Continuing his campaign to reduce the UK's dependency on expensive oil, Gordon Brown signals the biggest revolution in the way Britons drive since the development of the internal combustion engine
On the opening day of the Motor Show in London the Prime Minister brought together for the first time motor manufacturers, large energy providers, research engineers and vehicle designers for a meeting to discuss how they can work together to make advanced low carbon and electric cars widely available so that consumers can benefit from lower fuel costs.
Addressing the meeting Mr Brown said that road transport had reached "an historic point" and that the rising cost of oil had given everyone chance to consider green alternatives.
He went on: "This has opened up a huge opportunity for technological innovation. It is a once in a generation opportunity."
The meeting delegates will now examine how to ensure that UK manufacturing sector reaps the benefit of this revolution in vehicle technology, and what action the government can take on infrastructure, procurement and planning to speed up the transition to a lower-cost, lower-carbon car economy.
This follows the Prime Minister's call on the EU earlier this summer to set tougher mandatory fuel emissions standards, ensuring that by 2020 new cars produce average of just 100 grammes CO2 per kilometre, a cut of 40 per cent from the 165 grammes today. This could reduce road fuel consumption in Britain by an average of 2 billion litres of road fuel a year and save the typical British motorist around £500 pounds a year in running costs.
The challenge is enormous: today, less than 0.1 per cent of the UK's cars 26 million cars are electric. Less than one per cent are hybrids. Achieving the 2020 target for new car CO2 emissions will therefore require radical changes to the cars on our roads, with dramatic increases in the utilisation of hybrid, electric and other advanced low carbon technologies. The PM wants to see the mass production of conventional hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric drive technology in ordinary family models.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: "Electric vehicles are exempt from the major motoring taxes - fuel duty and vehicle excise duty. These exemptions already provide significant financial benefits over the lifetime of vehicle ownership. In London electric vehicles are also exempt from the congestion charge. The government is looking at a wide range of policy issues relating to the potential mass market introduction of electric vehicles in future years."
The Prime Minister, accompanied by Business Secretary John Hutton and Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly, will set out the steps government will be taking to incentivise the rapid changeover to low-carbon and electric vehicles in Britain. These include:
Removing any barriers in the planning system to facilitate the rapid roll-out of the necessary electric charging infrastructure so that electric cars can be charged in tens of thousands of streets across the country. The government will consult on proposals to allow the widespread introduction of charging points for electric vehicles without having to apply for planning permission.
Collaborating with other countries - including Germany, France, Denmark, and Portugal - on how to encourage the creation of the right consumer market to promote the development of advanced low carbon and electric vehicles and agree international industry standards. A meeting of energy, automotive and planning experts to exchange key information on infrastructure requirements and technology standards will convene later this year.
Launching a study on issues relating to the development and commercialisation of electric cars, helping government identify how the British motor manufacturing sector, including the many companies involved in the full supply chain of goods and services, can maximise the benefits to the UK economy and jobs of low carbon vehicle technologies. How this will be delivered will be set out in the government’s low carbon manufacturing strategy in the autumn.
Working with the National Grid and energy companies to assess the impact on the electricity system of the widespread use of electric vehicles and ensure the capacity to support a new charging network and possibilities to realise the wider system benefits of electric vehicles.
Providing more than £90m of funding for UK research, development and demonstration of low carbon vehicles over the next five years. In addition the government is dedicating £20m to provide lead markets for low carbon vehicles through the use of strategic public procurement.
The government will deliver on its own commitment to accelerate the pace of transition to low emissions vehicles, so that within the next three years new car purchases for all government departments average 130g/km CO2 or less.