Thank you Charlie, and good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It’s a great pleasure to be here in my new capacity as Minister of State for Transport.
I might be new to the department, but my interest in transport goes back a long way.
I ran a business advising on infrastructure finance in central and eastern Europe.
I was on the board of Transport for London.
And I was Liberal Democrat Shadow Transport Secretary – under the leadership of Sir Menzies Campbell.
But despite this experience, I had never travelled in a pure electric car before today (23 October 2013).
I must say I was hugely impressed.
So impressed, in fact, that I’m trying to persuade E-Car to let me drive one.
The environmental case for going electric is widely understood, but I wasn’t expecting the vehicles to be as sophisticated and refined as they are - both in their design and in the quality of their ride.
Clearly the products are right.
And sales are growing.
But over the next few years, we have to make them even more commercially attractive to potential customers.
So it’s inspiring to see a business like E-Car Club, which was only set up a couple of years ago, doing so much to promote ultra low emission vehicles.
While government is providing significant funding to develop the technology, expand the infrastructure, and reduce the cost of electric vehicles to buyers, ultimately building the market requires initiative and entrepreneurial flair at a local level.
And that’s precisely what E-Car Club and HARCA are doing here.
This type of collaboration, between the car club, local authority and community association will be instrumental in growing the market and changing the way we travel.
Pay-as-you-go car clubs don’t just help us improve air quality, reduce traffic noise and cut carbon.
They also give Londoners more choice about the journeys they take.
Reduce the cost of transport to individuals and businesses.
And promote more efficient use of cars.
We are absolutely committed as a government to speeding up the development of electric and other ultra low carbon vehicles – and supporting the growing market.
As some of you may be aware, last month we published our ultra low emission vehicle strategy – called ‘Driving the future today’.
Taking on board the views of stakeholders, it sets out a structured plan to transform sales of ultra low emission vehicles. Our long-term vision is for all cars and vans on our roads to be ultra low emission vehicles by 2050.
We will continue to support the early market, through:
- plug in grants which currently reduce the upfront cost by up to £5000 per car or £8000 per van
- tax concessions
- and grants for installing charging infrastructure
We are also working to install more publicly accessible chargers in key locations like car parks at train stations and rapid chargers at motorway services.
We have an unwavering, long term commitment to decarbonising road transport.
Not just to tackle climate change.
But also to make the UK a global leader in green vehicle technologies and engineering.
The government’s focus will remain consistent and technologically neutral.
And we welcome any innovative thinking that helps us achieve that goal.
We will work to resolve any market failures or barriers to growth.
In Europe we will continue to negotiate on the basis that regulations on reducing CO₂ from cars are ambitious but realistic.
And we will keep on listening to industry and ensure that its concerns are taken on board when formulating policy.
The industry’s role is crucial – and will be even more crucial in the future as our investment in green vehicles grows.
In the 2013 Spending Round, the Chancellor announced that £500 million would be made available to develop the ULEV market between 2015 and 2020.
This is a world leading commitment that gives certainty to the market.
But we need the industry to help us deploy it in the most beneficial way.
So we will shortly be launching a call for evidence to draw in a wide range of ideas to help us design the next phase of our ULEV programme.
This is your opportunity to tell us how we can best support sustainable market growth in this sector.
How best we can help UK technology businesses.
And how best these changes can boost economic growth.
We will retain incentives to help motorists with the upfront cost of buying ULEVs.
And of course we will continue to invest to get the necessary infrastructure in place.
I think we all appreciate that the decarbonisation of road transport presents us with a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Like you, I am determined that we seize that opportunity.
And I look forward to working with you in the months and years ahead to do just that.