I am grateful to everyone for coming today (22 October 2015).
And to the SMMT for hosting this event.
I want the next 5 years to be remembered as the dawn of the ultra low emission vehicle era.
The time in which we reach the ULEV popularity tipping point.
And the signs so far are good.
Between January and September this year, nearly 21,000 ULEVs were sold in the UK.
Growth of 140% against last year.
And sales of plug-in hybrids were up almost 230%.
The UK is now the fastest growing market for electric vehicles in Europe.
UK fleets are agents of change
And best of all, more than two thirds of ultra low emission vehicles bought in the UK were bought by businesses.
That’s great news.
Because UK fleets are, and always have been, agents of motoring change.
Many of the innovations that have made cars greener, safer and more efficient in recent decades were made by manufacturers responding to pioneering fleet managers.
And today, fleet managers have plenty of choice.
There are at least 27 different electric or plug-in hybrid cars, and 9 different vans to choose from, from capable city run-arounds and business hatchbacks to SUVs and sports cars, with even more due to the market soon.
And businesses are choosing them.
That’s because going ultra low makes business sense.
The government’s plug-in car grant means that the purchase of an ultra low emission vehicle doesn’t have to cost more than a conventional one.
The Mitsubishi Outlander Phev is the UK’s best-selling plug-in vehicle, and after the £5,000 grant it is the same price as its diesel equivalent.
Then there are the ULEV tax breaks and the big savings on servicing and running costs.
Lex Autolease has proven that driving a BMW i3 for 60,000 miles over 4 years will save nearly £2,800 compared to a non-electric equivalent.
And for fleets, those savings will multiply.
A fleet of 10 Nissan LEAFs can save £50,000 over a 4-year operating cycle.
And by going electric a company car driver can save £6,000 in benefit-in-kind company car tax over a 5 year period.
Of course, then there are hard-to-quantify – but very real – benefits to corporate image and social responsibility.
The next level
This government is grateful to businesses for leading the ULEV charge.
Our ultimate goal is for virtually every car and van on the road to be zero emission by 2050.
That’s a challenging target.
Just as it should be.
And this government will support businesses so you can continue to be bold in adopting new technology.
Because when businesses lead the way, manufacturers respond with better range and performance, more charging points and lower costs.
So over the next 5 years, as well as keeping tax low, we are investing £500 million to support the ultra low emission vehicle market.
We announced in August that we will continue the plug-in vehicle grant at the current levels until at least February 2016.
And we are expanding the charging infrastructure, too, so the UK now has over 600 rapid charge points, giving the UK the best charging network in Europe and allowing for fast charging at home, on the street, at railway stations, in town centres, service stations and car parks.
Already, there are thousands more locations where vehicles can be plugged in than there are petrol stations, and the numbers are growing every week.
The City of Bristol is a great example of how this money is making a difference.
By the end of 2015, Bristol will have gained a new network of 100 electric vehicle charging points.
For the first time it will be possible to hire electric vehicles as part of the Bristol Car
And we have provided the city with a million pounds to trial a number of cutting-edge
low carbon buses.
Public sector fleets
But if we are entering the era of the ultra low emission vehicle, we need even more fleets to make the change, and in even greater numbers.
So far, the private sector has been leading the way.
And now we are going to invest £5 million to support the purchase of ULEVs for public sector fleets.
The Office of Low Emission Vehicles will support 50 public sector organisations to buy up to 300 ULEV vehicles.
And today we are also publishing a new business guide to plug-in vehicles, providing all the information a fleet manager might need for the decision to go ultra low.
So in conclusion, I can only say – thank you.
The progress we’ve seen in the ULEV market has been breathtaking.
The government has lent its support, and British businesses have responded.
So that today, an unprecedented, irreversible shift is taking place in the automotive market.
We have arrived at the future of business mobility, and there’s no going back.