UK sees sustained growth in EV sales

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The UK electric car market continued to see sustained growth in September with plug-in cars representing 1.8% of all new cars sales. With diesel sales plummeting, car buyers appear to be switching to plug-in vehicles in greater numbers than ever before.

Overall car registrations for September were down 9.3% compared to the same period in 2016, according to figures just released (Thursday 5th October) by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders – SMMT.

Despite this overall decline, largely attributable to diesel’s continued demise, the plug-in car market has continued to grow and accounting for 1.8% market, close to the recent record of 2.2% set in July and August.

The number of cars eligible for the UK Plug-in Car Grant (PiCG) increased by more than 24% compared to last year. Registrations of PiCG-eligible models for 2017 to date is still up 20% compared to the first nine months of 2016.

Year-to-date (YTD) registrations show a similar trend with pure EVs increasing by 37% and plug-in hybrid sales increasing by almost 15% to September. The conventional hybrid market also shows strong growth with petrol-electrics increasing sales by almost 47%; although diesel hybrids look to be falling out of favour with a drop in around a third.

The average number of plug-in cars registered during the first three quarters of 2017 is almost 4,000 per month, compared to 2016’s average of just over 3,000. The overall market share also sits at an average of 1.8% (averaged over 2017) and peaking at 2.2% over the summer, compared to 2016’s 1.4%.

In parallel with the continuing growth in demand for EVs, registrations of internal combustion engine (ICE) cars fell in September compared with this time last year; diesel sales fell 21.7% and even petrol cars fell by 1.2%. Only alternatively fuelled vehicles – which includes both plug-in models and conventional hybrids – saw an increase in registrations by an impressive 41%.

What is now abundantly clear, taking together the figures from this and previous months, is that buyer’s confidence in diesel has been dramatically hit by elements including the VW Emissions Scandal, and potential clean air zone and air quality plans.

If the car industry is to recover its sales figures, it will need to make significant investments in all types of alternatively fuelled models to replace the falling revenues due to diesel’s decline. Some companies are already positioned to take advantage of the change in buyer preferences and will seize the market opportunity offered by plug-in hybrids and fully electric models.

Volkswagen Group to launch 80 plug-in EVs by 2025

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The VW Group has announced what it calls ‘the most comprehensive electrification initiative in the automotive industry’ with the promise of 80 new electric vehicles launched by 2025 under its Roadmap E plans.

By 2030, Volkswagen will have electrified its entire portfolio, meaning there will be at least one electrified version of each of the group’s 300+ models from across the group’s brands.

With badges including VW, Seat, Skoda, Audi, Porsche, Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, VW Commercial Vehicles, and MAN, it’s quite a breadth of vehicles set to be offered as at least one electric technology. This means that the minimum level of electrification on offer will be a mild hybrid, with conventional hybrid, PHEV, and pure-EV also possible.

However, the VW Group is clearly prioritising plug-in vehicles, since its announcement says that, of the 80 new models promised by 2025, 50 will be pure-EVs, and 30 will be PHEVs.

The news comes after recent announcements from the likes of Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover stating that no new model will be launched without electrification beyond 2019 and 2020 respectively.

The VW Group’s statement of 2030 might not sound as ambitious, but it must be remembered that the group is one of the largest automotive manufacturers on the planet, comprising of a dozen brands – rather than the one or two from the Swedish and British marques above.

The VW Group has recognised that battery supply will be crucial to its efforts, and has put out one of the largest procurement volumes in the industry’s history. More than 50 billion euro’s worth of batteries will be needed, since the group will require 150 gigawatt hours of capacity annually by 2025.

Estimates from VW’s announcement at the Frankfurt Motor Show last night (Monday 11th September) state that around one in four new group vehicles could be a pure-EV by 2025, with forecasts putting sales at about three million units a year.

Matthias Müller, Chairman of the Board of Management of Volkswagen Aktiengesellschaft, said: “We have got the message and we will deliver. This is not some vague declaration of intent.

“It is a strong self-commitment which, from today, becomes the yardstick by which we measure our performance. The transformation in our industry is unstoppable. And we will lead that transformation.”

Germany considering ban on diesel cars

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Germany will put a ban on new diesel car sales into place in the future, similar to those already confirmed by Britain and France. However, a timescale has not yet been discussed, with the German automotive industry a major producer of diesel-powered vehicles.

Chancellor Angela Merkel confirmed that Germany must eventually follow moves by other European countries in banning the sale of new diesel cars. However, in an interview with Super Illu magazine, she’s quoted as saying “I don’t want to name an exact year” reports Reuters.

