Sales of new petrol and diesel cars to be banned by 2040: where’s the news in that?

National TV, radio and press headlines screamed “new petrol and diesel cars banned from Britain’s roads by 2040”, as the government published its plan to improve urban air quality and simultaneously reduce emissions from transport.

But industry experts could be forgiven for telling journalists that wrote such ‘electrifying’ and apparently headline-grabbing stories: “Where have you been.”

After all the ‘news’, contained in the government’s long-awaited ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’ and thus improving air quality was, in fact, not news at all.

The government said in the document that it would “end the sale of all new conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040”. However, it first announced the measure in 2011 when it said it was “our intention that conventional car and van sales would end by 2040, and for almost every car and van on the road to be a zero emission vehicle by 2050”.

It is understood that hybrid vehicles will be excluded from the UK government’s ban, if it becomes a reality, but despite the document running to 103 pages and being accompanied by a 155-page ‘technical report’, it contained little detail on how the move to end the sale of internal combustion engine cars and vans would actually be achieved.

The government is firmly focused on an electric car and van future – hydrogen vehicles do not get much of a mention in the document but could play a role – but if a zero-emission future is to be achieved numerous key questions need to be answered and issues resolved. They include:

  • The significant work that must be done to improve and increase the vehicle recharging network to the extent that plug-in cars and vans can be widely adopted by fleets. The report says that Highways England will support the uptake of electric cars and vans by working to ensure that 95% of the major road network it manages will have a chargepoint every 20 miles and that where possible, they will be rapid chargepoints.
  • Vehicle manufacturers must work hard to make plug-in vehicles a more viable proposition in terms of model choice, price, battery range and weight and total cost of ownership.
  • How the government will replace the £26.7 billion it raised in 2016/17 in fuel duty?
  • How the UK will generate the electricity required to power millions of plug-in vehicles?
  • How consumers will be able to ‘fast’ charge vehicles at home without tripping their electricity system when other appliances are also running?
  • How drivers that do not have their own garage or off-street parking spot will be able to recharge electric cars and vans?

Such points will take much answering as the clock ticks down to 2040, but Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “We are determined to deliver a green revolution in transport and reduce pollution in our towns and cities. We are taking bold action and want nearly every car and van on UK roads to be zero emission by 2050.”

Many fleet decision-makers may think “I’ll be retired by 2040 so the issue is not my problem”. Nevertheless, they should ensure their fleets are fit-for-purpose and compliant and that means operating vehicles powered by the very latest technology.

The first step is to future-proof fleets against new regulations, that include the April 2019 introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in London and, potentially, Clean Air Zones in other towns and cities nationwide in the next two or three years (The Buzz: May, June and July 2017).

Diesel vehicles that are Euro6 emission compliant and petrol Euro4 emission compliant as well as hybrid, plug-in hybrid, 100% electric models and hydrogen vehicles will be able to operate inside the Ultra-Low Emission Zone without paying an entry charge. It is expected that similar entry criteria will be adopted by local authorities that introduce similar Clean Air Zones.

Five cities – Birmingham, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton – are already required to introduce Clean Air Zones under the government’s 2015 UK Air Quality Plan. Additionally local authorities in Greater Manchester and in Bristol and South Gloucestershire have secured Air Quality Grant funding to develop Clean Air Zone proposals.

The government says it will work closely with those local authorities with a view to them finalising detailed proposals covering entry and charging criteria to the Clean Air Zones within 18 months for introduction in 2020 or sooner if possible.

It is almost certainly true that there is hardly a fleet in the UK that is not running Euro4 emission compliant petrol cars and vans and organisations should ensure replacement cycles enable the introduction of Euro6 compliant diesel cars and vans within the next 18 months or so.

Additionally, fleet chiefs should undertake analysis to see, on a vehicle-by-vehicle, employee-by-employee basis, whether hybrid, plug-in hybrid or 100% electric models maybe a viable alternative to internal combustion engine models.

