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Low-emission Vehicles

Volume 598: debated on Thursday 16 July 2015

As more models come into the market, businesses and consumers are recognising that low-emission vehicles are cheaper, greener, and a great driving experience. Thanks to a strong framework of Government support, more than four times as many ultra low-emission vehicles were registered in the first three months of 2015 as were registered in the first three months of 2014. Last year, one in four electric cars bought in Europe was made in Britain.

The United Kingdom is one of the world’s leading producers of low-emission engines. For instance, Perkins Engines, in my constituency, manufactures large engines for power generation, and Jaguar Land Rover, in the constituency of my right hon. Friend the Member for South Staffordshire (Gavin Williamson), manufactures vehicles. What further measures is my hon. Friend taking to encourage UK motorists to start using low-emission engines?

Never mind “one of the world’s leading producers”. I think that we are the world’s leading producer, given that all the i8 hybrid engines for BMWs are made at BMW’s £500 million Hams Hall plant, Donington Park has been chosen as the global headquarters for Formula E, and Geely is investing £250 million to make plug-in hybrid taxis at the new plant in Coventry, thus creating 1,000 jobs. So we are indeed leading the world. As more manufacturers make these models available, more consumers will be given that option at their local showrooms.

The Minister will know of the report that was submitted to the Economic Sub-Committee of the Cabinet which showed that the cost to our economy of air pollution from diesel and other vehicles was between £9 billion and £20 billion. When considering low emissions, will he take into account particulate matter—the PM 2.5—and nitrogen dioxide?

Internal combustion engines produce pollutants which contribute to air quality problems. That is why we need to ensure that more people opt for green alternatives such as electric vehicles, plug-in hybrids, and other technologies that are becoming available.

A report published in today’s Financial Times reveals that, in 2010, 9,500 people died prematurely in London alone as a result of pollutants that are commonly found in fumes from diesel trucks, buses and cars. As well as the human cost, such pollutants carry a financial cost of up to £3.7 billion, just in the capital. Will the Government look at that report, and consider commissioning a similar report applying to the whole United Kingdom?

There is a cross-party initiative on air quality. I should add that I came in on my bicycle this morning, so I have not contributed to any of the air quality problems in London.

We need to make further progress in rolling out low-emission vehicles, while ensuring that the electricity they use is produced in a sustainable way.

Figures published this week show the scale of the air quality challenge that faces London, in addition to the carbon dioxide challenge that faces us all, and other towns and cities have similar challenges ahead. Why, in the Budget, did the Chancellor impose a financial penalty on hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles, putting them in the same band as cars with far higher emissions? Is it not time that the Chancellor talked to the Transport Secretary, and that both of them listened to what the industry is telling them?

When consumers are deciding which vehicle to buy, they will consider not only the level of vehicle excise duty that they will pay—which, incidentally, will be zero in the case of the very cleanest cars—but the total life cost of the fuel that they will use. It is pretty much a no-brainer to buy the most fuel-efficient car possible, and to opt for a plug-in vehicle if that suits the consumer’s lifestyle.