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Automotive Sector: Environmentally Sustainable Recovery

Volume 681: debated on Tuesday 29 September 2020

What steps his Department is taking to support an environmentally sustainable economic recovery in the automotive sector. (906770)

What steps his Department is taking to support an environmentally sustainable economic recovery in the automotive sector. (906789)

What steps his Department is taking to support an environmentally sustainable economic recovery in the automotive sector. (906793)

My hon. Friend will know that we continue to support the transformation of the sector towards zero-emission vehicles. Last autumn, we announced up to £1 billion of new funding for the next generation of innovative, low-carbon automotive technologies. A competition, as we speak, is under way.

As we recover from the economic effects of the coronavirus, it is vital that we build back greener. Can my hon. Friend reassure me that he is backing the innovators who are working on decarbonising our automobile industry—companies such as Gridserve Sustainable Energy—and who can get their cutting edge ideas on to the market, supporting green jobs along the way?

Green recovery is an absolute priority for my Department. We have brought forward funding to restart innovation, support business and deliver our decarbonisation ambitions. This includes £10 million through the Advanced Propulsion Centre and £12 million from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.

I thank my hon. Friend for his earlier answer. Vehicle regulations regarding electric vehicles, I am told, now come under the auspices of the electricity at work regulations. Not many garages realise that and as electric cars have the equivalent to domestic three-phase electricity amounts of stored energy that can kill very easily, what is he doing to ensure that we do not lead the world in deaths in this sector?

There are 182,000 vehicle technicians in the UK, of which 21,000 are EV qualified. Last year, we endorsed the Institute of the Motor Industry’s TechSafe professional standards, which will help to ensure that staff are properly trained and qualified to work on electric vehicles.

My hon. Friend may be aware that Elon Musk, the chief executive officer of Tesla Motors, recently landed at Doncaster Sheffield Airport and has seen the land ready for development. Will the Minister work with me to put a case forward to encourage this automotive giant to build its next gigafactory in Don Valley?

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. I am very keen to secure battery manufacturing capability in the United Kingdom, and I am very supportive of discussions with potential investors about their requirements. As he knows, we are currently calling on industry to put forward investment proposals for gigafactories.

The Minister of State has mentioned the production of electric vehicles as a key element of sustainable economic recovery in the automotive sector, and we want that production to be supported by the phasing out of new internal combustion hybrid vehicles by 2030. He, I think, wants 2040 to be the date, but we will agree, I am sure, that that must be accompanied by an appropriate national charging infrastructure. Its development, however, is seriously lagging. A recent report by the International Council on Clean Transportation found that as few as 5% of the chargers that will be needed by 2030 are currently installed. What is he doing to ensure that charging infrastructure can meet future demands placed on it?

We have, as the hon. Member rightly mentioned, consulted on bringing forward the end to the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040 to 2035, or earlier if a fast transition appears feasible, as well as including hybrids for the first time. We will announce the outcome in due course. I remind him that we are investing £2.5 billion in grants for plug-in passenger commercial vehicles and more than 18,000 publicly available charging devices, including 3,200 rapid devices: one of the largest networks in Europe. I want to see him supporting that endeavour rather than talking it down.