The government report makes clear that “charging zones or measures to prevent certain vehicles using particular roads at particular times” could be considered, but those areas should look to first: Change road layouts to solve congestion, encourage the public and private uptake of ultra-low emission vehicles; focus on innovative retrofitting technologies and new fuels; and, encourage the use of public transport.

The government says it will work with local authorities and others to consider how to help minimise the impact of measures on local businesses, residents and those travelling into towns and cities to work where such action is necessary; and will issue a further consultation in autumn to aid development and assessment of options.

In the immediate future, the government has said that it wants local authorities, with the help of a £255 million cash handout, to take the lead and clean up poor air quality ‘hot spots’, although it will set a clear national framework.

The government wants local authorities to set out initial plans by the end of March 2018 and follow those up with final plans by the end of December 2018. Final approval of the plans rest with the government.

Meanwhile, as the UK moves to an electric vehicle future, any fears that values of defleeted petrol and diesel cars and vans will tumble have been dismissed.

The Vehicle Remarketing Association (VRA) said that in the “short to medium term instability in the used market was highly unlikely”. It said that the 2040 deadline was far enough away that its “strongest effects will not be felt for some considerable time”.

VRA chairman Glenn Sturley said: “It is highly unlikely that this announcement will have any kind of immediate effect on the market for used petrol and diesel vehicles, especially those that meet the newer, cleaner Euro5 and Euro6 emissions standards.”

The ‘UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations’ is available at:

Fleets to cut costs with free Severn Crossings from 2018 as tolls are axed

Tolls on the Severn Crossings are to be abolished at the end 2018, the government has announced.

The bridges are used by more than 25 million vehicles each year, saving significant travel time and distance for commuters and drivers using the M4 motorway.

However, said the government the tolls on both Severn Crossings were viewed as an economic and symbolic barrier to Wales’ future prosperity.

But there are warnings that fleet savings could be wiped out if traffic planners did not implement measures to combat anticipated congestion as a result of an increase in the number of vehicles using the Crossings.

Prime Minister Theresa May announced in the run-up to this year’s June general election that, if re-elected, the government would axe the tolls.

It is estimated that the announcement will boost the economy of South Wales by around £100 million a year and the average motorist could save over £1,400 per year.

Secretary of State for Wales Alun Cairns said: “The decision to abolish the Severn tolls next year sends a powerful message to businesses, commuters and tourists alike that the UK government is committed to strengthening the Welsh economy.

“By ending tolls for the 25 million annual journeys between two nations we will strengthen the links between communities and help to transform the joint economic prospects of South Wales and the South West of England.

“I want to ensure that visitors and investors know what Wales has to offer socially, culturally and economically. Most importantly, I want the world to know how accessible we are to business. The decision we have taken is right for Wales’ future prosperity and I am sure that it will be welcomed by industry and motorists alike.”

The bridges are currently run by a consortium, the Severn River Crossing, but are due to come under public ownership, when they will be run by Highways England from the end of this year or in early 2018, when the current charging system will automatically end. It currently costs £20 for an HGV to cross into Wales, £13.40 for a van and £6.70 for a car.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “Tens of millions of motorists a year will benefit from the end of tolls on the Severn bridges, saving them money and cutting journey times. People who use the crossing every day will save a minimum of £115 a month.

“Abolishing the crossing fee will also drive economic growth for businesses in Wales and the South West and further strengthen the bond between our two great countries.”

Ian Gallagher, head of policy for South West and Wales Freight Transport Association, welcomed the announcement saying: “It is excellent news for the growth of the Welsh and South West Economies, a real shot in the arm for those businesses and commuters who use the bridges on a daily basis.

“Removal of the tolls altogether has been a long-term policy position for the Freight Transport Association, with members on both side of the bridges incurring some of the highest tolls charges in the UK, money better spent on upskilling, recruitment and purchasing greener vehicles.

“Goods vehicle operators will be applauding this decision, a decision which will allow them to reinvest more than £43 million annually collected at the booths – money which can now be reinvested in job creation and improving fleets.”

