UK Transport

What's Being Done and What Needs to Change

In July 2021, the Government in the UK published what was described as the world’s first “greenprint” – a document that identified their desire to decarbonise all forms of domestic transport by 2050 at the latest. This is in line with the targets set out by COP26, which was held in Glasgow just a few months later.

They have also pledged to commit to a 78% reduction in emissions in the UK by 2035. This is a significant change to their previous 80% target, and a change which has moved this target forward by a staggering 15 years. The blueprint for reaching these targets is clear and whilst the government is putting significant guidelines in place regarding what it expects from businesses, individuals and councils, they are hefty targets.

Shifting towards green energy

There have already been a number of changes that have been announced to help the UK make a move towards more sustainable energy sources. Big plans are already being rolled out with regard to public transport, with announcements like the one made by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in June. He has pledged that the Tube network is moving closer to the point where it will be powered fully by renewable source electricity. This move will help the capital reach net-zero carbon targets by 2030.

On the domestic front, the government is offering plenty of incentives to individuals who are looking to make a move to an electric vehicle. These are in the form of vehicle tax reductions for hybrid cars depending on their emissions and zero tax for pure electric vehicles. The grant to help with the purchase of private electric cars (plug-in car grant) is no longer available, however, having been removed by the government as an incentive in June 2022. The government has also, in a rather unusual move, withdrawn the Electric Vehicle (EV) ChargePoint grant. This grant is now only available to those who own a flat or live in rented accommodation and only where there is dedicated off-road parking.

The removal of the grants put in place to encourage individuals to change to EVs would seem like an unusual move for a government that has made such a significant commitment to reducing carbon emissions within such a short time frame.

What is the situation for vans?

When it comes to domestic electric vehicles, i.e. private use cars, the government is sending rather mixed messages.  It is giving clear indications that electric vehicles are the way forward, yet removing many of the financial incentives people might need to change. The big question is, what is being done in the field of logistics?

The good news is that currently, there is no Vehicle Excise Duty (VAT) on any pure electric van. Obviously, this is different for hybrids. It would also appear that some small and large vans, as well as small and large trucks, are eligible for the government’s plug-in grant. This is a grant that is applied to the purchase price of the vehicle at dealer level, reducing the price. Only those vehicles that have been approved by the government, however, are eligible for the scheme.

Electric vans are still considerably more expensive to purchase than non-electric vans, even taking into account the plug-in grant payments (which for the right van can be up to £5000). The technology required to make them is still somewhat in its infancy, and whilst prices are coming down, the decrease in cost for initial outlay is small.

The electric vehicle network

It won’t have escaped notice that when it comes to electric vehicle charging points, they are somewhat thin on the ground. If we are to implement significant moves towards the use of electric vehicles on all fronts, then the network to support this is certainly required. According to EDF energy, there are over 42,000 charge points connectors in the UK, spread across 15,500 locations. And whilst they boast that this is more public charging places than there are petrol stations, it does not take the average vehicle 30-60 minutes to fill up with fuel at a petrol station. Furthermore, that’s assuming it only has one pump. According to figures from the RAC, there are 38.37 million cars, LGVs and HGVs on the road, licensed in 2022.

What challenges does this move towards electric vehicles pose to courier/transport companies?

The first and quite possibly the biggest challenge to logistics companies is that if they want to make the change to electric vehicles, this can mean that they are looking at replacing an entire fleet of vehicles in a relatively short time. The majority of companies will, of course, have long-term transport plans that allow for the replacement of a set number of vehicles in a given year. There is also the additional cost of installing electric vehicle points for charging on their premises.

Whilst these initial outlays will be high, the running costs associated with electric vehicles are, in fact, cheaper than the costs for fuel vehicles, but it will take time before these savings can really be seen because of this hefty initial outlay.

The distance an electric vehicle can travel on a single full charge may also represent a challenge. The majority of smaller vans will manage a good distance on a full charge. The Ford E-transit, for example, claims to achieve 196 miles on a full charge and return to 80% capacity charge in just 34 minutes if the charger is powerful enough.

Electric vans, in general, weigh more than their non-electric counterparts, which can also cause issues as they have less capacity for payload and, therefore, they may not legally be able to carry the same amount of goods. The heavier the load, the less time a courier will get from the charge as well, and this potentially means planning charging breaks into delivery routes.

Partnering with companies that can offer more local delivery support all over the UK will certainly help. Here at DeliveryApp, we are committed to helping logistics companies do what they can to make the change to electric vehicles by offering a network of courier solutions. These could help to alleviate the issues that charging and capacity may create in the supply/delivery chain network.

Written by Peter Board


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