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SMMT calls for vehicle decarbonisation plans before government bans

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called on government to work with industry to develop a plan that facilitates the transition to zero emission HGVs, before it commits an end of sale date for conventionally fuelled trucks.

All of Europe’s major truck manufacturers have agreed that new HGVs will be fossil fuel-free by 2040, and are investing billions in new powertrains to replace diesel, the most commonly used HGV fuel.

However, at present there is no clear technology that can provide full zero emission operations for all weights and uses of HGVs.

The need to support powertrain research and infrastructure development has been underlined by a new report, Fuelling the Fleet: Delivering Commercial Vehicle Decarbonisation. SMMT analysis has revealed that the commercial, technological and operational barriers currently associated with new technologies such as batteries and hydrogen meant that in 2020, only 0.2% of HGVs were alternatively fuelled – contrasted with cars, which reached this proportion in 2007.

Battery electric van usage, meanwhile, reached 0.3% in 2020 – the same proportion as cars in 2019. Uptake rates for electric vans have continued to grow rapidly, reflecting how battery power can effectively replace fossil fuels in this vehicle class, but just 2.6% of new vans registered between January and July 2021 were battery electric vehicles (BEVs), compared to 8.2% of cars.

Established manufacturers have already brought a range of fossil fuel-free HGVs and vans to market, while several new players have also entered the market with dedicated zero-emission commercial vehicle portfolios. With new technology comes new opportunities and the UK, as a manufacturer, of vans, trucks and other HGVs must accelerate the transition to fossil fuel free commercial vehicles and their component parts.

To achieve this, the SMMT says the government should develop a roadmap that supports UK manufacturers and the supply chain, creating a strong domestic market and helping companies seize the opportunities that emerge.

Specifically, it says the UK needs a dedicated public HGV charging network, as only operators who can afford to invest in expensive depot infrastructure and operate on a back to base model can currently make the switch. This network needs to be rolled out urgently – ACEA forecasts that by 2030, the UK will need 8,200 public HGV charging points, equivalent to more than two new charge points opening every single day until the end of the decade. Alternative technological solutions, such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, face an even tougher challenge with only 11 refuelling locations across the country.

Decarbonising the commercial vehicle sector will therefore need more support from government and other stakeholders outside the automotive industry. New technologies need new skills, so the workforce that maintains these essential vehicles must have access and support for the training courses essential to high voltage and other system work. Above all, the industry needs a stable, long-term regulatory and fiscal strategy to deliver a vibrant zero emission HGV market so that manufacturers and operators can confidently plan and prepare for the future.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The industry is committed to be fossil fuel free, but there is not yet a clear technology path for every weight class and every use case. Before it sets a deadline for the sector, the government must support the technological development and market proposition and provide the right framework, so hauliers don’t defer their decarbonising decision to the last minute. Plans before bans is the key.

“Vans face fewer obstacles in this decarbonisation journey than HGVs but adoption rates remain low, driven by the lack of charging points and higher operating costs relative to diesel. The new models are there, with many more coming, but without investment in incentives and infrastructure, the commercial vehicle sector will struggle to meet our shared ambition to reach net zero.”

Low emissions car registrations hit record share in Europe

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According to data from 26 European markets, new car registrations slowed in July, recording a year-on-year decline of 24% as total volume decreased from 1.27 million units to 967,830 – But low emission cars took a greater share of sales than ever before.

Similar results were recorded in July 2012, when the market registered 966,090 units. The year-to-date results remain positive, up by 17% compared to 2020 with 7,381,735 units registered, but down by 24% when compared with January to July 2019.

Felipe Munoz, Global Analyst at JATO Dynamics, which analysed the data, said: “Despite the efforts of national governments to boost consumer confidence, the impact of the pandemic is still being felt by the industry.”

While volume increased in Norway, Croatia, Greece, Latvia, Romania, Estonia, Ireland and Lithuania, this combined accounted for only 8% of total registrations during the month.