The Road Haulage Association responded to the government’s decision with “guarded optimism”.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Any measures that reduce a haulier’s operating costs are welcome and those who regularly use the Severn Crossings will be saving at least £20 per day. However, when the tolls end, it is inevitable that the traffic on the crossings will increase considerably as those motorists and operators who have seen the tolls as a deterrent begin to cross the river at these points.

“Although the new measures will leave money in the pockets of those using the Crossings, it will be a false saving if the infrastructure is unable to cope with the increase in traffic volume.

“We sincerely hope that the traffic planners will have given this serious consideration. If not, any savings made will be short lived as journey times increase as a result of congestion.”

“For the road freight operator time is money and there is a real danger that a saving of £20 could well end up being wiped out as a result of delayed delivery times.”

Post-Brexit tariffs and other trade barriers could add 10% to UK car servicing bills

Fleet service, maintenance and repair (SMR) bills could rise by 10% after Brexit if no trade deal is reached between the UK and the European Union, it is claimed.

A new report published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) shows that the UK’s collective car repair bill could rise by more than £2 billion if tariffs and other barriers to trade were imposed.

The potential hike in SMR costs follows warnings that the price of new cars and vans would also increase dramatically if UK government ministers failed to agree a trade deal with the European Union (The Buzz: May 2017).

“Some £1,500” could be added to the cost of every new car sold in the country, according to the SMMT if trade tariffs were implemented on the UK as a result of Brexit; the European Automobile Manufacturer’s Association (ACEA) has calculated that the price of light commercial vehicles could rise by 10-22%, cars by 10% and the cost of parts and components by 2.5-4.5% for parts based on current tariff levels; while a study by the PA Consulting Group calculated an average £2,372 rise in new car prices.

The price rise warnings come because a failure by the UK government to secure a tariff-free trade deal during Brexit negotiations would mean the adoption of World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules including tariffs, which the SMMT called “the worst foreseeable outcome” for the UK automotive industry.

The ‘Importance of the Aftermarket to the UK Economy 2017’ report, commissioned by the SMMT from independent consultancy Frost & Sullivan, reveals that a 2.5% to 4.5% WTO tariff on imported car parts would trigger an average extra £21 a year for replacement components. Meanwhile, quotas, subsidies, customs delays and regulatory barriers could add an additional £49, resulting in a £2.14 billion rise in the UK’s collective car maintenance bill.

Some 80% of replacement car parts fitted to British cars are imported, with almost three quarters of them coming from European Union-based suppliers.

It was therefore vital, said the SMMT, that the government sought an interim arrangement to avoid a ‘cliff-edge’ if a trade deal was not finalised at the end of the Brexit negotiation process. Such an arrangement should maintain membership of the single market and customs union until a final agreement on a new relationship with the European Union, was negotiated and implemented, said the organisation.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “If we don’t secure a new trading relationship with the European Union that is free of tariffs and customs checks, [there could be] significant increases to annual car repair bills due to new tariffs and other trade barriers.

“Government must now prioritise an interim arrangement that maintains single market and customs union membership until the right trade deal with the European Union is implemented.”

The report found the UK’s car servicing and repair sector grew again in 2016, with turnover rising 2.4% to a record £21.6 billion. The increasing level of advanced technology in modern vehicles requiring the replacement of more hi-tech components is proving to be a major influencing factor in the rising cost, as well as the increasing number of vehicles on the road in-part driven by the ever-improving reliability of models meaning they have a longer operating life.

Government plans changes to driving licence, ‘O’ Licence and MoT rules to encourage electric van demand

New government measures are afoot to further encourage demand for electric vans with registrations presently at a miniscule level.

The government has launched a consultation that includes proposals to:

  • Increase the weight limit of alternatively-fuelled vans that can be driven on a category B driving licence in the UK
  • Exempt certain alternatively-fuelled vans from goods vehicle Operator Licensing requirements in Britain
  • Introducing roadworthiness testing for electric vans.

A total of 3,684 plug-in vans have been registered with grant support since the initiative was introduced in 2012 (figure is up to June 30, 2017), according to data from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. In the first six months of 2017, 551 models were registered – accounting for 0.29% of light commercial vehicle registrations – compared with 494 vans in the first six months of 2016. To date no plug-in vans above 3.5 have been registered and so benefit from extended grant support.

