Pace of government’s Road to Zero strategy questioned

The government’s Road to Zero strategy has been broadly welcomed, but critics have questioned the speed of the ambition outlined by ministers yesterday.

Launched by the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling in Stratford, East London yesterday morning, Road to Zero details how government will support its aim to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel-only cars and vans by 2040. By this point, ministers say, all new cars will be “effectively” zero emission (see story).

The strategy aims to speed up the delivery of zero and low emission vehicles in the UK

However, critics of the plan suggest that the 2040 goal is too distant, and that a more ambitious 2030 target would be appropriate to spur the uptake in low and zero emission vehicles.

Policies outlined within the strategy include support for the development of new EV charging infrastructure, including requiring new property developments to have access to charging points and the extension of the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) beyond buses, coaches and HGVs to include vans and black cabs.

According to Dustin Benton, policy director at the Green Alliance, the Road to Zero strategy is on ‘cruise control’ for failing to set a sooner target date to phase out the sale of conventional cars and vans.

‘Cruise control’

Speaking yesterday, he said: “It’s rare for the oil industry, mayors and environmentalists to agree on something, but we all think 2040 is far too late for a ban on conventional vehicles. Moving it to 2030 and setting a zero emissions vehicles mandate, as both China and California have done, would encourage car companies to build electric cars in the UK, and give the country a head start on its competitors across Europe.

“While there are some welcome measures, including on charging infrastructure, the Road to Zero strategy is on cruise control. As it stands, it won’t help the UK build a world leading clean automotive industry.”

Click on the image to access the Road to Zero Strategy

These comments were echoed by Dr Jon Lamonte, chief executive of Transport for Greater Manchester and lead board member for air quality at the Urban Transport Group.

Commenting on the strategy, Dr Lamonte said: “The government’s road to zero strategy is heading in the right direction, but at the wrong speed.

“We need to act far sooner than 2040 to ban conventional vehicles if we are to improve air quality within our cities. The lack of incentives to discourage people from using conventional cars — particularly diesel vehicles – will also make it more difficult to reduce emissions.

“Government must go further and faster if we are to reach our desired destination of clean road transport.”


According to Andy Eastlake, the managing director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), there is ‘every reason’ to believe that the strategy’s aims can be ‘achieved, if not significantly surpassed’.

In particular, LowCVP has welcomed the announcement that government will be establishing a new EV Energy Task Force as well as a Road Transport Emissions Advice Group to improve engagement over issues including energy supply and consumer messaging on technology choices.

Mr Eastlake said: “‘Effectively zero emissions’ by 2040 is 22 years away so we welcome the push for most of the fleet to be ULEVs by 2030; the average driver will have several vehicles over this period. It’s important, though, to develop a range of products suited to different drivers’ needs. The new vehicles being sold today will be a distant memory in 2040.

“This revolution in mobility and in the technologies we use to get us around can only be achieved if people — government, businesses and householders – work together and pull in the same direction. The strategy helps by focusing us all on where we need to get to and, importantly, also includes some interim steps.”

Active travel

Andy Eastlake – LowCVP managing director

However, Rachel White, senior policy & political advisor at the sustainable transport charity Sustrans, has described the strategy as a missed opportunity to encourage additional support for active transport including walking and cycling.

She also called for closer ties between the Road to Zero strategy and the government’s Walking and Cycling Investment Strategy.

She said: “Whilst we welcome the government’s commitment to hold a call for evidence on last mile deliveries, including consulting on the provision of grants or other financial incentives to support e-cargo bikes, we would like to see financial support for all e-bikes to encourage their uptake.

“E-bikes are a green way to get from A-B which reduces our carbon emissions and improves the quality of the air we breathe. They are also a more accessible active way to get about for those that may live in very hilly areas, or may be less physically able to use a pedal bike such as the elderly. However, they are still prohibitively expensive for the majority of people.”


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