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Moving the goalposts

The announcement that the government may bring forward the end of sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans to 2035, or even earlier, has alarmed many stakeholders involved in the automotive industry. The sector has been working towards a target date of 2040 since it was first set in 2010.

Riding crest of the wave into 2020

After MFG got approval for its huge takeover of MRH in 2018, the market was bracing itself for an even bigger deal in 2019, with Sainsbury bidding to take over Asda to become the UK's biggest fuel retailer by volume. But while the Competition and Markets Authority was willing to allow the first deal after MFG agreed to sell 38 sites, the supermarkets' plans were deemed a step too far and the rest of the market heaved a sigh of relief as the CMA put an outright ban on the deal.

Zeroing in with fuels

The government made its commitment to electrification of transport clear in its Road to Zero strategy, which it published in July 2018. The document claimed the government remains 'technology neutral' but then devoted the majority of its pages to highlighting its support for the development of electric vehicles (EVs) and the infrastructure that will be required to keep them charged. It also reiterated an earlier commitment to end sales of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040.

EVolving the network

Shell is planning to be the first fuel retailer in the UK to take out traditional fuels from an operating service station and replace them with an electric vehicle-only charging hub. An application for planning permission for the development on the company's site in Fulham, west London, was made at the end of October, with the hope and expectation that the hub would be operational by the middle of next year. The announcement was made as Shell celebrated the installation of its 50th UK EV (electric vehicle) charging point, and the installation of the first 150kW post on a service station. It also followed an announcement a week earlier about Shell's 'carbon neutral' programme, giving drivers the chance to offset their carbon dioxide emissions free of charge when they buy fuel at its UK service stations using the Go+ card. The scheme went live on October 17 and will cost the oil major £10m over the next 12 months. Bernie Williamson, Shell UK Retail's general manager, said she was "super excited and proud" with the milestones that have been achieved so far as well as the company's plans going forward. "This is about us thriving through the energy transition. We're looking at the next evolution and the needs of our customers in the broader sense. We're doing nature-based solutions, giving motorists the opportunity to do something about their carbon footprint as we continue to invest and ramp up long-term solutions of electric vehicle charge posts for those people when they're ready to move to EV transportation. We're ideally placed for that we have a fantastic network where over 75% of the population are within 15 minutes of a Shell service station."

Speeding ahead

Sales of electric cars in the UK are currently minuscule compared with their internal combustion engine (ICE) cousins, but the country's biggest-selling car maker is gearing up for a rapid change in this state of affairs. At the Frankfurt Motor Show last month, Ford announced that it expects the majority of its sales will be electrified by the end of 2022. This will require a major shake-up in the UK car market because in the year to August battery and hybrid cars achieved a combined market share of 7.5%, up from 6% for the same period a year ago. Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were the star performers up 93.1%, from 9,009 units to 17,393, and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) performed strongly up 20.2% from 50,739 units to 60,989, but demand for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) collapsed earlier this year after the government removed tax incentives, and their sales were down 37% from 27,918 units to 17,594. These figures are dwarfed, however, by the 994,941 petrol engine cars sold over the same period, up 2.4% on a year ago and with a market share of 65.5%, and diesel sales of 410,012, down 19.3% after well-publicised problems but still taking a 27% market share.

A moving target?

In July 2017, when the government published its long-awaited clean air strategy and its Road to Zero transport policy, its confirmation that it would ban sales of conventional internal combustion engine cars and vans by 2040 met with very little opposition. Just the fact that it had set a firm cut-off date for sales of new petrol and diesel cars and vans was enough to satisfy most environmentalists, while vehicle manufacturers and fuel companies agreed that 2040 gave them enough time to adapt.

We should be 'celling' the future

A future where battery- powered and hybrid vehicles are superseded by vehicles running on hydrogen fuel cells was predicted by Jon Hunt, manager, alternative fuels, at Toyota. Speaking at a conference organised by the Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum, he explained why the company that produced the world's first mass-produced, battery-powered car, and hybrid, was now working towards a future where hydrogen fuel cells become the predominant technology.

Emission impossible

Government indecision over the introduction of E10 a blend of fuel with up to 10% ethanol content compared with the current limit of 5% in E5 is nothing new. It was just after the London Olympics in 2012 when the then Transport Minister Norman Baker wrote to industry associations to tell them the government had changed its mind on E10. It had been expected to give the go ahead towards the end of that year, but after many consumers rejected the new fuel when it was introduced in Germany, the government decided it was too soon because it was not compatible with an estimated 20% of cars on UK roads.

C-store growth rate set to soar

New market analysis by HIM, revealed by insight director Gareth Nash, predicts that the growth rate in the convenience sector in 2019 will accelerate, with overall turnover up 3.5% to £41.7bn, compared with a growth rate of 2.7% last year. He said the growth rate had been slowing slightly over the past three years, with competition from the discounters, rising business costs and declining tobacco sales all having an impact. But this year the sector is set for a "strong growth rate" well ahead of the grocery market average.

Fuelling the future

The UK is lagging behind the rest of the world in terms of automotive hydrogen development, with countries such as China, Korea and Japan pushing ahead at a rapid rate, according to Charles Purkess, business development manager at ITM Power. He was part of the 'Fuelling the Future: On the Road to Zero' session chaired by TV presenter and motoring journalist Quentin Willson, at last month's Forecourt Show. The packed event featured PRA chairman Brian Madderson; BP Chargemaster CEO Dave Newton; TSG UK's business development director of EV Solutions, Michelle Machesney; and petroleum manager of the London Fire Brigade, Clare Scawthorn.

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Weekly retail fuel prices: 17 February 2020
RegionDieselLPGSuper ULUL
East128.5163.90137.39125.07
East Midlands128.1460.80138.82124.96
London128.61139.13125.52
North East126.40136.83123.08
North West127.4666.90138.32124.30
Northern Ireland125.32131.10122.38
Scotland127.4253.70135.93123.71
South East129.3462.40139.01125.86
South West128.2663.90136.08124.49
Wales127.05135.90123.20
West Midlands128.2166.90137.48124.77
Yorkshire & Humber127.5855.70137.36124.09

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Has the Government's shock announcement to bring forward the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles - as well as hybrids - to 2035 or even earlier caused concern and disruption to your future forecourt development plans?

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