With government ministers and local authorities focused on improving air quality by reducing vehicle emissions, weaning fleets off predominantly diesel vans and on to electric models is viewed as critical.

As a result, the government said in launching its consultation document: “Vans spend much of their time completing driving routes around our towns and cities and over 96% of them are diesel powered. The UK government wants to support the continued contribution of vans to the economy whilst also reducing their environmental impact. One way of achieving this is to encourage the uptake of cleaner fuels in our delivery vehicle fleet.”

The proposed driving licence changes would allow category B (car and van) licence holders to drive a slightly heavier vehicle, if it was powered by a low emission technology, by offsetting the additional weight of the powertrain.

That, said the Department for Transport, would help compensate for lost payload capacity due to the added weight and size of alternative fuel technologies, which in electric vans means batteries, thus delivering a so-called ‘payload bonus’.

The threshold for moving from a category B (car and van) licence to a category C1 (lighter goods vehicle) licence is currently 3,500kg maximum authorised mass. But the government is proposing increasing that to 4,250kg.

Current category B licence rules mean that people who passed their driving test prior to January 1, 1997 are usually allowed to drive a vehicle and trailer combination up to 8.2 tonnes, but people who passed their driving test on or after January 1, 1997 are only legally able to drive vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes.

Following representations from van manufacturers, the government is also consulting on a similar exemption from Operator Licensing requirements for alternatively-fuelled vans used for own account haulage. That would help operators to avoid becoming subject to the full ‘O’ Licence regime if they invested in cleaner but slightly heavier vans up to 4,250kg.

Similar laws already apply in France, Germany and Italy, and there is vehicle manufacturer optimism of change, which would allow electric vans to carry an extra 350-400kgs payload, thus overcoming the 3.5 tonne handicap.

The weight that an electric vehicle can carry is frequently lower than petrol or diesel vans due to the weight of the batteries – 5-15% for a small van and up to 25% on a large panel van.

Simultaneously, van manufacturers are working on reducing both the weight and size of batteries to increase payload.

What’s more, one study suggested maximising an electric van’s payload could see its range reduce by almost half the distance it could achieve unladen. However, all vehicles lose range when fully laden and the same study suggested that a diesel van with a full payload would typically see its range reduced by around 35%, so not too much difference or improvement required before battery technology achieves parity with traditional diesel van performance.

Simultaneously, the government is proposing to correct a regulatory anomaly, which means that electric vans are currently exempt from MoT testing. The consultation runs until 18 October. The government hopes to introduce the regulatory changes from sometime next year.

Fleets to wake up to new ‘real-world’ driving WLTP MPG and CO2 emissions test

A new official vehicle mileage and emission testing regime is to be introduced from September designed to provide fleet operators with a more realistic ‘real-world’ driving view of the data.

The Worldwide harmonised Light vehicles Test Procedure – the acronym for which is WLTP – is the name being given to the new vehicle test procedure that replaces the long-established New European Driving Cycle (NEDC).

WLTP is being introduced in two phases:

  • From September for all new car and van models requiring a new type approval number
  • From September 2018 for all cars and vans

The results of WLTP MPG and emissions testing is that, in most cases, official vehicle MPG figures will be worse than equivalent NEDC figures, while CO2 emissions figures will be higher.

Regarding vehicle-related taxes – company car benefit-in-kind tax, Vehicle Excise Duty and capital allowances – currently linked to the NEDC test, HM Treasury has yet to decide when to link the tax system to WLTP data. Industry speculation suggests that 2020/21 could be the financial year for changes to be introduced.

An HM Treasury spokesman said: “We will look to agree a suitable moment to move the tax system from NEDC to WLTP, based on industry input.”

However, industry experts have suggested that CO2 figures on a car-by-car basis could increase by about 20% with introduction of the WLTP.

The British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association is also warning that under WLTP testing, optional equipment is likely to have a “more significant” impact than under the NEDC regime and therefore further increase the cost and tax implications.

