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Is Boris’ ban of petrol and diesel vehicles going to crush the transport industry?

The UK Government has announced official plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. From then on, new hybrids or electric cars will be the only types of vehicles allowed to be manufactured – and after 2035, only pure electric vehicles can be sold.

This legislation was introduced to support the reduction of fossil fuel consumption and transition to a net zero society. Billions of pounds are being invested in electric vehicle charge points across England as well as for grants to help people afford to install charge points on their private property.

This petrol and diesel ban could help cut car emissions to 46m tonnes of carbon dioxide by 2030, down from an equivalent of 68 MtCO2e (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) emitted today.

The sale of electric vehicles has increased in the UK by 185.9 per cent year on year; however, the majority of cars that are imported from other countries still have an internal combustion engine (ICE) – meaning they are either petrol, diesel, or hybrid. Around 26 countries are huge exporters of ICE vehicles to the UK, including the Czech Republic, Turkey, South Africa, Poland, and Italy. In the Czech Republic, the car industry accounts for nine per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP). 154,468 petrol and diesel models were exported to the UK in 2019.

Challenges posed

While yes, the move to electric vehicles will drive down global emissions, which is becoming a crucial consideration for governments and populations worldwide following the United Nations’ ‘code red for humanity’ climate change warning, it will be expensive.

Road Haulage Association Managing Director Rod McKenzie told Sky News that alternative fuels for transport such as hydrogen and electricity will be too costly or won’t offer enough range. For such a drastic shift to a different method of fuel, there needs to be less doubt and more certainty for something that is hugely relied on.

McKenzie commented: “This proposal is unrealistic. Alternative HGVs don’t yet exist. We don’t know when they’ll exist, and we don’t know how much they’ll cost, and it’s not clear what any transition will look like.

“So this is blue-sky thinking way ahead of real-life reality. For many haulage companies, there are big fears around the cost of new vehicles and a collapse in the resale value of existing ones.”

Businesses involving heavy goods vehicles will be faced with many significant challenges – it will likely take a while for the price of alternative HGVs to be driven down while we wait for research and development to innovate them and make them cheaper to manufacture and run. Transitioning an entire fleet to alternative fuel won’t be cheap. However, there is a huge need for the transport industry to be electrified – according to the UK Government, 79 per cent of domestic freight was moved by road in 2019, and transport was the largest sector for emitting domestic greenhouse gases.

Greg Archer, UK Director of the European green transport campaign group Transport and Environment, argued for the ICE vehicle ban and the ever-growing need for this ambition. He said: “This plan is a milestone in the shift to a more sustainable UK transport system. The decision to only use zero-emission road vehicles – including trucks – by 2050 is world-leading and will significantly reduce Britain’s climate impact and improve the air we breathe.”

In a bid to help businesses, seven major British companies have joined forces to accelerate the transition to hybrid and electric vehicles – some of which have some of the largest commercial fleets in the UK.

Cost advantages for business

Businesses can save money on fuel – a report by British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association report found that electric vehicles cost between 2p and 4p a mile whereas the equivalent in diesel costs 12p per mile. Tax refunds are also available for the purchase of electric vehicles, meaning you can relieve some costs.

The government is offering grants towards the cost of a new van of up to 20 per cent and 75 per cent towards the cost of installing a rapid charge point at your place of business. Congestion charges such as the ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) have been introduced in some cities to achieve cleaner air to breathe. While a great initiative for local ecosystems, it makes some cities impractical or expensive to drive through with ICE vehicles. All of these considerations make van leasing deals seem a more attractive prospect for businesses relying on fleets.

What do you think about the plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles? Is this giving you the push you need to adopt greener alternatives in your life?

Future fleet fuel mix in flux

Fleets of the future will use an increasingly diverse range of fuels – but there remains a mixed picture for diesel company cars despite new technology that is making them more environmentally friendly.

That’s according to new research from Arval, which asked fleet managers how the availability of new diesel vehicles with equal NOx and fine particle emissions to petrol models would impact on their fleet.

44% said they would continue to buy diesel cars and 5% said they would increase their share. However, 29% said they would continue to reduce the number of diesels they operated and 7% that they would persist with their current policy of not buying diesels.

