Company Car Today

Transport Minister George Freeman has declared that he is in favour of a roll-out of road-charging in the future.

“I dream of a day when we can start to reward people on the roads. If you have a big gas-guzzler and start to drive to the school gate or to the city centre in peak times your phone ought to start to be able to drive an intelligent pricing system that says either a) you can’t do it or b) that’s going to cost a lot of money. Whereas if you’re driving a low-emission vehicle and going in off-peak hours you can get ‘green points’,” he said during a keynote speech at the Connecting the South East event held last month.

“We can provide a digital platform for behavioural economics that rewards people making the right decisions.”

Freeman is responsible for decarbonisation and the environment at the Office of Low Emission Vehicles and Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles. He said he wanted to make sure any radical changes are introduced in a way so that “people come with us on that journey rather than viewing it as a way of politicians making lives harder”.

George Freeman

He added: “We want to make this something citizens can look at and say ‘I can now do my daily travel, spend more time with my children or doing whatever it is I want to do and less time driving an internal-combustion-engined vehicle, pumping out dirty air and driving rather less well than I think I can do’. The more we can show people this is a smart, clean, green revolution then I think we’re on the cusp of something exciting.”

When questioned by Company Car Today, he refused to confirm whether or not the Plug-In Car Grant would continue into next year, but said fleets are a key element in the mass roll-out of electric vehicles: “We’re going to see much more mobility as a service and that is going to dramatically accelerate the throughput of new, green technology. At the moment if you buy a car and keep it for eight or nine years it is a perfectly rational way of thinking, but it is also a barrier to innovation, and if fleets are being updated all the time and people are using transport in a different way, that also accelerates innovation,” he concluded.

Fleet operators’ association ACFO recently called for clarity on how the Government plans to recoup fuel duty income lost as drivers switch to EVs.

“We can expect Government to move to an alternative model, and I’d like to see that mapped out,” ACFO chairman Caroline Sandall told Company Car Today. “Clearly we do pay on use to some extent at the moment but I don’t think people view it as pay on use, certainly not in the same way as they would road-tolling, which is unpopular. It’s the potential vote-losing change that is preventing us from making inroads into how that taxation works, but Government are going to have to do something, because that forecast black hole in fuel duty is gigantic.”

Daniel Puddicombe