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BVRLA criticises government changes to EV grant criteria

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British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) Chief Executive Gerry Keaney has stated that it’s the ‘wrong time’ to reduce support for electric vans, following the government announcement that the grant scheme for zero-emission vehicles has been updated to target less expensive models.

The plug-in grant scheme, which has supported nearly half a million vehicles over a decade, has helped kickstart a market that is now moving forward at pace with over one in 10 cars sold in 2021 – over 150,000 – having a plug. And the government says EVs are becoming more affordable as the market has expanded and demand is increasing.

As such, it will now provide grants of up to £1,500 for electric cars priced under £32,000, with currently around 20 models on the market, which it claims ensures taxpayers’ money makes the most difference – and ensuring as many people as possible can benefit.

Support for wheelchair accessible vehicles is being prioritised, with these retaining the £2,500 grant and a higher £35,000 price cap.

Grant rates for the Plug in Van Grant will now be £5,000 for large vans and £2,500 for small vans, with a limit of 1,000 per customer per year.

“Financial incentives such as the Plug-in Grants have proven to be a positive factor in encouraging people into electric vehicles, evidenced by the continued growth we’re seeing. Subsidies cannot run forever, but the fleet sector relies on certainty, reducing these grants will have a negative impact on this,” said Keaney following the announcement.

“While we’ve seen high levels of uptake within the car market, the situation is not the same for electric vans. The disparity across the industry means that sweeping solutions are not suitable.

“Incentives have had a positive impact to date but there is more to be done. It is disappointing to see support declining when cost remains a crucial stumbling block.

“There remain many barriers that are slowing down the mass transition to electric vans. Today’s news increases those challenges and will delay the uptake of electric vans. This is particularly the case for SMEs, where the lack of price parity between ICE vehicles and electric alternatives makes it hard to create a realistic business case to make the switch.

“For the move towards electric vans to gain momentum, more support and incentives are essential, now is not the time to remove or reduce them.

“We are calling on the Government to provide more support around commercial vehicles, including an extension of the Plug-in Van Grant beyond the current 2022/2023 end date.”

BVRLA wants government plan for non-zero emission HGV phase out

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The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) has responded to the Government’s proposals on phasing-out the sale of new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles.

When considering the phase-out date, the BVRLA believes there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about which powertrain technology will work best and what infrastructure will be available to support the transition to zero-emission HGVs.

It says the vast variety of use cases requires a more nuanced and studied approach. The association suggests that, as a minimum, the split between 2035 and 2040 phase out dates should occur at 18 tonnes not 26 tonnes and that another earlier split at 7.5 tonnes should be considered.

The use of low carbon fuels has been instrumental in helping reduce emissions and should continue to be supported to create immediate carbon reduction gains while zero emission product is not viable.

There should be an increase to maximum permissible weights to cater for the additional weight and loss of payload when moving to zero-emission vehicles. A wider review of vehicle weights should be considered to prepare for a range of zero-emission technologies being used.

Finally, the BVRLA calls for the Government to produce a delivery plan like that seen for cars and vans. To support this, the association has recommended the setting up a taskforce with a range of stakeholders, including end users, to make recommendations for the delivery plan.

It says this group should also have a role in identifying the challenges in reaching the phase-out dates and in developing the solutions needed to overcome them.

Concerns raised over Leeds Clean Air Zone charging plans

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Many commercial vehicle operators will not have enough time or money to upgrade their fleets for the introduction of the new Leeds Clean Air Zone (CAZ) arriving in January 2020.

The British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association (BVRLA) issued the warning as Leeds City Council became the first authority to have its charging CAZ plans approved by government. It will charge non-Euro VI trucks £50 per day to enter parts of the city from 6th January 2020.

To help businesses affected, government has pledged more than £29 million in funding for the council to implement the zone and support businesses. The council has stated that £13.8m would be made available as grants of up to £16,000 per affected HGV, subject to a ‘funding competition’. Applications are expected to open towards the end of March and grants can be used for either retrofitting or towards the purchasing of a new vehicle.

BVRLA Chief Executive Gerry Keaney said: “Around half of the UK truck fleet is currently non-compliant with the CAZ standards so we are pleased to see that Leeds City Council will be providing support to HGV operators.

“With less than a year to go until the new charging zone comes in, small businesses will need all the help they can get as they will be hardest hit by charges. With a typical rigid 18-tonne truck costing £40,000, many companies are going to face massive costs in upgrading their fleets.

“We would like to see more cities following in the footsteps of Nottingham, whose air quality measures are set to reach targets without the introduction of charging zones.”

Leeds City Council Councillor James Lewis, executive member with responsibility for sustainability and the environment announced the council’s approved plans thusly: “Businesses that are likely to be affected need to look at the vehicles they operate and begin their final preparations for the introduction of the zone. We recognise that this will be a difficult transition for some businesses to make.

“We have not received the full amount of funding that we asked the government for, however, we are pleased to confirm today that a number of significant financial support packages will be available to assist owners of affected vehicles. We will be working hard to make sure this money is available swiftly. Leeds City Council will not make money from these charges.”

The BVRLA says it continues to engage with cities across the UK to encourage them to consider all alternatives to charging Clean Air Zones.