During a transitional period between September 2017 and September 2020, the certificate of conformity issued by the Vehicle Certification Agency will show both WLTP and NEDC CO2 values. From 2020 new vehicles will only be tested using WLTP type approval procedure. However, it is not clear yet when the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency will start recording the new WLTP figure on V5 vehicle registration documents, or if it will record both WLTP and NEDC figures.

Vauxhall has published comparison figures for some models tested under both the NEDC and WLTP cycles.

The results show, for example:

  • Vauxhall Astra hatchback 100PS 5speed manual – WLTP 52.3mpg, NEDC 67.3mpg (difference 15mpg)
  • Vauxhall Astra hatchback 1.6 CDTi 110PS 6speed manual – WLTP 65.7mpg, NEDC 85.6mpg (difference 19.9mpg)
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 1.5 turbo ecoFLEX 140bhp 6speed manual front wheel drive – WLTP 49.5mpg, NEDC 57.6mpg (difference 8.1mpg)
  • Vauxhall Insignia Sports Tourer 2.0 Turbo D 170bhp 6speed manual front wheel drive – WLTP 60.1mpg, NEDC 64.2mpg (difference 4.1mpg).

Meanwhile, PSA, the French company behind the Citroen, DS and Peugeot brands, has made independent, certified calculations of real-world fuel consumption of vehicles travelling along a 57.3 mile route combining urban, rural and motorway driving available to customers.

The vehicles tested travel on open routes in ‘normal’ traffic conditions, with passengers and luggage. The use of air conditioning or heating was also mandatory.

The results show, for example:

  • Citroen C4 Picasso BlueHDI 100 Feel 5dr – PSA test, 49.56mpg, NEDC 74.3mpg (difference 24.74mpg)
  • Citroen C4 Cactus 1.6 BlueHDI Feel 5dr – PSA test 56.5mpg, NEDC 78.5mpg (difference 22mpg)
  • Peugeot 208 1.2 PureTech 82 Allure 5dr – PSA test 43.5mpg, NEDC 62.8mpg (difference 19.3mpg)
  • Peugeot 3008 1.6 Blue HDI 120 Active 5dr – PSA test 46.3mpg, NEDC 70.6mpg (difference 24.3mpg).

Real-world MPG figures for other models in the PSA range are available at:

Manufacturers have yet to give indicative NEDC and WLTP comparisons for CO2 emissions. PSA said it was planning to publish CO2 data based on WLTP tests in early 2019.

Both NEDC and WLTP test cycles are carried out under laboratory conditions, but the WLTP test cycle has been reformulated to be more representative of ‘real world’ driving taking into account higher speeds and loads, more dynamic acceleration and fewer and shorter stop phases. As a result, WLTP fuel consumption is measured over four different speeds, compared with three for the NEDC test.

There is currently no WLTP test available for plug-in hybrid vehicles. Those models will continue to be tested against the NEDC standard until a new test has been formulated and approved.

What’s more, Euro6 diesel engine vehicles will also be tested using the so-called Real Driving Emissions (RDE) procedure. It will complement the WLTP test and check levels of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particle numbers (PN), measured during the laboratory test and confirm them in ‘real driving’ conditions. The RDE does not measure CO2 emissions.

The new WLTP test is being introduced because of concern at the growing gap between published MPG figures, and therefore CO2 emission figures, for new vehicles and their in-life performance.

Consultancy, Emission Analytics publishes its EQUA Index, which features fuel consumption, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxide figures on more than 60,000 vehicles. It recently claimed that average CO2 emissions from new petrol cars had fallen by 6% since 2012, when it started collecting data. However, over the same period, the average emissions from diesel cars had risen by 5%.

Claimed to be “drastically” more realistic than even the new WLTP, Nick Molden, CEO and founder of Emissions Analytics, said: “In recent years, we have been kidding ourselves about our actual achievement in reducing CO2 from cars. Encouraging official data has given a misleadingly positive impression. The new official WLTP will help close the gap, but only partially.”