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Infrastructure and high costs holding retailers back from investing in green fuelled vehicles: report

Charging the car offers a chance for retailing

Retailers say a lack of fuelling infrastructure and high costs are the principal barriers stopping them from introducing more green fuelled vehicles. The BRC is now calling on the government to take action to encourage the use of green technology in delivery vehicle fleets. 

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) has written to UK transport secretary Grant Shapps to ask for financial incentives, improved fuelling and charging infrastructure and legislation in order to encourage retailers and delivery companies to buy green fuelled vehicles. Incentives could include a 0% VAT rate on new green vehicle purchases, while legislation, says the BRC, should be used to bring in timescales for phasing out diesel and petrol-fuelled HGVs. 

Peter Andrews, head of sustainability at the BRC, says: “Retailers and fleet operators are making decisions in the next few years about the vehicles that will be operating in 2030 and beyond. This is why it’s so important to make sure that green fuel options are not only available, but invested in. Government has a key part to play, not just in encouraging the take up of these technologies, but also in supporting further research and development in this area. If the UK is to become a world leader in the transition to net zero, we need action today.”

Some 88% of retailers with in-house fleet have some type of green vehicle, but only a quarter are using these on a large scale, according to a BearingPoint report, commissioned by the BRC and DP World as part of the BRC’s Climate Action Roadmap. The report, Getting UK retail to net zero vehicle logistics by 2035, questioned 21 retailers and found that the main barriers to further adoption include the lack of fuelling infrastructure, the high costs and vehicles’ range – although 70% of respondents felt under pressure from commercial customers to use greener fuels. But the report also finds that technological advances are needed before electric HGVs become a practical alternative. 

The BRC’s Climate Action Roadmap is designed to ensure that the retail industry and its supply chains reach net zero by 2040, and that vehicle carbon emissions are at that level by 2035. The BRC is working with DP World on a low carbons logistics pathway as part of that ambition. 

Earlier this month, data from the BRC showed carbon emissions had fallen by 49% since 2005, exceeding its target of a 25% reduction by this year. At the same time, carbon emissions in stores and store deliveries fell by 46% and 84% respectively. More than 70 leading retailers have so far pledged their support to the Climate Action Roadmap. Future targets include decarbonising stores by 2030 and deliveries by 2035. 

The call comes a day after Ofgem said it was to spend £300m on kickstarting a charging infrastructure around the UK to support of electric vehicle buyers. It is to invest the money into more than 200 low carbon projects aimed at getting the UK ready for more electric transport and heat. At the same time, new infrastructure will be put in place to support 1,800 ultra rapid charging points at motorway service areas. 

Jonathan Brearley, chief executive of Ofgem, says: “This £300 million down payment is just the start of building back a greener energy network which will see well over £40 billion of investment in Britain’s energy networks in the next seven years.

“The payment will support the rapid take up of electric vehicles which will be vital if Britain is to hit its climate change targets. Drivers need to be confident that they can charge their car quickly when they need to. We’re paving the way for the installation of 1,800 ultra-rapid charge points, tripling the number of these public charge points. Drivers will have more charging options for longer journeys. In the year that Glasgow hosts the COP26 climate summit, the energy networks are rising to the challenge and working with us and partners to accelerate projects that can start now, benefiting consumers, boosting the economy and creating jobs.”

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