Westminster Diary - The Road to Zero

Last week Parliament debated the ambitious proposals to end the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040. During this debate, I was very pleased to be able to talk about the ways in which Rugby is helping to drive this change in the automotive sector. Delivering the next generation of electric vehicles is a key part of our plans to deliver net zero carbon emissions by 2050, which I know is an important part of preserving our natural environment for future generations.

The move to electric vehicles also represents a great opportunity for us here in Rugby. I am very proud that in the constituency we are home to the London Electric Vehicle Company, which is producing the new London Taxi – a modern, electric version of the iconic black cab. Built in Rugby constituency, these vehicles are operating on the streets of London today and there is also considerable interest internationally in this new product.

Alongside this, we have heard only recently that Jaguar Land Rover, one of the most famous brands associated with the Midlands, are investing £1 billion in their new electric vehicle manufacturing centre at Castle Bromwich. JLR are about to build on the success of the I-PACE, currently on the market, by developing an all-electric XJ saloon vehicle. That will be available in 2020 and be capable of doing 300 miles between charges, meaning vehicles manufactured in the West Midlands will be competing with global brands such as Tesla in this emerging market.

However, to support this move towards electric vehicles we need to urgently put in place the infrastructure to deliver the network of charging points that will be required and increase the capacity in the national grid. During my speech in Parliament, I highlighted that even now, we are failing to achieve this. Good work is being done by companies such as Rugby’s Off-Grid Energy to provide innovative solutions to these challenges and reduce the peak load on the grid, but more needs to be done.

We also need to put in place more charge points, both for public use and at workplaces and at new developments. I am pleased that Rugby Borough Council’s most recent budget commits to investing in charging points for visitors to the town centre. However, delivering these charging points brings with itself challenges – the new motorway service station at Junction 1 for example, currently plans to open with just two charging points of a proposed twenty-four because of concerns about capacity in the grid. To me, that is unacceptable, and I am talking with Moto, the operator, and with Ministers, about how we can overcome these challenges and deliver the charging points necessary for the road to zero strategy to be a success.