UK government’s ZEV green paper a ‘significant change in direction’ on HGVs

Out-Law News | 14 Apr 2022 | 12:41 pm | 1 min. read

The UK government’s response to a consultation on a zero-emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate for cars and vans “provides the strongest indication yet” that ministers also plan to apply the regulatory framework to heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), according to one legal expert.

Peter Feehan of Pinsent Masons said the move would “demonstrate a significant step change in direction” for the government, adding that heavy haulage firms may need “greater diversity in zero-emission technology” to achieve any targets that are set.

His comments came after the Department for Transport (DfT) published its ‘green paper’ response to an industry consultation on the proposed ZEV mandate, which will require a percentage of manufacturers’ new car and van sales to be zero emission each year from 2024. If not fully zero emission, all new cars and vans sold in the UK between 2030 and 2035 must also have ‘significant zero emission capability’ (SZEC).

The DfT’s green paper concluded that a ZEV mandate with regulated CO2 levels for remaining non-ZEVs could, over time, be applied to other road vehicles, such as HGVs. The DfT recognised that “there may be legitimate specific use cases where certain

specialist vehicles and/or manufacturers may require more time to transition to zero

emissions” and added that it would consider adding a small number of “time limited derogations” to the ZEV mandate to accommodate the transition.

Last year the UK government pledged to phase out sales of new non-zero emissions HGVs weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035 with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040. The DfT is also currently consulting on phase out dates for the sale of new non-zero

emission buses and has issued a call for evidence on phase out dates for new non-zero

emission coaches and minibuses. It said it would publish a separate consultation on derogations for HGV phase out dates later this year.

Feehan said: “It will be interesting to see the detail as this comes forward during 2023, but the green paper provides the strongest indication yet of the government’s ambition to extend net zero emissions to HGVs by 2040. This demonstrates a significant step change in direction. It will be interesting to see how the heavy haulage sector meets this challenge and whether it will require greater diversity in zero-emission technology, such as hydrogen, to help meet this target.”

He added: “The DfT’s green paper response confirms many of the points which were well known in the market, but the government’s announcement and the proposed regulatory framework on emissions is the clearest direction of travel we have seen on how it proposes to meet the challenge of net zero in the transport sector.”

The DfT has already launched a separate consultation on how to define SZEC for new vehicles, the target percentage of ZEVs manufacturers will need to produce between 2024 and 2035 and how a certification system will work.