The i3 is certainly striking and, from what I hear, offers the comfort and performance that you would expect from the iconic BMW brand.
Back in May I had the pleasure in visiting Plant Oxford to see the operations there and to celebrate its 100th birthday. And there I was briefed on BMW’s decision to build the i8 at Hams Hall.
I said then the government was putting its money where its mouth was to support growth and jobs in the manufacturing sector.
I would like to share with you the world leading package this government has put in place over the recent weeks to support the future automotive sector. Not just to the end of this Parliament but to 2020.
Our goal is to ensure that the automotive industry in the UK can build on its recent success with clear support for investment in R&D and a competitive environment in which to invest and to do business and to give companies that clear commitment.
Auto sector strategy
In July my cabinet colleague Vince Cable launched the automotive strategy. This ambitious document developed in close collaboration with the Automotive Council sets out the framework which will allow the British vehicle industry to maintain the momentum of recent decades: a secure and competitive future.
The strategy shows that we have set a clear path for what our low-and ultra-low emission R&D goals are – supported by the creation of the £1 billion Advanced Propulsion Centre, jointly funded by the government and the industry.
We have also laid out our plans on long term support for automotive manufacturing. This includes the government working with industry to ensure that we have the right work force with the right skills, and by the industry making public its recruitment intentions for more apprenticeships and more graduates.
And we have said how we will support further investment into the supply chain through the new Automotive Investment Organisation.
These policies are backed up with significant investment - such as through the Advanced Propulsion Centre and the Regional Growth Fund. This will ensure the transformation in the fortunes of the industry continues, driving growth, securing jobs.
Support for ULEVs
A couple of weeks ago I launched the government’s Command paper on roads reform – Action for Roads.
The media covered a wide range of things from that announcement but industry has focused on our long-term commitment to supporting ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs).
The headline is £500 million of government support to 2020. But what is the thinking behind this and what will it deliver?
Our intention is to provide a long term signal to industry that the UK government is fully behind the mass adoption of ultra low emission vehicles – so that they can design and manufacture cars with confidence like the BMW i3.
We also recognise that it’s not just about the vehicle development it’s also encouraging drivers to buy and drive ultra low emission vehicles.
Ian was right about busting the myths.
Naturally with any new technology there are concerns: “They are too expensive”. This is why we currently offer an upfront grant to make these vehicles more affordable. In addition the car companies are offering financing and leasing options on these vehicles which significantly reduces the risk for buyers and spreads the costs.
I am pleased to say that a couple of weeks ago we received the 5000th claim for the plug-in grants a couple of weeks ago. The last quarter saw the highest uptake since the schemes started. With new cars coming to the market we will see more interest.
There are encouraging indications that sales momentum is beginning to build – and cars such as the i3, the British built Nissan LEAF and sub £15,000 Renault Zoe, amongst an ever increasing range of ultra low emission vehicles – will build this momentum.
Another of the frequently heard myths is around finding a charge point…This is simply not true.
Plugged-In Places has delivered over 5000 chargepoints across the UK. Our domestic recharging scheme, only started in April, has already led to the installation of over 500 points in homes.
In the next few days we will announce the successful projects under our £37 million package to support the installation of chargers on-street, at railway stations and other public places, as well as rapid chargers in key locations on the road network. Ian is right to talk about rapid chargers, these are an important area.
We are finalising the details but the headline figures are that nearly £12 million will be allocated to support over 75 projects. And we will be shortly announcing a second round of funding.
And here I would like to congratulate BMW and their partners for securing TEN-T funding for a scheme that will see rapid chargers installed at up to 70 sites on the UK and Ireland’s strategic road network. These chargers will be able to accommodate both the combined charging and CHAdeMO systems.
But it is crucial that the potential drivers and buyers of ultra low emission vehicles are aware of the great strides being made by the auto sector in developing and building plug-in vehicles and understands that government is fully supportive of this effort over a long period.
This is why – along with BMW and a number of other manufacturers – we are currently exploring the potential for a joint government and industry communications push. Nothing like this has ever been done before, and we are in the very earliest stages – but we are making progress on that. We want to ensure that consumers can make informed choices and understand what ultra low emission vehicles have to offer for them.
This applies to both business users – where there is a strong focus on total costs of ownership – and to personal users who will want to be able buy an ultra low emission vehicle that is right for them and they can tryst and know that it will provide them with what they want.
These technologies are with us now, not in the future and what I see today with the i3 in front of me brings that home.
The announcement of an additional £500 million to support the growing market for ULEVs out to 2020 is a serious indication of our ambitions for this sector. It constitutes one of the longest-term and most comprehensive packages of support for these vehicles anywhere in the world.
Later this year we will set out in more detail our strategy for helping ultra low emission vehicles in the UK. Helping to establish the UK as a world leading market for ultra low emission vehicles and positioning the UK at the global forefront of their development and manufacture.
On that note I would like to just remind you, although I’m sure this audience need no reminding, of the importance of the automotive industry to Britain’s future prosperity.
UK vehicle production increased to £1.6 million in 2012 – up 8% over 2011. Car demand was up 10% in the first half of this year, and car output in the UK has continued to grow. UK car and light commercial vehicle production is expected to exceed 2 million by 2017.
This is certainly not the case in many parts of Europe but also we cannot and nor can ever be complacent.
The UK government has great faith that the auto sector will do its part for growth, for jobs and for carbon reduction. Government and industry have a shared purpose and are agreed on the direction of travel. There will be informed debate on how best to achieve this – but I am convinced that with industry’s technical, operational and manufacturing excellence and the government’s unwavering support, the UK automotive sector will continue its recent success and make a major contribution to tackling the challenges of 21st century motoring.
We are regarded as a world leader and a place to invest. We have a huge amount to benefit from the industry. I would like to congratulate BMW.