In contrast to the overall trend, consumers in Europe continued to buy more low emissions vehicles. In July, a total of 160,646 BEV and PHEV vehicles were registered, accounting for almost 17% of total registrations. This is the second highest monthly market share after June 2021, and the third highest ever in Europe – BEVs accounted for 47% of that total.

Munoz added: “Consumers continue to respond positively to the deals and incentives attached to EVs which have made these vehicles far more competitive in terms of their pricing. But despite becoming increasingly popular, consumer uptake has not been enough to offset the big drops posted by diesel cars.” JATO data indicates that between July 2019 and July 2020, the market share for diesel vehicles dropped by just over 2 points, while their market share dropped by almost 8 points between July 2020 and July 2021. During the same period, the market share for EVs grew by the same amount lost for diesel vehicles.

The market share for gasoline cars has steadily declined from 63.4% in July 2019 to 59.8% in July 2020, and to 59.0% last month.

Munoz continued: “We are beginning to see the impact of campaigns that favour EVs over ICE vehicles playout in the market, however the industry is not yet doing enough to enable EVs to absorb the losses sustained by traditional powertrains.” While diesel registrations decreased by 166,000 new units between July 2020 and July 2021, and almost 207,000 between July 2019 and July 2021, EVs gained only 49,000 units between July 2020 and July 2021, and 125,000 units between July 2019 and July 2021.

In July’s model rankings, the Dacia Sandero secured the top spot for the first time since its launch back in 2008. Thanks to the new generation, the subcompact posted significant gains in Germany (+15%), Romania (+24%), and topped the rankings in France and Spain – alongside being the 8th best-selling car in the year-to-date rankings.

The Sandero’s volume fell by only 2% compared to July 2019, while other leaders such as the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo, Dacia Duster, Toyota Corolla, Volkswagen Tiguan, Opel/Vauxhall Corsa, Skoda Octavia, Peugeot 208, Mercedes A-Class and Renault Clio, posted drops between 17% and 52%.

Last month, there were also strong performances in the SUV segment as both the Hyundai Tucson and Ford Puma entered the top 10. JATO data shows that SUVs recorded the highest ever monthly market share in Europe during July at 46.1%.

Although the registrations volume fell by 15%, these vehcicles gained market share at the expense of larger declines posted by the traditional cars (-28%), MPVs (-48%) and sport cars (-37%).

UK’s drivers want investment for better road surfaces

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The quality of road surfaces on England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads is drivers’ top priority for improvement, according to new research from Transport Focus.

The independent watchdog spoke to over 5,600 drivers to understand their top priorities for improvement to England’s major roads. As National Highways (formerly Highways England) prepares its longer term plans the watchdog checked in with road users to understand their current priorities.

Almost one in five car and van drivers rated the quality of road surfaces on England’s motorways and major ‘A’ roads as poor, with potholes and cracks being the main concerns.

Almost two thirds (65 per cent) of car and van drivers placed more importance on the maintenance of existing roads than building new roads or adding lanes to existing ones.

The safer design and upkeep of roads was road users’ second priority for improvement, followed by better management of roadworks.

Anthony Smith, chief executive of the independent watchdog Transport Focus, said: “Road users tell us they want to see England’s major roads improved with better roads surfaces and fewer potholes and cracks.

“It’s vital that National Highways focuses future investment on these priorities to ensure all road users have smoother, safer journeys.”

What road users say about poor road surface quality:

“All they seem to do is patch it, say if there’s a pothole or a winter frost. Patch it up, and three weeks later it needs doing again.”

“Resurface roads to make it a pleasant journey rather than rattling through the uneven surfaces and potholes, where possible do the work at night to make it safer.”

“…fill in the potholes at least. Preferably resurface as most roads are terrible.”

“Ensure that the carriageway surfaces are in good condition, I have experienced damage to my car due to potholes.”

