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BBT March/April 2019 cover
March/April 2019

UK government to invest in next-gen cars

Electric cars at a public charging station

Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in the autumn budget that the government will invest in infrastructure for zero-emission cars and autonomous vehicles.

The government will put forward £200 million to go toward a wider £400 million fund for investment in charging infrastructure for electric cars. In addition, Hammond said the government will commit to electrify 25 per cent of cars in use by government departments by 2022, as well as provide £100 million to guarantee continuation of the Plug-In Car Grant through 2020 to help consumers with the cost of purchasing battery electric vehicles.

Support of the development of autonomous vehicles is also on the agenda, with Hammond announcing that the government wants to see driverless cars on UK roads by 2021. To encourage research into the technology, the government will change regulations to allow developers to test self-driving cars without a human safety operator. The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) will also put forward a prize to determine how road building should be adapted to support autonomous vehicles.

The news has been welcomed by Addison Lee, with CEO Andy Boland saying the firm has been held back from using more environmentally-friendly vehicles by a lack of infrastructure to support them.

Boland commented: “Earlier this year, an independent report published by Addison Lee concluded that converting one taxi or private hire vehicle to electric power delivers an environmental benefit equivalent to 10 privately owned cars. But to allow just a quarter of the capital’s private hire fleet to go electric, London would require 2,060 rapid charging points. There are only 75 available at present. Other towns and cities are even further behind.

“We’re keen to work with the government to ensure that charging points are installed as quickly as possible. The choice of technology is important: it’s essential that we opt for rapid chargers, rather than ‘trickle’ chargers that take hours to power up a vehicle. Once the infrastructure is in place, we’ll begin the move to electric and I’ve no doubt that many other commercial vehicle operators will follow.”

Boland said the support for driverless cars is also welcome news, as Addison Lee is investing in plans to use the tech within its fleet. “Only last month, an Addison-Lee led coalition, MERGE Greenwich, unveiled plans to design a new ride-sharing system for the Royal London Borough of Greenwich, based around autonomous ride-sharing vehicles, with the goal of reducing the strain on Britain’s congested roads.”

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