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Transition to zero-emissions is ‘greatest challenge since space race’, says CBI

The Government must help make zero-emission cars affordable and build the necessary charging infrastructure to encourage drivers to make the transition.

Charging point symbol

The CBI is calling for action on EV charging and affordability

That’s the view of Carolyn Fairbairn, CBI director-general, speaking today at the Zero Emission Vehicle Summit in Birmingham, as she sets out that the transition to zero-emissions is the “greatest technical challenge since the space race”.

While the Prime Minister is using the event to announce a £106m funding package to help drive an “ambitious mission” for the UK to become a world leader in low-emission technology, Fairbairn is speaking at the summit to set out three ways the UK can reach its goal of a zero-emission future – pushing further on free trade and combating protectionism, building consumer confidence and developing innovation partnerships around the globe.

Fairbairn echoes the widely held view that action needs to be taken to build driver confidence in vehicles, and will say at the event: “The transition to zero-emissions is not just about ensuring we build the vehicles – that’s only half the story. The other half is about ensuring demand.

“If people are worried about the car’s driving range, the infrastructure, the cost of installing chargers at home, battery longevity or a host of other possible concerns, then they just won’t make the switch. They’ll stick with what they know.

“And it’s here that government support goes a long way. Through making vehicles affordable, easing consumers’ range anxiety and joining forces with business to invest in charge-points across our road networks.

“And governments can help design the zero-emission vehicle eco-system that makes the low-emission choice the easy choice and, ultimately, the only choice.”

Fairbairn is also using the event to set out the need for international collaboration and action to fight protectionism, saying: “Right now, countries around the world are setting their zero-emission targets and making plans to meet them. But let’s be frank. If we are to meet those targets, we shall do so together or not at all. No one country can succeed alone.

“And that means we must keep trade strong. There’s a reason this industry is international. It’s because launching a car is expensive – especially a car that uses new technology – so it requires a global marketplace. That’s why the zero-emission transition needs free trade.

“Protectionism is dangerous. Not just for business, not just for consumers, but for our environment. Protectionism is the wrong answer, to the wrong question, at the wrong moment.

“So, our first opportunity for accelerating the transition to zero-emission is to deepen international collaboration on free trade.”

Fairbairn also says innovation partnerships need to be built on a global basis: “The transition to zero-emissions presents the greatest set of technical challenges since the space race.

“And like the space race, they’re not challenges business or the Government can solve alone. There’s a vital third partner: our universities, where so much of the technology will first take shape.

“In Europe, universities and businesses have already built links across the continent. But let’s now extend those partnerships beyond Europe.

“So continental links become global links, because our universities are the hinge on which the door to the zero-emission transition turns.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.