Merkel agreed that plans to remove petrol and diesel cars from sale and focus on electrified vehicles “were the right approach”. Though there is expected to be considerable resistance from a powerful domestic automotive industry that includes the likes of giants VW Group, BMW Group, and Daimler.

Each of those groups has a relatively strong portfolio of electrified models currently, but diesel models still make up the majority of sales in many markets. The automotive industry is Germany’s largest exporter, with around 800,000 jobs linked to the sector.

With an election due towards the end of September, and Merkel standing for a fourth term, the issues surrounding diesel cars have become big news in Germany.

German manufacturers have already launched ‘diesel-scrappage schemes’ at home and abroad, which allow drivers of Euro 4 and older models to upgrade to cleaner models with significant discounts. Each of the above groups has laid out significant electric car plans for the next 10 years or so too.

However, the cloud of the emissions scandal still hangs over the automotive industry as a whole, perhaps no more so than in Germany where the famed car industry must win back trust, according to Merkel.

Britain to ban petrol and diesel car sales from 2040

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Sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans are set to be banned from 2040 as part of efforts to tackle air quality issues, under plans due to be announced by the UK Government.

The move would see all new models on sale from that date need to be electrified, with models powered by petrol or diesel alone banned. Plans state: “The government will end the sale of all conventional petrol and diesel cars by 2040″.

According to the government’s classifications of how cars are powered, there are categories for petrol, diesel, and alternatively fuelled vehicles. This last category includes both PHEV models and conventional hybrids – such as the Toyota Prius – alongside zero-tailpipe emission powertrains such as pure-EVs and hydrogen fuel cell cars.

The proposal will be put forward as part of the Clean Air Strategy, due to be published later today before a High Court deadline of 31st July. The total cost of proposals is around £3 billion, with £255 million available to help councils tackle diesel emissions at a local level.

Details will hopefully be made clearer with the publication of the plans, and the latest set of proposals gaining more respect from campaigners after a number of drafts deemed to be illegal by the High Court.

Previous proposals such as traffic easing measures and clean air zones will remain from the previous draft, but the new ban follows France’s lead in talking more significant action against petrol and diesel car sales.

A diesel scrappage scheme is expected to be considered, but after continued consultation. Ministers are conscious of not alienating and punishing a large number of drivers that were encouraged to buy diesel cars no so long ago.

The proposals are boosted by recent announcements such as BMW’s confirmation that the electric Mini will be built in Oxford, Jaguar Land Rover’s commitment to electric cars such as the I-Pace, Volvo’s move to only build electrified models from 2019, and electric plans from other British-based manufacturers and those with factories here.

France to ban sales of petrol and diesel cars by 2040

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The French government has announced plans to ban the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars by 2040, in a move that is expected to prove a significant boost for the electric car market.

The measures were announced by Nicolas Hulot, the new French Environment Minister, and form part of the country’s plans to meet the Paris agreement climate targets.

Announced just a day after Volvo hit the headlines with the company’s announcement that all new models from 2019 onward would only be available as electrified models, Hulot considers the move to be a challenge, and acknowledged that it would put pressure on French manufacturers.

However, it seems as though the national automotive industry has been consulted on the move since Hulot stated that the manufacturers have plans that can match this aim.

Renault is already a leading EV manufacturer, and the PSA Group – which includes Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automobiles, and soon Opel/Vauxhall – has previously announced ambitious electric vehicle targets.

Plans will see a scrappage scheme introduced to promote cleaner cars, though it is not yet clear whether the announcement meant a ban on all but pure-electric vehicles, or whether hybrid models would still be allowed to be sold.

France is just one country to plan a ban on the sale of petrol and diesel cars, with the Netherlands, Norway, and India all announcing proposals for similar measures. However, Hulot’s announcement is either on a far larger scale than that of the Dutch and Norwegian proposals because of the size of the country, or more concrete than India’s plans.

The UK has plans that nearly all new cars and vans on sale by 2040 to be zero-emission, though there are currently no expectations that this commitment will be put into law

Mayor reveals zero emission London transport plans

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Mayor of London Sadiq Kahn has revealed the proposals that will help achieve his aim of dramatically cutting vehicle emissions in the capital. The plan is to make London’s transport network zero-emission by 2050.

The Ultra Low Emission Zone and T-Charge proposals are already confirmed to come into force in the near future, but zero-emission zones will be launched in phases, with central London and town centres first from 2025, inner London between 2035 and 2040, and a blanket London-wide zone by 2050.

Between now and 2025, a ‘major expansion in electric vehicle charging points’ is planned, along with the installation of at least 15 hydrogen refuelling stations in and around London. These investments in infrastructure will continue in a significant manner to encourage expansion until at least 2035.

