric and waste biofuel buses are already on our roads, including the biogas buses in Bristol. However, they need additional support, particularly now that the bus industry is struggling with collapsing revenues because of the pandemic. The same is true for rail firms, which want to move away from dirty diesel rolling stock. However, they have been failed by the Government on electrification and need support to develop or purchase trains fuelled by renewable alternatives. We also need sectoral support for aviation, conditional on climate action. Many others have spoken about hydrogen, and I do not have time to go into that now.
On electric vehicles, recently, along with my colleagues from the shadow Business team, my hon. Friend the Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), who is replying to the debate today, and my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), I wrote to the Transport Secretary calling on the Government to bring forward the planned phase-out of petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to 2030—at the moment, the manifesto commitment is 2040—and plans to make that transition smooth and feasible. That is important not just to meet our carbon objectives, but to support our car manufacturing sector. I do not quite agree with the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) that we have missed the opportunity to develop electric vehicle production in the UK. We also need to think about electric bikes and electric cargo bikes. We used to be so good at producing bicycles in this country, and I think we need to do more of that.
We have only 5% of the charge points that we need if we are to stick to the 2040 target and have half of all new car sales represented by zero-emission vehicles by 2030. If we bring that date forward to between 2030 and 2032, we will have to accelerate installation of those charging points. I hope the Minister can reassure us on that point.
Thank you, Chair. I thank the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for securing a debate on this important issue. We are all committed to combating climate change and getting down to net zero. As chair of the all-party parliamentary environment group, I spend a lot of time pushing for that. When I was environment editor of The Observer and The Times more than a decade ago, electric cars were just a pipe dream. I drove some early models, but they are now a reality. I have long seen the internal combustion engine as a dirty, smelly and polluting Victorian technology. The sooner we see the back of it, the better.
I only have two and a half minutes, and there are eight things I think the Government should do. I will have to keep this brief. First, we should commit to 2035 rather than 2040. It is the minimum under the Committee on Climate Change recommendations and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommendations for meeting net zero by 2050. Indeed, we should consider whether we can bring it even further forward. There is huge industry support for that, from a wide range of different people, and it will probably be cheaper for motorists in the long run.
Secondly, we should continue the subsidies for the schemes. They are not self-sufficient yet, and we definitely need to carry on providing the money to help people to buy them, install charging points and so on. I know the Government are doing that, but we should not turn off the taps just yet.
Thirdly, the Government should provide real clarity, certainty and absolute conviction to industry that this is the direction we are going in. For the big investment decisions from energy companies on charging points and so on, there has to be a real sense of national mission that we can all buy into.
Fourthly, we must make sure that charging is provided for all properties. Consultation is taking place about requiring charging points in new build, and that should be mandatory. Huge numbers of houses are being built in my constituency of South Cambridgeshire, and they should all have charging points, otherwise they will be outdated within a decade or so. How do people living in flats access charging points? Some 30% of homes do not have driveways. Are we saying that people in those homes should carry on driving petrol cars? Clearly not.
Fifthly, we need to get from 18,000 charging points to more than 200,000. That must be done in a way that is as consumer-friendly as possible; we must make sure that they are interoperable and put them in supermarket car parks, or in all car parks. Sixthly, we must unleash the private sector. That is happening already, but I have followed very closely the roll-out of cable, mobile and 4G. That was done by unleashing the dynamism and investment of the private sector, and we should carry on doing the same here.
Seventhly, do not make us an island that is incompatible with the rest of the world. We have different electrical sockets from everywhere else, which is an accident of history, but let us make sure that when drivers leave the UK and drive over to France, they can still use their electric cars.
Eighthly, as the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington said, smart charging is the way to go. I know that we are doing that but it should be key. It improves energy efficiency, reduces costs and is good for our energy resilience.
I hope that I will not disappoint given that you were so keen to get to me earlier, Mr Betts.
I, too, congratulate the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on securing the debate, as well as those who have contributed to it. It is quite clear that topic is important and needs a lot more time than the hour we have today.
We keep hearing about a green recovery in the UK being “world leading”, but for that to be a reality, we need coherent, interlinked strategies, and the policies to achieve them. That means the publication of the overdue energy White Paper, the national infrastructure plan, a heat decarbonisation plan, and a possible update to the transport decarbonisation plan. I hope that the Minister will provide an update on those and how they will be implemented, now that the Budget and spending review have been cancelled.
