The most striking announcement of the summer was from Michael Gove on DEFRA’s policy on Clean Air. Conventional petrol and diesel combustion engines are to be banned in new cars from 2040, although hybrids will be permitted. Nevertheless this leaves PRA with much to do to protect and stimulate the interests of our independent forecourt members in the years ahead.
The biofuels lobbying campaign seems keen to flag up the benefits of introducing E10 petrol, but government remains wary of mandating such a change. PRA believes that few, if any, UK fuel suppliers will be willing to try a ’market-led’ experiment having noted the dismal experience in Germany and the lack of benefits to consumers.
Turning to Electric Vehicles (EVs), there are increasing numbers of suppliers offering deals for the installation of Charging Points, including major oil companies with exclusive outsourced equipment. PRA has asked government for clarification of the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech which suggested that Charging Points could be mandatory on sites operated by ’large fuel retailers’. No definition currently exists but PRA is in direct contact with the appropriate Minister at DfT to understand the ramifications of this Bill. One option for government is to seek views from industry and other bodies through a consultation.
Meanwhile, PRA continues to represent the automatic car wash industry (ACW) and retailers in an attempt to better control unregulated hand car wash (HCW) activity across the UK. A six-week campaign in Scotland to identify human trafficking and labour abuse is under way with support from the PRA and members north of the border.
Despite the potentially disruptive changes from Alternatively Fuelled Vehicles (AFV), retailers are pressing ahead with new-to-industry developments, restoring moth-balled forecourts, investing in new technology car washes, rolling out automats and introducing bigger and better convenience stores with innovative food-to-go offers as well. One can perhaps conclude that the short-term outlook remains positive for the forecourt industry.