Transport Focus carried out this research to help put road users’ interests at the heart of the third Road Investment Strategy.

The strategy will set out what the Government requires National Highways to deliver between 2025 and 2030. This includes building new roads, maintaining current ones and operating its network.

Download report: Road users’ priorities for improvement.

Business travel down as virtual meetings save on journeys

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There has been a large reduction in domestic business travel since the pandemic began, according to the the results of a Department for Transport survey – only 35% of businesses that took part said they had continued to conduct business travel during the pandemic.

Ipsos MORI conducted the online survey of UK business decision-makers and found:-

  • A reduction in the proportion of employees travelling for business. Before the pandemic, an average (mean) of 40% of staff travelled for business and this reduced to 28% of staff in companies that continued to make business trips during the pandemic.
  • A reduction in the frequency of business travel. Before the pandemic 76% of businesses said staff travelling for business did so on average at least monthly, and 40% said they did so at least weekly – this reduced to 62% and 32% respectively amongst companies that continued to make business trips during the pandemic.
  • An increase in car (private vehicle / hire car / company car) as the main mode for business trips and a reduction in long distance rail and domestic air travel.
    • Use of private car as the main mode increased significantly – an average (mean) of 43% of trips used car as the main mode during the pandemic, compared to 29% of trips before the pandemic. Use of long distance and inter-city train services as the main mode decreased significantly from 15% of trips before the pandemic to 8% during the pandemic. Domestic airline services also decreased significantly, from 14% of trips pre-pandemic to 9% during the pandemic.

When asked to assume that “Covid-19 is controlled to the point that all restrictions on business and the public have been lifted”, companies anticipate that travel will recover to slightly lower levels than pre-pandemic, with a similar mix of modes:-

  • Two fifths (41%) of companies expect to make fewer business trips than before the pandemic (27% somewhat less, 14% far less) and over a quarter (27%) expect to make more business trips (19% somewhat more, 8% far more). Nearly a third (30%) expect to make the same level of business trips.
  • Companies expect the proportion of employees travelling for business and their frequency of business travel to return to just below pre-pandemic levels:
    • Companies expect an average of 38% of employees within their companies to be travelling for business (vs. 40% before the pandemic). Only 1% said no employees will be travelling for business after the pandemic.
    • A third of companies (34%) expect staff who travel for business to do so on average at least weekly (vs. 40% before the pandemic) and 65% at least monthly (vs. 76% before the pandemic).
  • Assuming restrictions are no longer in place, companies expect to be using a similar mix of main modes as before the pandemic – i.e. a return to long-distance rail and domestic air travel, and a reduction in the proportion of car journeys compared to levels during the pandemic.
    • Companies expect an average (mean) of 33% of trips to use car as the main mode (vs. 29% pre-pandemic), 13% using long-distance rail as the main mode (vs. 15% pre-pandemic), 11% using domestic airline (vs. 14% pre-pandemic).
    • In terms of other modes, companies expect an average (mean) of 10% of trips to use local trains as the main mode (vs. 14% pre-pandemic, 11% during the pandemic), 7% using local buses (6% pre, 4% during), 5%using taxi (vs. 3% pre, and 5% during), and 3% using other modes incl. cycling/walking (vs. 3% pre, and 5% during).

The impact of virtual meetings has been significant:-

  • Over nine in ten companies (93%) said they had replaced domestic business trips with virtual meetings during the pandemic – 44% said they had replaced all trips, 41% half or more, 8% less than half, and 7%
  • Half of companies (50%) agree that meetings which have only virtual attendees are an adequate replacement for face to face meetings, over a quarter (28%) disagree and nearly a quarter (23%) neither agree nor disagree.
  • Nearly six in ten companies (57%) agree that blended meetings (which have both virtual and face to face attendees) are an adequate replacement for face to face meetings, one in five (20%) disagree and nearly a quarter (23%) neither agree nor disagree.

