Can the car trade make the London ULEZ a rallying point for EV support?

  24 February 2019

In the last Auto Retail Profit live webinar a few weeks ago, David Smyth, a director the family-run Swansway Group said the whole EV/low emission market would get a boost from the introduction of strict clean-air programmes due in our bigger cities.

They will, he said, focus people’s thinking on their vehicles, cars and vans, and with some financial support could be just enough to get them over the line and buy an EV. Or if not quite one of them, at least a new and much cleaner vehicle where its eco-credentials are the main selling point.

This week a £23 million scrappage scheme was launched ahead of London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone which kicks in on April 8. The fund will help small businesses and charities regularly driving LCVs in and out of the zone ditch their polluters and switch to something cleaner. A £25 million fund for privately owned cars starts later.

£48 million may not be much in the scale of the London economy but neither is it insignificant and will surely be welcomed by retailers in and around the capital looking to get their share of the sales which must surely follow.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if similar funds were in place for other cities due their own ULEZ – Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton to start with and presumably others later. But where to find the money? Well, how about the £56 billion earmarked for that white elephant, HS2…

The entire motor industry should be calling with one collective voice for help with these ULEZs.  Yes, I know the government cut the plug-in grants not long after Theresa May said she wanted the UK to be a global leader in EVs, battery technology and recharging infrastructure but public money is being used in London and the remaining EV grants.

Downing Street may have other things on its mind just now but April 8 should be a rallying point for the industry to say – look, if ULEZs work as forecast and save the NHS hundreds of millions otherwise spent treating pollution-related illnesses, put your money where your mouth is and support us.

Wishful thinking? Probably, but surely worth a try. Better to spend £56 billion this way than save 20 or 30 minutes getting from Birmingham to London.

John Swift


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