The pandemic is likely to have lasting effects on traditional business models as we adapt to homeworking, social distancing and see aspects of a public policy shift away from globalisation, writes Mark Richards, partner and co-leader for Energy, Environmental & Infrastructure at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.
The transport sector has been hit hard, as airline operators wrestle with record slumps in demand, airports underutilised and traditional mass transit systems operators deal with a fraction of usual daily commuter passengers.
The need to socially distance has led to an increase in commuters utilising their cars to get to and from their workplaces, especially those keyworkers who are unable to undertake their jobs remotely. But these keyworkers are only a fraction of the typical commuters heading into our big cities, most are currently home working.
The combination of the lockdown imposed by the Government and continued homeworking has significantly reduced traffic volumes in our cities, which in turn has led to significant improvements in air quality and noise reduction.
Can these benefits be maintained and indeed accelerated through the adoption of zero-emission vehicles?
There are few industries enjoying double-digit growth in 2020, the EV sector is one of those in July 2020 we have seen Tesla Inc. market capitalisation exceed Toyota, to become the largest car manufacturer in the world.
So in the UK with a push to net-zero by 2050, along with a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel vans by 2035, is there more than can be done to accelerate the transition to zero-emission vehicles, especially if investment in industries supporting (and the adoption of) electrification of mobility is a COVID-19 recovery response?
The UK Government can already be commended for the recent tax incentives put in place to attract company car drivers to switch to electric vehicles, this comes after the UK Governments commitment to the sector through its ‘Road to Zero’ strategy announced in July 2018, providing ambitious targets for a new car and van sales.
The Government continues to promote electric vehicle adoption and has enacted various pieces of legislation to promote the e-mobility transition including the Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Act 2018 and Alternative Fuels Directive/The Alternative Fuels Infrastructure Regulations 2017.
These pieces of legislation in most place focus on the conditions for creating electric vehicle charge points.
So, on balance, the current policies from the UK Government are creating a very positive ecosystem for the greater adoption of zero-emission vehicles, however, more can be done.
The further devolution of powers away from Whitehall to encourage further ultra-low emission zones and clean air zones across the UK arguably a lot of the policy framework exists to ‘nudge’ and in some instances push consumers to electric vehicle adoption.
If you add to this potential for car scrappage schemes, parking incentives and fast-lanes (through the newly announced green number plates), benefits-in-kind company car taxes, further capital allowances, plug-in grants and incentives around the location and building of charge points the conditions for great adoption for consumers and business owned fleets will be present.
The massive technological changes such as the shift the e-mobility will inevitably take some time, the recent Bloomberg NEFs Electric Vehicle Outlook 2020 highlighted that EVs will hit 10 of global passenger vehicle sales by 2025, rising to 28% in 2030 and 58% by 2040.
This is driven by predictions of price parity between EVs and fossil fuel vehicles by mid-2020.
Arguably the biggest barrier to mass adoption in the UK is a real lack of consumer choice from traditional vehicle OEMs, this will change as OEMs continue to announce more zero-emission vehicles.
For the UK as we approach Brexit at the end of 2020 we must be cognisant of the circumstances that we will be competing with Continental Europe for the OEMs attention since there exists very strict EU-wide manufacturer fines which will incentivise OEMs to produce low / zero-emission vehicles for the EU market.
Where the UK Government to adopt or harmonise these incentives, we would hope that could attract OEMs to manufacture sufficient numbers of RHD vehicles for the UK market which has been a strong market for car sales.
The future for zero-emission vehicles is extremely bright as is the eco-system surrounding zero-emission vehicles whether that is charge point operators, data aggregators, mobility-as-a-service, battery manufacturers, software engineers and OEMs all can play a key role in helping the UK achieve its net-zero target, attract global investment, highly skilled jobs by creating a long-term clean sustainable mobility market.
As an EV driver, I would recommend taking an EV for a test drive to experience the future of mobility now.
Photo Credit – Pixabay