Although I will concentrate my speech on land transport, there are, as Members have said, opportunities for the production of sustainable aviation fuels—SAF—so will the UK Government provide the support that is needed to top up the private investment that is actually available so that we get a number of production plants up and running in the UK? Will the Government look at the renewable transport fuel obligation to further incentivise the use of SAF?
With road and rail, the main choices are electricity and hydrogen. Hydrogen is an obvious solution for HGVs, and it is part of the mix for trains and buses. That requires coherent hydrogen production policies. The Prime Minister’s announcement today about increasing the deployment of offshore wind is welcome, but that needs to be aligned with the production of green hydrogen. Blue hydrogen also needs to be part of the mix in the short term, which requires the implementation of carbon capture and storage. Will the Minister tell us when Peterhead will finally be given the proper backing to get up and running?
In the north-east of Scotland, Aberdeen has led the way with the introduction of 15 of the world’s first hydrogen-powered double-decker buses. The Scottish Government invested more than £3 million in that project, but another £8.3 million actually came from the EU. Where will the replacement funding come from for that type of scheme? For Aberdeen, another 10 hydrogen-fuelled buses will be procured, and they will be constructed by Wrightbus, protecting jobs in the UK. The Transport Secretary promised hydrogen bus-only town trials, but we are still waiting for the outcome. Where has he been, and when will the UK Government catch up with what is happening in Scotland? Will there be alignment with the manufacturers of hydrogen buses in the UK?
The Scottish Government have awarded £7.4 million to bus operators through the Scottish ultra low emission bus scheme. That will result in the manufacture of 35 electric buses by Alexander Dennis Ltd. Again, the UK is lagging behind on a proposed electric bus town. When will that go live, and will it result in orders for Alexander Dennis Ltd, too?
I welcome the fact that the UK Government are trialling the first hydrogen train in the world. That might make up for their dereliction of duty on electrification and the previous Transport Secretary’s obsession with hybrid diesel trains. The Scottish Government have published a real decarbonisation strategy with an end date of 2035, but Network Rail has only an interim programme in the UK targeting 2050. When will we get a final determination that is ambitious enough?
One simple ask on a hydrogen strategy is a starting point of £11.4 million for a clean fuel metrology centre in East Kilbride. Although we do not think about it, we actually need a measurement and calibration centre. That East Kilbride proposal would be a world first. Will the Minister update us on when BEIS will give the go-ahead for that centre?
We have heard about the UK being world leading on domestic electric vehicles but, in fact, it is not. As my hon. Friend the Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) said, the UK needs to match the Scottish Government’s ambition. We really need to move on this. We need large investment. As hon. Members have said, we need a greater roll-out of the charging infrastructure network. I will tell the Minister how that can be paid for: cancel the plan for two nuclear power stations that is going to cost £40 billion. That will allow the upgrade in infrastructure, greater investment in renewables and a bright and green future, with a proper green industrial revolution.
First, I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) on not only securing the debate, but proceeding in such a thoughtful way that has allowed us to hold a genuine, wide-ranging debate, rather than just scoring a few points. That was an excellent approach, because when we debate this issue, we have to proceed without scoring points.
We are moving together on what we need to do about vehicles for drivers and passengers in the future: phase out the internal combustion engine by 2030 or 2035—the date does not actually stand in the way of the key points that need to be made about how we get to that point. At the moment, we have 170,000 or 180,000 EVs and 30 million petrol and diesel vehicles; by the early 2030s, that will be reversed. An enormous change will therefore have to take place in our vehicle fleets, and we not only have to make that change, but need to ensure that the infrastructure that goes with it is there before that change takes place, not after, because if we leave it that long, we will not actually get change in the first place.
Hon. Members have been pretty united in talking about the need for turbocharging, or hypercharging, the roll-out of infrastructure for electric vehicles. The grid reckons that it can cope with the changes, but of course the national grid is a national grid. It is not a grid that extends down, through the distributed networks, into localities, and there are serious difficulties in various parts of the country with not only the roll-out of charging points, but the structure of distributed grid systems and how they will deal with those issues.
The need for an overall strategy, which my hon. Friend the Member for Warwick and Leamington mentioned in his opening remarks, is therefore tremendously important. It needs to be not only a strategy with the right numbers nationally, but one that actually percolates down to ensure that everywhere in the country is properly served by charging points for electric vehicles. We are currently very far from that.
Various statistics can be cited regarding what percentage of the overall charging points we need are already in place. Some commentators say that we have only about 5% of what we will need by the early 2030s. And that percentage is not properly distributed across the country, as I know to my cost. I tried to drive from Southampton to Penzance this summer, in an area of fast-charging deserts, and ended up parking my car overnight in a Tesco’s car park—hoping that it would not be clamped—so that it could be properly charged.