The survey sample comprised 465 company managers / executives with influence over business travel decisions for employees within their organisation.

Domestic business trips were defined as any journey made within the UK for business purposes, including domestic travel to international airports/ports, but excluding commuting, and excluding overseas travel.

Results were weighted to be representative of the overall population of UK businesses in terms of business size and sector.

The WhichEV View: JATO market data confirms massive increase in EV registrations in Europe

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By James Morris, Editor, WhichEV

For more than 30 years, Jato Dynamics has provided precision data on changes within the car market and their reports always make for interesting reading. Its latest update includes a summary of new vehicle registrations from across Europe for June 2021.

With the pandemic seemingly well behind us now, the patterns are becoming clear – with a strong emphasis on electric vehicles. WhichEV powers up the spreadsheet and checks the graphs.

Overall sales of 1.27 million vehicles is slightly down on the 1.47 new vehicles million registered in 2019, but it does mean that sales for the first half of the year finished up 27% compared to the start of 2020.

Pure battery electric vehicles totalled 126,000 units – around 25% ahead of the PHEV collective with 104,000 registrations.

It will come as little surprise that the companies with the strongest EV offerings did best in the sales charts – especially Tesla, the VW group and Ford. While the overall best seller in Europe is the evergreen VW Golf at 27,247 units, Tesla was right behind them with 25,697 sales of the Model 3…

To read the full article, hop over to WhichEV.

RAC forecasts ‘unprecedented summer’ on the UK roads as staycation fever hits

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This summer will see ‘unprecedented’ levels of traffic on UK roads due to drivers planning in excess of an estimated 29m staycations – 16m of these in the school holidays alone – according to a study of 2,500 drivers conducted by RAC Breakdown.

The number of drivers making firm staycation bookings has surged 20% since April, with the RAC figures suggesting the West Country – Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset – will receive the largest numbers of holidaymakers (30%), followed by Scotland (14%), Yorkshire (8%), the Lake District (6%) and East Anglia (6%).

And while many drivers have already decided which week they’ll be going away, a sizeable fifth (18%) are yet to commit to a week. This suggests some people are hoping to grab a last-minute booking or are perhaps holding out to see what the Great British weather has in store before committing.

With the school summer holidays just around the corner and most families already having made their plans for a break, the prospect of lengthy bumper-to-bumper queues on major routes – and a spike in breakdowns – has now shot up. The RAC is therefore urging drivers to make sure their cars – and anything they might be towing – are ‘road ready’ or risk a breakdown during what could turn out to be one of the busiest summers on the roads in years.

Quickly checking a car’s tyres, oil, coolant and even fuel levels before setting off makes the difference between a smooth journey and one blighted by a breakdown. Drivers should also check traffic conditions before setting out and avoid travelling on the busiest roads during the busiest periods.

Drivers were also asked how far from home they’ll be holidaying in the UK, and results suggest many of us will be travelling much further than usual. The majority (57%) say they’ll be more than 150 miles from home, with 17% of these more than 300 miles from home. But interestingly a third of drivers (33%) who had a staycation in 2020 say they’ll be driving greater distances in the UK this year, perhaps to explore new corners of the country.

Uncertainty around foreign travel could also have the effect of boosting the volumes of traffic on the UK’s roads even further, particularly as Office of National Statistics’ data shows as many as 9.4m overseas trips were made in August 2019. Just 7% of drivers expect to take a summer holiday elsewhere in Europe, down from 10% in April. And of those drivers who are still holding on for a foreign trip this summer, 34% say they will end up holidaying in the UK instead if pandemic restrictions affect their plans.

While the car on its own is the most popular means of going on holiday this year, accounting for 90% of trips that will be made by personal transport, 5% will involve towing a caravan or trailer, and a further 5% will be in a motorhome. When it comes to the types of accommodation drivers will be staying in, self-catering is the most popular (46% of drivers), followed by hotels and B&Bs (22%) and camping or touring sites (17%).

