The new Government wants to encourage UK van fleets to switch from diesel to gas-powered vehicles and has reassured fleets that alternatively-fuelled vehicles have a long-term future.
This autumn the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions (DTLR) and the Department of Trade and Industry will publish a discussion document entitled 'Powering Future Vehicles' that will set out the Government's strategy for promoting the development, introduction and take-up of fuel cell and other new technologies.
In the meantime, however, David Jamieson MP, the new Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the DTLR has wasted no time in telling the House of Commons that his department remains committed to greener transport. He said the components of the Government's travel agenda are "to secure the maximum take-up of today's environmentally-friendly fuels, bring forward the next generation of green fuels and lay the foundations for the United Kingdom to benefit from the longer-term prospects for fuel-cell propulsion and the low-carbon economy".
Mr Jamieson added that the Government would use "appropriate taxation of the different fuels and types of vehicles' as well as 'grants to provide incentives and support for motorists and businesses in buying green vehicles".
The duty rate for liquefied petroleum gas, for example, is 6p per litre, compared to 45ppl for petrol and diesel, while the Powershift grant scheme designed to subsidise the uptake of alternatively-fuelled vehicles is one year into a £30 million three-year budget. This funding for LPG grants will remain, although the Government wants to see it invested in new areas following substantial improvements in the environmental performance of conventionally-fuelled cars.
"Grants should now focus on the conversion of light-duty goods vehicles, as the biggest air-quality benefit now comes from displacement of diesel," said Mr Jamieson.
He added that the Government would also like to push hard the uptake of compressed natural gas by heavy commercial vehicles. Among conventional fuels, the DTLR is interested in seeing the development of biodiesel produced from vegetable oil, which produces much the same emissions as oil-based diesel but which has the advantage of being a renewable energy source. (July 20, 2001)