On fast charging, we need to get our skates on urgently, and I do not think the market is going to come to the rescue by getting fast chargers in. There needs to be a plan—Government backed, and based on Government funding—that is rolled out nationally, with an absolute assurance that we will get those charging points out in the right place, with the right levels of charge, for the motorists whom we know are going to come forward.
Hon. Members quite rightly mentioned the fact that we also need to look at other renewable, low-carbon fuels. I particularly agree that electric is not likely to be the fuel of the heavy transport and logistics of the future; that will probably be hydrogen and biomethane. We need to take steps to get hydrogen charging points in as early as possible for that sector of our transport fleet.
My ask of the Minister this afternoon—not in any partisan way—is a forward plan to get fast chargers in place as quickly as possible, well in advance of the changeover, so that we can make that change in the secure knowledge that we can get where we want to go, and how we want to go there, in the best and most environmentally sustainable way possible.
It is a pleasure to serve under your stewardship, Mr Betts. I thank the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington (Matt Western) for initiating this important debate, as well as other colleagues present: my hon. Friends the Members for Gedling (Tom Randall), for Bracknell (James Sunderland) and for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford), and the hon. Members for Ceredigion (Ben Lake), for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) and for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy). Of course, I also thank my hon. Friend the Member for South Cambridgeshire (Anthony Browne) for his eight-point plan. I also thank the shadow Minister, the hon. Member for Southampton, Test (Dr Whitehead), for the collegiate way in which he tackles this important national endeavour.
The transport sector is a vital part of our future prosperity. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, we have an outstanding opportunity to speed up the development of clean technology, which I guess is the theme of today’s debate. For decades, we have talked about the phasing out of fossil fuels from motoring, and now that is actually happening as we make the transition to alternative-fuel vehicles. This country has led the way in developing clean growth. Between 1990 and 2018, our economy grew by 75% while carbon emissions fell by 43%, faster than any other G7 nation, so anyone who says that it cannot be done is wrong. We followed that by making an ambitious commitment in 2019 to end our contribution to global warming by 2050, making that the law of the land, and countries around the world then began to follow suit. Of course, none of us here underestimates the scale of that challenge. Although battery electric vehicles represent nearly 5% of the new car market in the year to date, transport is still the sector in the UK that emits the largest amount of greenhouse gases, accounting for 28% of emissions in 2018.
It is clear to me that we need to go much further and faster to decarbonise transport. Throughout 2020, we have been working on a new, overarching transport decarbonisation plan, covering all modes of transport, which we expect to publish by the end of this year. That plan will set out the path that we need to take to deliver our net-zero objectives, together with our partners across the transport sector. The need for rapid renewal of the road vehicle fleet with zero-emission vehicles is well understood and will deliver substantial emissions reductions over the long term. We are already investing £2.5 billion to support the transition to zero-emission vehicles, with grants for plug-in vehicles and funding to support charge point infrastructure, which many colleagues from across the country have mentioned today.
If we are to meet our targets, there is no time to lose. That is why we have consulted on bringing forward the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a fast transition appears feasible, as well as including hybrids for the first time. As part of that consultation, we asked for views on what package of support will be required to enable the transition and to minimise the impact on both consumers and, of course, manufacturers—businesses that have invested so much in the United Kingdom. The consultation closed on 31 July, and we will announce its outcome in due course.
Our approach to delivering our transport decarbonisation ambitions is technology-neutral—my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley quite rightly reminded us of the need to remain technology-neutral. As the market develops, it is becoming clear that it may be favouring different technologies for different applications. Today, electric vehicles are a small but fast-growing percentage of cars and vans on the road. Such vehicles are being adopted as a key technology for decarbonising road transport, particularly light vehicles, and over 300,000 ultra low emission vehicles are now registered in the UK. A fit-for-purpose infrastructure network is required for the mass uptake of electric vehicles—that is the message I will take away from today’s debate. Many more charge points will be needed, and we want improvements to the consumer experience when using the network.
In fact, our vision is to have one of the best electric vehicle infrastructure networks in the world. That means a network for current and prospective electric vehicle drivers that is affordable, reliable, accessible and secure. The Government and industry have supported the installation of more than 18,000 publicly available charging devices, as colleagues mentioned, including more than 3,200 rapid charging devices, giving us one of the largest networks in Europe. Our home, workplace and on-street charging schemes, and the £400 million charging infrastructure investment fund, will see thousands more electric vehicle charge points installed across the UK.