Motorparc: Total vehicles on UK roads falls to 40.35m

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Vehicle numbers on UK roads fell to 40,350,714 in 2020, according to Motorparc data released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), the first time the total number has fallen since the global financial crisis of 2009.

As the pandemic stifled new vehicle uptake, the average age of cars on UK roads is now the highest on record at 8.4 years. Van uptake, however, has grown to the highest level in history, accounting for 11.4% of all vehicles on the road.

The latest parc data illustrates that, for the second consecutive year, there were more than 35 million cars registered on UK roads (35,082,800), although that figure represents a modest -0.2% dip as Covid impacted new volumes entering the market.

Light commercial vehicles (LCVs) – the only vehicle type to see an increase – saw 1.7% growth over the past year, up to a new record high of 4,604,861 vehicles. Many of these have been instrumental in supporting the nation during the pandemic, providing support to the NHS, and delivering food and goods across Britain.

Meanwhile, the number of heavy goods vehicles on our roads declined by -3.1% to 589,445 units. Bus and coach numbers saw the most significant fall at -10.7% to 73,608, as the pandemic dramatically reduced already-declining passenger numbers causing fleet operators to pause new fleet purchases and take unused vehicles off the road.

With showrooms closed for large periods of 2020 due to lockdowns, fewer new cars were registered, resulting in the oldest average car fleet since records began. The average car on UK roads was built in 2011, while almost 10 million cars have been in service since 2008 or earlier. While this is testament to the durability and quality of modern vehicles, an ageing fleet risks stalling the UK’s attempts to reduce emissions.

A new car from 2020 emits, on average, 112.8g/km of CO2, which is 18.3% better than a model registered in 2011. Fleet renewal is essential if the UK is to reach its net zero target, with both conventional and alternatively fuelled vehicles having a significant role to play in the transition.

As part of the journey towards zero emission motoring, the number of battery electric vehicles (BEVs) on UK roads increased by 114.3% to a record high of 199,085, while plug-in hybrid vehicles (PHEVs) also saw their numbers increase by 35.2% to 239,510.

However, combined, they represented just 1.3% of all cars on our roads – emphasising the importance of replacing older vehicles with newer, cleaner ones. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) saw their numbers grow by a fifth to 621,622 cars. Petrol car volumes remained stable, down -0.2%, with diesel falling -2.3%. Combined, internal combustion engine (ICE) models accounted for 97.1% of the total parc – or 34,018,599 units.

Britain’s favourite car types are still the supermini and lower medium segments which account for six in 10 cars in service, at 11,620,733 and 9,256,839 units respectively. Dual purpose vehicles remain a distant third, with 4,619,061 in use but now account for 13.2% of cars on the road, as consumer tastes and demand shift.

Record numbers of vans on UK roads

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Commercial vehicles now account for 13.1% of all vehicles on the road in Britain – the highest recorded this century, according to figures released by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

SMMT’s annual automotive census has revealed that, as of the end of 2020, there were 4,604,861 vans, 589,445 trucks, and 73,608 buses and coaches on the road, out of a total of 40,350,714 vehicles in use.

Truck numbers declined by -3.1% to return to levels last recorded in 2015, while bus and coach units are at their lowest since records began, a consequence of the significant drop in passenger numbers caused by the pandemic.

More positively, vans recorded their 11th year of consecutive growth, increasing by 1.7% year-on-year as an upsurge in home delivery and construction stimulated demand. Many of these vehicles have also been instrumental in supporting the nation during the pandemic, providing support to the NHS, and delivering food and goods across Britain.

The average age of commercial vehicles has also increased, with significant implications for emissions targets and air quality goals. The average van is now just under eight years old, with a considerable number of older vehicles still in operation – including around 725,000 that were first registered in 2005 or earlier.

