ICE has responded to the Government’s consultation on ending the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans by 2035. In this blog, ICE Lead Policy Manager Ben Goodwin discusses the key elements of ICE’s response.
Reaching net-zero by 2050 requires a transformation in road transport, one of the most significant sources of carbon emissions.
The Government has proposed bringing forward the end of the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars and vans to 2035. ICE has today published our response to their call for evidence.
A turning point
Bringing this deadline forward to 2035, as the Government proposes, or even as early as 2030, as the Committee on Climate Change suggest should be supported.
Reducing petrol and diesel fuel use will not only help to clean up travel by road, it will also benefit public health. We have all become used to improved air quality as a knock on effect of the Covid-19 pandemic; something that we should strive to keep as part of the ‘new normal’.
But, as our recent report State of the Nation 2020: Infrastructure and the 2050 Net-Zero Target sets out, any radical shift in how we deliver and operate infrastructure networks to meet the net-zero target, will be challenging.
Challenge one: the ‘carbon fuel crunch’
One of the most significant hurdles is financial. Fuel Duty and Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will raise an estimated £34.9 billion in 2019/20.
However, faster take up of ultra-low emission vehicles, which are VED exempt, will reduce tax receipts – a carbon fuel crunch.
VED in England is particularly important for roads as revenues begin to move into the National Roads Fund; spending to expand and maintain roads in England.
There will need to be an alternative to current revenue raising methods. We have argued that a pay as you go solution will be necessary and should replace Fuel Duty and VED by 2030.
A system of pay as you go based on distance travelled could be applied to all vehicles but would need public trust and acceptance by sticking to defined rules safeguarding affordability and privacy.
Countries from Poland to Portugal use one form or another. Germany use the LKW Maut, with two-way transponders. France’s Autoroutes use a toll system.
Challenge two: new infrastructure
A new system will need new infrastructure. Transponders, gantries, or gates linked to data centres would be needed to accurately measure journeys.
A system confined to motorways and main roads would likely have enough traffic share, 30%, and be limited enough in length – just 2% of the total, to make revenue raising sufficient and cost effective. This would not hamper rural areas which often have little alternative to car use and allow for local congestion or environmental charges.
There will also be an impact on power generation with a likely need for better management of peak demand and more capacity. New capacity must be low carbon - there is little point in making the switch otherwise.
Swift deployment of a nationwide network of rapid charging points, especially along motorways, would be also needed to allow drivers to make long journeys in confidence.
Whilst the challenges are significant and delivery could be disruptive to the old normal, cleaner air and a sustainable and fair revenue system which taxes journeys, not engine efficiency, should prove low risk and high reward.