Electric van switch disappoints in ULEZ scrappage scheme

Only 2% of combustion vans scrapped under the London ULEZ scrappage scheme have been switched to electric vehicles so far, despite millions of pounds of funding being allocated for this purpose. Transport for London (TfL) data has revealed that out of the 16,579 approved applications to scrap a petrol or diesel van between January 2023 and May 2024, only 372 of them were replaced with an electric vehicle.

The concerning statistics have been brought to light by Clean Cities, a campaign group advocating for greater support to facilitate the transition to electric Light Commercial Vehicles (eLCVs). The initiative, launched in 2023 in anticipation of the ULEZ expansion, offers grant payments to dispose of, donate, or retrofit vehicles that fall short of the emissions standards, encouraging a shift towards cleaner modes of transport.

The analysis coincides with new findings from the Transport & Environment clean transport group, indicating a surge in diesel vans on UK roads over the past decade, exacerbating air pollution levels. Research conducted by T&E underscores a 63% increase in carbon emissions from vans since 1990, posing a threat to climate targets despite the escalating drive towards electric vehicle adoption. Notably, while emissions from private cars and taxis have decreased by 19%, the majority of new van sales still comprise diesel models, accounting for over 90% of all new van sales in 2023.

This pervasive reliance on diesel vans is mirrored by elevated nitrous oxide emission levels in the UK, with reductions in emissions from HGVs and cars far surpassing those from vans since 1990. Recent polling commissioned by Clean Cities has unearthed public sentiment, with 67% of Londoners emphasising the necessity for greater support for small businesses in transitioning to electric vehicles.

A survey of 4,000 UK adults has also revealed that three-fifths of Londoners are calling for more decisive action from local councils against air pollution, underlining concerns about the detrimental impact of delivery vehicles on the environment. In response to these pressing issues, Clean Cities is spearheading Clean Cargo Capital, an initiative dedicated to expediting the adoption of electric or pedal-powered commercial vehicles in London.

The campaign implores Mayor Sadiq Khan to enhance incentives for businesses to embrace electric vehicles, suggesting a reevaluation and reordering of the ULEZ scrappage fund along with an extension of the Congestion Charge Cleaner Vehicle Discount for SMEs, ride-hailing services, and car-sharing initiatives until late 2027. The pending discontinuation of the discount by the end of 2025 could render it equally costly for businesses to operate diesel or electric vehicles in central London, despite the imperative to curb air pollution.

Oliver Lord, UK head of Clean Cities, asserts, “The Mayor’s van scrappage scheme is a commendable initiative, but the paltry 2% conversion rate to electric vehicles among London businesses signals a need for additional support. The public rightly expects businesses to transition to cleaner alternatives for the greater good, and it is vital to make electric vans a more viable and accessible option.”

Lord continues, “Our polling evidences a prevailing belief among Londoners that small businesses necessitate further assistance in adopting electric vehicles, yet it is perplexing that the Congestion Charge discount is slated for removal next year. The forthcoming election of a new Mayor and government presents an opportune moment to fortify regulations, incentives, and infrastructure to propel electric vans from a luxury to a necessity.”

Ralph Palmer, UK electric vehicle and fleets officer at Transport and Environment, echoes the sentiment, highlighting the requisite for intensified efforts to stimulate demand for electric vans across fleets. Palmer asserts, “It is evident that a concerted push is required to bolster electric van uptake among fleets, ensuring a win-win scenario of emissions reduction, cost savings for small businesses, and enhanced energy security.”

Palmer further advocates for the forthcoming government to expedite plans for augmented financial support and infrastructure enhancements to bolster the charging network for van drivers, aligning the UK with its European counterparts in the transition to electric mobility.

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