Meanwhile, at 7.4 years old, the average truck would predate the introduction of Euro VI, meaning they would be fined for entering the London Ultra Low Emission Zone,the Bath Clean Air Zone and, from next month, would also incur penalties in Birmingham. Buses, meanwhile, are now, on average, more than a decade old.

Manufacturers have invested massively to provide a wide range of vehicles with a variety of fuel options – meaning operators are spoiled for choice when renewing their fleet.

With the end of sale of new petrol and diesel vans scheduled for 2030, plug-in van uptake continues to grow but remains far lower than that experienced in the car market.

There are now 14,021 battery electric (BEV) and plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vans in service, accounting for 0.3% of all operational vans – four times lower than the proportion of BEV and PHEV cars.

Based on the SMMT data, Slough is Britain’s zero-emission van capital, having both the highest percentage of electrified van registrations (2.2%) and the highest total number (2,087).

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “The past year has highlighted how much Britain relies on its commercial vehicle parc. With less than nine years to go until the end of sale of new petrol and diesel vans, much needs to be done to avoid a long fossil fuel hangover from operators resisting the switch. Fleet renewal must be a high priority for the commercial vehicle sector and the government’s Bus Back Better strategy must be implemented immediately to reverse the decline in bus operations.”

UK’s most popular new car colour? Grey of course

960 640 Stuart O'Brien

Grey retained its position as the UK’s favourite new car colour in 2020, according to the latest figures released today by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).

While it was a tough year for new car registrations overall, 397,197 grey units were sold over the course of 2020, which means that just shy of a quarter (24.3%) of all new cars sold were painted in the shade.

Black and white took second and third place overall, completing a monochrome podium, with more than six in ten (61.6%) of all new cars entering British roads in 2020 painted in these three colours. The rest of the top 10 remained unchanged, apart from yellow and bronze which reversed places as yellow increased its market share by 50% but equivalent to only 6,816 sales. Red saw its registrations drop below 200,000 for the first time in a decade to 147,222, recording its worst tally since 1997.

While the top colour for both petrol and diesel cars was grey, with 248,182 and 84,489 registered in the colours respectively, white was the most in-demand tint for zero emission battery electric vehicles (BEVs) with 25,689 painted in it whilst black was the most popular shade for plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) with 17,989 registered. It was a record year for these electrified vehicles, which together accounted for more than one in 10 registrations – up from around one in 30 in 2019.

Unlike 2019, which saw Scotland and the Channel Islands bucking the national trend, in 2020 grey was the unanimous colour of choice across the UK. Indeed, the only counties to not opt for grey cars as their number one choice were the Isle of White and Borders, where blue was the most popular tint, and Strathclyde which saw white take the top spot. Leicestershire, meanwhile, was the most popular location for pink cars, with 23.7% of the UK’s total registered in the region, while buyers in the West Midlands snapped up the most orange cars.

While white was the most popular shade for the mini segment, luxury saloons and executive cars were most likely to be black. Overall, there were 106 different distinct colours registered throughout the year with the least popular colour nationwide being maroon.

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “2020 was a pretty dark year for the automotive industry and having grey as the top new car colour probably reflects the atmosphere. The sector, however, continues to provide valuable mobility, from vans delivering essential goods to private cars helping key workers do their jobs, and click and collect offers a lifeline for the industry, helping to keep manufacturing going. It cannot, however, replace the showroom experience and the sector has taken great steps to ensure dealers are Covid-secure with the flexibility to manage customer appointments so car buyers can choose a new car and colour in a safe environment.”

New whitepaper from Webfleet Solutions: ‘How automation, digitisation and new technology is changing construction’

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The UK government is relying on the construction sector to help drive our economic recovery in the wake of Covid-19. “Build, build, build” has been Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s rallying cry, and the signs look promising. This new eBook from Webfleet Solutions looks at the increased prevalence of digitisation and automation in construction.

It takes a look at some of the main technologies that are changing how construction companies work and how those who have adopted them are benefiting.

To download your FREE copy please click here.