In terms of public transport, all new buses bought will be hybrid, electric, or hydrogen, before all buses operating in the capital being zero-emission of hybrid from 2030. All buses will be zero-emission between 2035 and 2040.

All new taxis will need to be zero-emission capable from the beginning of next year, with the same rule for new private hire vehicles by 2025. From 2030, only zero-emission capable taxis and private hire vehicles will be able to operate in London.

The overall aim of these proposals is to improve air quality and reduce congestion. Despite a predicted expansion in London’s population to 10.5 million over the next 25 years – with a forecast additional 5 million trips each day by 2041 using current models – Kahn’s plans aim to cut the number of car journeys by three million each day.

Improvements in public transport, with expansion of existing lines and new river crossings planned, Crossrail 2, investment in the TfL bus fleet, and the creation of a comprehensive cycle network are all part of the plans to get people out of their cars, but keep London moving.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, said: “It has been an incredibly difficult few weeks for London, but we must carry on as a city and that means pushing forward our work to keep Londoners moving around our city. As London’s population is set to increase beyond 10 million, our future health and prosperity is more and more dependent on us reducing our reliance on cars.

“We have to be ambitious in changing how our city works. While there will be five million additional journeys being made across our transport network by 2041, at the same time we’re setting ourselves a bold target of reducing car journeys by 3 million every day.

“In launching my first Transport Strategy today, I’ll be setting out wide-ranging plans for making cycling and walking safe and accessible in every neighbourhood, transforming our bus network, and ensuring new housing is built not around car use, but designed directly around access to public transport links instead.

“We have to make not using your car the affordable, safest and most convenient option for Londoners going about their daily lives. This is not only essential for dealing with congestion as London grows, but crucial for reducing our toxic air pollution, and improving the health of all Londoners.”

The proposals are open for public consultation until 2nd October 2017.

Image courtesy of Transport for London – Draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy 2017

Diesel nitrogen oxide emissions 50% worse than test results

A new study has found that diesel cars are producing 50% more nitrogen oxide emissions under real-world driving conditions, than compared to the official results.

Work carried out by the International Council on Clean Transportation and the University of York among others studied 11 major car markets in 2015, which represented around 80% of new diesel vehicle sales that year.

The results showed that the vehicles studied emitted 13.2 million tons of nitrogen oxide, more than 4.5 million tons more than the 8.6 million tons that could have been expected based on the vehicle’s official laboratory test results.

With air quality an increasingly prominent topic in the news currently, the results will only strengthen demands to tackle air pollution issues, especially those associated with diesel cars.

Chris Malley, from the Stockholm Environment Institute, University of York, said: “This study shows that excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions effect crop yields and a variety of human health issues.”

Josh Miller, researcher at the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), said: “Heavy-duty vehicles, such as commercial trucks and buses, were by far the largest contributor worldwide, accounting for 76% of the total excess gas emissions.

“Five of the 11 markets that we looked at, Brazil, China, the EU, India, and the US, produced 90% of that. For light-duty vehicles, such as passenger cars, trucks, and vans, the European Union produced nearly 70% of the excess diesel nitrogen oxide emissions.”

Plug-in Car Grants to continue until at least October 2017

The government has this week announced a range of commitments to ultra low emission and autonomous vehicles. This includes a commitment that both the plug-in car grant and the electric vehicle homecharge schemes at will continue at their current rates.

The announcement includes the plug-in car grant, which has already supported the purchase of more than 95,000 ultra low emission vehicles, will continue to provide £4,500 to category 1 vehicles and £2,500 to category 2 and 3 vehicles until at least October 2017.

The electric vehicle homecharge scheme will also continue to provide grant funding of up to 75% towards the cost of a domestic chargepoint (capped at £500) until March 2018. Both schemes will then be subject to a further review.

The funding announcement also includes significant investment to help develop the next generation of driverless and low-carbon vehicles, as part of the Industrial Strategy and the government’s Plan for Britain.

In total, the Government support amounts to £109.7 million across three areas:
* Consumer grants and infrastructure: 7 projects with support up to £16.7 million
* Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC): 7 projects with support up to £62 million
* Connected and Automated Vehicles (CAV2): 24 projects with support up to £31 million

Regarding the industry investment, seven innovative projects will share grants from the latest round of funding from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the joint industry-government programme to put the UK at the forefront of low carbon vehicle technology.

The projects, led by BMW, CNH Industrial, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Penso Consulting, Westfield Sportscars and Williams Advanced Engineering, cover a wide range of new innovations which will help the UK to continue to build on its excellence and become a global leader in low-emissions technology, and safeguard 2,370 jobs in the UK.

