Lack of infrastructure to make UK decarbonisation targets ‘an uphill battle’

An inadequate charging network is having a significant impact on investment in electric vehicles, finds Logistics UK.

This is the stark conclusion of its latest report: Electric Vehicle Report 2023.

The report found electric vehicles (EVs) still comprise just 0.9% of the UK’s van fleet – a figure that has barely moved from the 0.3% it was at in 2019.

It blamed the lack of an adequate public charging network as having “a significant impact on the confidence of operators to invest in electric vehicles (EVs).”

The report questioned 32 Logistics UK member organisations. It found that despite high support for going electric (with 62% of logistics businesses saying they plan to have decarbonised their van fleets by 2030), it also found operators were hamstrung by significant barriers still.

Logistics UK CEO, David Wells, said: “The logistics sector is fully aware of its responsibilities to decarbonise, and is keen to do so.

“However, with respondents reporting wide ranging costs to upgrade their energy supplies to depots – between £100,000 and over £1m – a lack of meaningful scrappage schemes, acquisition costs on the rise and volatile energy prices, it is an uphill battle that cannot continue without increased support from government.”

Logistics UK also noted there is currently no support to help logistics firms manage their transition from current diesel/petrol fleets to electric ones, arguing firms should not be expected to “write off” vehicles themselves.

Wells said: “The lifecycle of a vehicle is carefully worked into any logistics business’ budget, to ensure continuity while keeping costs down. Our members should not be expected simply to write off the cost of any vehicles they operate – which could run to thousands of pounds for every operator.”

He added: “A supportive scrappage scheme should be in place to ensure that logistics businesses can stay on the roads without incurring further, punitive costs.”

The UK has a target to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050, but without support now, Logistics UK warned any government of the day would be hard-pressed to meet this deadline.

Wells said the logistics industry is suffering from significant inflationary pressures and rising road vehicle operating costs.

He said current volatility of energy prices, coupled with “sudden changes” to grant funding in recent years, had also made budget management more challenging.

He said businesses need much greater support to upgrade fleets and energy supplies without having to pass on costs to customers.

Logistics UK is calling on the UK government to commit to five areas of support for EVs:

1. Power supply: Logistics UK is seeking a fair approach to funding electricity connections and expanding EV depot charging, including transparency on available grid capacity.

2. Public charge-point network: Logistics UK says the public network should be fully accessible to large electric vans and trucks, supported by a roadmap with clear milestones on reliable public charging infrastructure.

3. Financial support: It claims that certainty of support for operators is what operators need to enable them to decarbonise operations. It wants any fiscal support to include the introduction of scrappage schemes.

4. Regulatory reform: The association is calling for “fundamental reform” of vehicle weight, driver training and inspection regulations to avoid conflict with the 2030/2035 phase-out dates for non-zero emission vehicles.

5. Low-carbon fuels (LCFs): Logistics UK wants tax incentives for low carbon fuels (LCFs), such as hydrotreated vegetable oil, liquefied natural gas, and compressed natural gas, to make them competitive with diesel. It also wants a long-term plan for LCFs across transport modes.

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