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Mathematic modelling of plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle uptake has shown that the volume of low-emission cars required to allow the UK to hit new tougher CO2 emissions targets could exceed the volume of production.

Speaking at the Vehicle Remarketing Association 2020 Vision conference, Cap HPI consultant Matt Freeman revealed an analysis of where the UK is now in terms of its new car CO2 level and where it needs to get to by 2025, and how it could impact fleet planning and investment.

Cap HPI consultant, Matt Freeman - Image 1Freeman (pictured right) estimates the UK’s overall new car CO2 emissions level is, this year, running at 126g/km. However, it had been as low as 120g/km in 2016 when diesel was at its height.

The 2025 European target will be a 15% drop on 2021 levels. Freeman, using today’s CO2 average has calculated that we therefore need to hit 107g/km for 2025.

“All manufacturers are facing enormous fines under the new legislation if they do not meet the emissions targets in Europe, there’s going to be a huge amount of investment in this to ensure that the manufacturers don’t end up having to pay those huge fines.”

Freeman believes it is only battery electric vehicles that are going to provide us with the kind of CO2 reduction that is needed in order for car makers to avoid the fines.

“Most consumers have exited diesel in the new marketplace and have moved themselves up into petrol. That is not a sustainable position to be in. That’s contributing to that rise in CO2.”

He adds that while PHEVs offer a suitable alternative for those coming out of diesels because of their range and efficiency, some customers have been put off by recent changes to PHEV incentives.

INDUSTRY EXPECTS BATTERY LIFE CHECKS

Experts at the VRA conference said they expect a battery-life report to become a standard part of a fully electric vehicle when it’s defleeted because of the impact on residual values that battery life will have.

Professor Paul Jennings of Warwick University said: “You have to remember that battery life depends on the type of use [not just mileage], and we need to model battery life to work out how they perform rather than just wait and see what happens.”

Cap HPI consultant Matt Freeman added: “The information about a battery’s life will have an impact on the residual value and will have to be made available to a buyer. It needs to be available, and if this isn’t done freely and openly by the manufacturer or the retailer then it will probably end up being legislated for.

“There needs to be a technical solution for this, just like there is a service record for any other car.”

Freeman has run two scenarios to model the uptake of low-emission vehicles. The first scenario keeps the UK on its current track, which results a slight increase in hybrid and plug-in vehicles, but misses the 107g/km target.

This scenario, says Freeman, means that “by 2025, about 70% of people will still be buying ICE vehicles, simply because by 2025, there isn’t going to be probably enough choice or enough opportunity for people to change” into plug-in cars. He adds that for those who can change and are in a position to change, they will but that’s “relatively small beer”. The only way for manufacturers to go, he claims, is for them to look at mild hybridisation. “You’re looking at HEVs at about 5%, 6% for plug-ins, and about 7% for BEVs. it takes us to 113g/km. So, we still wouldn’t be, in a realistic scenario, in a strong enough place”. The result by 2025 is an overall vehicle parc of 1.2m hybrids, 680,000 PHEVs and 716,000 BEVs.

The issue that Freeman believes will hinder progress with fleet planning and investment is that there isn’t the car manufacturing capacity to supply these full electric vehicles.

“By 2025, we’ve got to sell three quarters of a million hybrids, just over half a million plug-ins, and just under two thirds of a million EVs.

“Let’s put that in perspective. The factory Volkswagen opened earlier this year at Zwickau to build its electric vehicles has a stated capacity of about 300,000 units a year. We would have to be buying, in the UK, a huge amount of the capacity of that factory. Volkswagen, of course, also has to sell those cars in Germany and France and Italy and Spain and China and everywhere else. There’s going to be a huge amount of demand everywhere.”

The scenario worsens with the second scenario, which meets target using Norway-style policies and incentives.

“That’s 850,000 electric vehicles in five years. So then again we come up to the problem of how do we actually source those vehicles and get them into our marketplace. That, I think, is the big challenge we face.”

He added that even if the UK leaves the EU, it is still likely to keep the same CO2 targets, although possibly with smaller fines.

Tristan Young