Business and Energy Secretary Greg Clark said: “Low carbon and driverless cars are the future and as a Government we are determined through the Industrial Strategy to build on our strengths and put the UK at the forefront of this revolution. Investment in this technology is an integral part of this Government’s efforts, to ensure the UK auto sector remains competitive and world-leading.”

The government also announced the first set of winners of the second round of its connected autonomous vehicles competition, CAV2, with projects set to receive a share of up to £31 million, match funded by industry. Twenty-four projects demonstrated clear commercial value and identified technical solutions for CAV technology, including how these vehicles will work within the UK transport system.

Funding is divided into four streams and ideas include projects using cars and pods platooning, or going in formation, to transport passengers from Stockport train station to Manchester Airport, create vehicles capable of driving in a range of road environments and technology which could make any car operate autonomously.

Through its continuing funding and support for electric and connected vehicles, the government has significantly increased investment in research and development and reaffirmed its commitment to ensuring the UK remains a world-leader in science and innovation ahead of the UK leaving the EU. In a related strategy, later this year the Office for low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) will be publishing its long term strategy for the UK’s transition to zero emission vehicles.

Peugeot-Citroën buys Vauxhall and Opel from GM

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Groupe PSA, the owner of Peugeot and Citroën has agreed a deal with General Motors to buy its European car brands Vauxhall and Opel for €2.2 billion.

With Brexit likely to impact on all the countries concerned, the announcement will create yet more tensions between the governments of France, the home of PSA, Germany, the home of Opel, and Britain, the home of Vauxhall, to protect jobs and plants in their countries.

Speaking about the deal, Carlos Tavares, the boss of PSA, said the acquisition offered an “opportunity to create a European car champion”. The combined sales of PSA, Vauxhall and Opel would be more than 5 million vehicles a year, around half of the VW Group giant and second in the European sales league.

While the new merged group has many strengths, new owners PSA are likely to be looking to cut as much as €2bn (£1.7bn) in annual costs in the merger. Vauxhall and Opel also have a growing pensions deficit or over a £1 billion that will need to be addressed.

In the UK, Vauxhall employs 4,500 workers across its UK production sites at Ellesmere Port in Cheshire and Luton, jobs that Teresa May will be keen to secure. Indeed, Tavares has already held talks with the UK Government about the deal and has given assurances about existing commitments which means that UK production lines are safe guarded until at least 2021.

However, Sir Vince Cable, who held the role as business secretary in the previous administration has warned that Brexit will lead to cuts at Vauxhall. With half of Opel’s workforce in Germany, Cable said: “I imagine there will be some ferocious German canvassing and it’s difficult to see what Britain can offer other than years of uncertainty.”

Given the high political stakes, current business secretary Greg Clark has promised “unbounded commitment” from UK Government to protecting jobs in the UK stating in the House of Commons last month that the government would “do everything we can” to protect Vauxhall.

Perhaps with special post-Brexit support for Vauxhall in mind, as has reportedly been promised to Nissan with its Sunderland plant, Clark continued: “My personal commitment and the commitment of this government will be unbounded to make sure the future of the workforce will be maintained.”

Electric car sales soar as UK car market continues strongly

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Sales of plug-in cars have increased more than 15% in January, compared with the same period last year. Interestingly though, it is not plug-in hybrids (PHEVs) that have driven growth this time around, but pure electric models (EVs).

Over the past few months, sales of EVs have been flat or even slightly in decline. However, with more than 1,000 units registered in January 2017, compared to January 2016’s 584, the pure electric market has grown 73%.

In comparison, PHEV registrations have decreased slightly, to 1,563 units in January 2017 from last year’s 1,683 – a decline of 7%. Combined, registrations of plug-in models in January 2017 come to 2,573, an increase of 13.5% over the previous year.

Registrations of Plug-in Car Grant Eligible (PiCG) vehicles is slightly higher still, at more than 15%, with the figure excluding those PHEVs that cost more than £60,000 or that don’t meet certain emissions of range criteria.

All increases in registrations come against an overall market that grew 3%, with almost 175,000 new cars registered in January. In total, sales of plug-in vehicles accounted for 1.5% of the new car market in January.

Although it is not clear why this reversal in fortunes for EVs and PHEVs has come about, it perhaps has something to do with forthcoming VED changes due later this year. With many plug-in cars requiring a longer time between order date and delivery because of demand, some buyers could be put off by buying a PHEV that is likely to arrive after the changes come into effect, and therefore incur higher tax costs.