The findings come from the 2019 edition of Arval Mobility Observatory, which covers 3,930 fleets and asks a wide ranging set of questions about fleet and mobility trends.

The research also looked at how diesel vehicles would be replaced in this scenario. Interestingly, just 4% of respondents said they would opt for petrol cars while 22% planned to swap their diesels for alternative fuels.

Shaun Sadlier, Head of Arval Mobility Observatory in the UK, said: “RDE2 diesels are starting to become available and some of them are comparable with petrol on NOx emissions while also offering better CO2output and fuel economy.

“However, it appears that diesel has become so inherently unpopular as the result of recent emissions controversies that there will be no large scale resurgence in its popularity, despite this development.

“Against this backdrop, it is important to note that around half of fleets are planning to continue to operate diesel cars, recognising their suitability in certain situations.”

Sadlier added that it was noteworthy that businesses planning to replace their diesel vehicles are more often intending to switch into alternative fuels rather than petrol.

“Roughly six times as many fleets will be replacing their diesels with hybrids or EVs as with petrol, and this should give a strong push to alternative fuel adoption over the next few years,” said Adler. “Certainly, we see many fleets swapping their diesels for hybrids.

“Our position is very much that the fleet of the future will use a diverse range of fuels, with the emphasis being placed on matching the needs of the driver to the right vehicle, and we are doing a lot of work in helping fleets start to make these decisions.”

Image by IADE-Michoko from Pixabay 

Fleets should keep sight of petrol and diesel ‘basics’

Fleets need to ensure that they keep on top of petrol and diesel management basics as focus in the industry turns to a more diverse fuel mix.

That’s the view of Arval, which believes that while fleets should – and will – adopt large numbers of plug-in cars and vans of all kinds during the next few years, petrol and diesel remain likely to form the majority for the immediate future.

Janet Eastwood, Product Manager – Fuel at Arval, said: “There are clearly a lot of exciting developments underway at the moment in terms of the fuel choices becoming available to fleets and it is pleasing to see how the industry is taking these new options seriously.

“However, it is important there is recognition that, for the next few years at least, petrol and diesel power will continue to form the core of most fleets, especially if you include hybrids and PHEVs in that total.

“For most organisations, good fuel management in terms of controlling costs and minimising environmental impact will include continuing to work hard to reduce petrol and diesel use. This should remain a priority as we move to a more diverse fuel mix.”

Arval asserts that the basics of good fuel best practice in this area have not changed for many years, were well-proven, and centred around fleet-wide fuel card adoption.

“Without a fuel card, getting a grip on your petrol and diesel expenditure is very difficult,” added Eastwood. “What a fuel card provides is purchasing control plus solid and accessible reporting about the amount of fuel being used, who is using it and where it is being bought. In addition, it allows easy VAT reclaiming and delivers massively reduced administration and paperwork

“The kinds of real world data a fuel card provides means that you can examine your fuel spend from a high level view such as looking at petrol and diesel use across your entire fleet, through to details at a more granular level of the fuel usage of individual drivers and vehicles.

“With this information, you can then make decisions that potentially affect everything from the cars and vans that you buy through to the on-road driving styles behaviour of individual drivers and potential mechanical issues with particular vehicles.”

Eastwood says that these management fundamentals were becoming more important in some cases because a significant number of fleets had reacted to widespread controversy surrounding diesel emissions with the acquisition of more petrol cars. 

“Many fleets have responded to worries about air quality by introducing more petrol cars in place of diesel,” Eastwood said. “While this generally makes sense, even the most economical petrol models tend to use more fuel than the equivalent diesel. 

“This makes careful management of fuel use even more important and should prompt these businesses to increase their focus on fuel and perhaps even look at adopting measures such as carbon mitigation schemes.”

Eastwood added that Arval planned to soon introduce an electric charging element to its fuel card offering, but that management of EV fuel would ultimately be quite different to petrol and diesel.

“Over time, most EV charging is likely to take place at the home and the workplace, so the new purchasing patterns are quite distinctive. Future EV fuel card propositions will be based more around convenience, on the importance of managing charging by choosing the right PAYG network point, and also linked to telematics to ensure range is being maximised.”