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What Does the 2040 Diesel and Petrol Ban Mean for Road Freight Companies?

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Britain Matches France’s Clean Air Commitment

The British Government’s recent indication that it will join France in outlawing petrol and diesel by 2040 could change the face of the road freight industry.

The electric vehicle revolution is something that was a long time coming. But its arrival could be swift and dramatic, signalling the biggest change to the motoring landscape since the first cars and trucks ventured onto the public roads at the end of the 19th century.

Here, we take a look at the implications for both everyday drivers and for the road freight companies whose services ensure that our products are delivered and our shops remain well stocked.

Clean air plan

It all comes down to the government’s eagerly anticipated Clean Air Plan, which was unveiled by Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, last week. A government spokesman described poor air quality as “the biggest environmental health risk in the UK.”

Plans are already in place to impose increasingly strict clean air policies in the nation’s cities, prohibiting or levying a surcharge on those driving older diesel vehicles. The problem with measures of this sort is that they can provoke a backlash from motorists who feel victimised.

This latest step removes the problem at source. The intention is to stop the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040. This means that by 2050, practically every vehicle on the roads will be electric powered.

Advances in EV technology

The step sounds dramatic, but the way cars are evolving, it might prove little more than a commentary on natural market forces. Over the past five years, the number of electric vehicles on Britain’s roads has increased from 2,000 to 85,000. In two years’ time, it is expected to hit 700,000.

Put another way, in 2017, around three cars in every thousand are EVs. In 2020, this will go up to 25 cars in every thousand. At that rate of progression, it is likely that by 2040, petrol and diesel car sales will be in a significant minority anyway, and manufacturers might already have decided to cease production.

The implications for the freight industry

The dynamic within the freight industry is a different one. Businesses are less interested in what their trucks look like, how comfortable they are or whether they are made by the same manufacturer as the CEO’s father used to buy than private car buyers. In other words, while car drivers have a variety of motivations behind their choice of car purchase, when it comes to commercial vehicles, it comes down to purely tangible factors.

For this reason, some businesses have already been using EVs for years, such as the forklift trucks and milk floats we have seen in use for decades. But for long haul and general road use, there will be little interest unless the EV is a more efficient option than diesel.

Tesla has announced that an electric truck will be unveiled next September, and this will be the real tester. If it proves a success, expect to see the major manufacturers follow suit, and a revolution to follow. The moment electric trucks become the better option, businesses will migrate within months, and the roads will suddenly become eerily quiet.

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