/What the end of the engine could mean for Wales

What the end of the engine could mean for Wales



(Title Image: South Wales Argus)

The Issue

Personal transport is rapidly changing.

The UK Government recently announced it was going to phase out diesel and petrol engines by 2040 – following in the footsteps of a few other governments around Europe – while autonomous vehicles, taxi apps like Uber and increased use and development of electric vehicles marks a shift in how we could be getting around.

I’m going to have a more in-depth piece on this issue – particularly the phasing out of petrol and diesel engines and its possible impact on the Welsh economy and infrastructure – in the next State of Wales update, due on October 30th.

The Motion

The Senedd:

  • Notes the speed of the revolution in transport technology requires a major re-think in public policy and design.
  • Believes transport manufacturers and their supply chains need to adapt or die as the combustion engine is phased out within the next 20 years because of (1) driverless vehicles – which will disrupt assumptions about private ownership of cars – and (2) electric vehicles which require charging points covering the whole of Wales.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to outline steps it is taking to align policies with the pace of change.

Key Points

Jenny Rathbone AM (Lab, Cardiff Central)
For (the motion): Infrastructure needs to change now.

  • A member of Natural Resources Wales’ board recently bought an electric car and has been frustrated he can’t get to all parts of Wales; pleased there’s a budget proposal for £2million towards electric charging points.
  • Electric vehicles provide an opportunity to disperse energy generation around the country, not at big single sites like nuclear power stations.
  • Can Wales build vehicles from our existing automotive supply chain?

Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
For: It’s exciting technology and close to widespread use.

  • Electric vehicles are starting to surpass 300 miles in range and can accelerate in a manner that rivals supercars.
  • Energy supply planning needs to start now.
  • Driverless vehicles provide new opportunities for people with limited mobility.

Shadow Minister for the Environment, David Melding AM (Con, South Wales Central)
For: We need better planning for future transport needs.

  • Electric vehicles are vital to address air pollution and the lack of infrastructure is frustrating.
  • The public sector needs to take the lead (i.e. encouraging taxis to switch to electric); the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act is the ideal way to co-ordinate policy.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)
For: Charging has to be practical and accessible.

  • Charging points need to be rapid charging (80% charge in 30 mins); electric vehicles aren’t feasible if people are stopping for 3/4 hours to recharge.
  • The strength of our automotive sector makes Wales the ideal place for a centre of excellence for low carbon vehicles.

Gareth Bennett AM (UKIP, South Wales Central)
Mixed views: Practical problems need to be overcome first.

  • Not sure driverless cars will be a positive development because of confusion over driving licence requirements, pedestrian safety, possibly more road congestion and reduced use of public transport.
  • Even with rapid charging points, it’s still much faster to fill a tank of petrol; battery disposal is environmentally damaging and exploitative (most work is done in central Africa) too.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn)
For: Technology is out-pacing policy.

  • There are few incentives to accelerate the use of electric vehicles; government policy isn’t anywhere near catching up with technological progress (i.e. changing planning rules to provide compulsory charging points with new homes).
  • NHS manager in his constituency tried to ensure district and school nurses used electric cars but NHS had a contract with a company that couldn’t provide the vehicles.

Eluned Morgan AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales)
For: Huge potential benefits; car ownership is changing.

  • It’s estimated autonomous and electric vehicles will result in a 90% reduction in road accidents, 40% reduction in congestion, 80% reduction in emissions and 50% reduction in parking spaces saved.
  • 59% of car industry bosses believe more than half of car owners will no longer want to own a car by 2025 (being replaced by autonomous taxis/rentals).

Welsh Government Response

Minister for Science & Skills, Julie James (Lab, Swansea West)

  • You cannot hold back the tide of technological progress, you have to embrace it or you get left behind – as the UK was when cars were first introduced.
  • A “number of manufacturers” are interested in coming to Wales to develop low-carbon technologies.
  • Autonomous vehicles require 5G mobile roadside technology and there’s a danger that if 5G is sold off by the UK Government, companies won’t invest in commercially unviable areas (i.e. most of Wales).
  • A decision on the Swansea tidal lagoon is vital to meet future energy needs, including that of electric vehicles.

Vote

The motion was approved unanimously.

Like this work? Why not consider supporting Senedd Home on Patreon?