It’s a great pleasure to be here this morning and I’d like to thank the organisers - Cenex, the TSB (Technology Strategy Board), UKTI (UK trade & Investment) and the SMMT (Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders) - for putting this event together.
I know this is now the third year, and although it’s my first time here, I’ve been hearing how things that were concepts in the first year became prototypes and design models in the second year and are now out there on the tarmac as real driveable vehicles in the third year.
This is a fantastically ambitious trajectory and from what I’ve seen already this morning I am hugely reassured about the capacity of human ingenuity to meet the very real challenge that we face to decarbonise motoring. Presented with that challenge, industry and academia are coming together to develop solutions; and develop them rapidly.
I know there are some incredibly impressive examples being showcased here of a new breed of ultra low carbon vehicles - I’m looking forward to seeing them for myself and perhaps driving one later on this morning.
I think over the last few years we’ve slipped rather too easily into a lazy rut that says of ‘cows have 4 legs, therefore all creatures with 4 legs are cows’. For motoring this equates to ‘carbon is bad, we need to decarbonise, cars produce carbon therefore cars are bad’.
The truth is that the car has been one of the great enhancers of quality of life over the last few decades. Personal mobility, the ability to travel point-to-point on an individually-tailored timetable has been a huge boon and people are not going to give up the liberty provided by the car lightly.
Fortunately, thanks to the technological revolution we are about to embark on, they won’t have to.
Yes we must tackle congestion on our roads and in our cities. And so we want to ensure that people can use alternatives for vehicle journeys such as high speed rail and public transport.
But we need to recognise that, for many journeys, the car will remain the only practical and convenient choice. Which means we must make the car sustainable by decarbonising transport over the coming years.
So we want to encourage motorists to embrace cleaner and greener vehicles. That means creating a virtuous circle - one where, by encouraging demand, we will stimulate investment in mass production which, in turn, will bring down costs and further boost demand.
And this government is taking a number of steps to help establish that virtuous circle - let me highlight 3 of them.
Technology Strategy Board winners
The first is the way we are working with key partners to deliver a strategic vision for automotive R&D - eg the Technology Strategy Board’s low carbon vehicles innovation platform.
And I’m pleased to be able to announce today (16 September 2010) that a further £24 million is being awarded to 6 winning consortia of the TSB competition.
The 6 winning projects have produced innovative solutions to the low carbon challenge. For example - there are hybrid technologies, composite materials, and engines redesigned to generate lower emissions and recover waste heat energy.
And the vehicles cover everything from urban utility vehicles, to extended range electric cars, to lightweight hybrid refuse collection vehicles.
This is an investment in projects that will deliver measurable economic benefits, as well as tangible environmental ones.
Plug-in car grant
The second area I want to highlight is our Plug-In Car Grant -from January next year buyers will receive a grant of 25% of the price of a green car, up to £5,000.
Today (16 September 2010) I can announce the publication of the criteria that cars will have to meet in order to qualify for the plug-in car grant.
Our objective has always been ‘real’ grants for ‘real’ cars - cars that are safe and reliable; cars that meet the needs of real motorists and provide a motoring experience that’s as good as, if not better than, the conventionally powered vehicles they currently drive.
Now that we have published the criteria, I hope manufacturers will submit their applications for the cars they want to be accepted on to the grant scheme.
The third strand of our approach focuses on infrastructure - and the importance of infrastructure to support consumer acceptance of electric vehicles is absolutely clear, hence the inclusion in the coalition agreement of a commitment to mandate a national recharging network.
Parts of London, Milton Keynes and the north east are already in the process of installing recharging infrastructure.
We plan to hold a second round of bidding for the Plugged -In Places programme in the autumn and I have today (16 September 2010) released guidance to the 15 places which have expressed an interest in bidding for funding - setting out in more detail what we want from these projects to support our decision-making on a national recharging network, so that they can begin the process of bid preparation.
We will announce the funding available for the second round of plugged-in places following the October spending review.
I believe we are on the brink of a critical transformation of road transport.
The next 30 years will see a shift from high carbon to low carbon based road travel, as significant as the shift a century ago from the horse to the combustion engine. This, now regular, event is the embodiment of that process.
Once that shift is underway, and clearly irreversible, policy makers will be able to plan for a future that includes the car -safe in the knowledge the benefits of individual travel will be available to future generations without compromising our carbon reduction goals.
That is a significant strategic prize and this government will continue to support the industry in attaining it.