I do not have the time; I have so much to try to get through and to share with the hon. Gentleman. I apologise.
In May, we announced our vision for a rapid charging network. Today, a driver is never more than 25 miles away from a rapid charging point anywhere along England’s motorways and major A roads. By 2023, we aim to have at least six high-powered open-access charge points at motorway service areas—open access is an important aspect of this in England—with some larger sites having as many as 10 to 12 charge points by 2035, which was the challenge that the hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington gave to us. We expect the number to increase to around 6,000 high-powered chargers across the network. This vision will be supported by the rapid charging fund, announced in the March Budget by our excellent Chancellor, as part of a £500 million investment over the next five years.
It is vital that consumers can charge efficiently and safely. We will consult on using powers under the Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 to mandate minimum standards, such as requiring contactless payment for rapid charge points, to improve the consumer experience. While the electrification of transport will increase demand for electricity, we are confident that energy networks will support this transformation. Hon. Members heard from the Prime Minister today about our ambitions for offshore wind. The Government are working with the energy industry to plan for future electric vehicle uptake, to ensure that the energy system can meet future demand efficiently and sustainably. We have set a clear ambition for almost all cars and vans to be zero emission by 2050, in combination with the recent consultation on bringing forward the end-of-sale date. Setting long-term targets ensures that there is enough time to ready the electricity system for the mass transition towards cleaner, more efficient vehicles.
Colleagues mentioned the opportunities of hydrogen. We see a real opportunity, so we will follow up the energy White Paper with an ambitious hydrogen strategy, because hydrogen is a game changer. Hon. Members have referred to the Prime Minister talking about the Tees Valley announcement today. We have a much bigger ambition for both blue and green hydrogen going forward. The role of green hydrogen in transport will be set out in full in the transport decarbonisation plan, which is due for publication at the end of the year.
On low-carbon fuels, which are important to colleagues, we are clear that our transition to zero-emission vehicles does not mean that we can ignore measures to reduce emissions from conventional road vehicles in use today. Increasing the supply of low-carbon fuel will continue to help us to reduce the environmental impact of every journey. It is equally clear that we should not ignore the potential for low-carbon fuels to decarbonise those transport modes that are harder to reach through electrification. Low-carbon fuels have played an important role in reducing emissions already. Through the renewable transport fuel obligation—the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun (Alan Brown) asked about this—we have seen average greenhouse gas savings through biofuels increase from 46% in 2008-09 to 83% in the latest available statistics.
The hon. Member for Warwick and Leamington asked about incentives for electric vehicle drivers. We are considering long-term future incentives for zero-emission vehicles alongside our consultation on bringing forward the end-of-sale date. In the meantime, the Chancellor announced in the Budget a further £530 million of extra funding to keep the plug-in vehicle grant for another three years.
The hon. Gentleman also asked what we are doing to ensure that people can access and pay for public charging points. That is a big focus for this Government. The system that we deliver—the system of systems, if I can describe it that way, as someone who was an engineer in a previous life—is important and will ultimately deliver on something that we both want to see happen rapidly.
I thank the Minister and all Members who have participated in the debate. We have had a healthy discussion and there is lot of consensus.
Some interesting points have been raised. As the hon. Member for Bracknell (James Sunderland) said, this is not discretionary—we have to do this. We are all very excited about the prospect and there is a huge challenge. The hon. Gentleman cited Formula 1, and the great research and development that has been happening in the UK has been driven by Formula 1. We lead much of that sector. McLaren and others are developing so much in the electric vehicle sector, which is being used in bicycles as well as cars, buses and trains.
The hon. Member for Ceredigion (Ben Lake) was right when he made his interesting point about the hydrogen pathway and the development of the first such energy cell. I agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Alexander Stafford) about expertise on the breadth of sectors and how we need to look at them all, particularly HGVs, as they are big drivers of the emissions that we need to bring down.
I agree with the point about the barriers to market that was raised by the hon. Member for Gedling (Tom Randall). With consumers, we have to overcome concerns about price, fear about access to charging points, range anxiety and so on. There is a lot that needs to be done through Government communications to bring that about.
The hon. Member for Paisley and Renfrewshire North (Gavin Newlands) made an important point about renewables. I welcome what is going on in Scotland and have a long-held admiration for the renewables sector there. The work that is being done on used vehicles is very interesting as well.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bristol East (Kerry McCarthy) talked about biogas buses in Bristol—Bristol is doing so much great work.
Motion lapsed, and sitting adjourned without Question put (Standing Order No. 10(14)).