Many in society have been indoctrinated with the false belief that battery vehicles are ‘zero emissions’ and the solution to all our environmental ills. Thankfully, our commercial vehicle industry is blessed with a pragmatic membership, who have the intelligence to join the dots and the strength of character to question erroneous claptrap.

Our industry will face many challenges on the road to decarbonisation. However, I believe that our greatest challenge is not one of technology but one of un-indoctrinating the indoctrinated.

The commercial vehicle industry, like the wider automotive industry, is being forced by governmental legislation towards a series of impending cliff edges aimed at enforcing the predominance of battery vehicles. However, the legislative foundations are extremely unstable, with a focus solely on tailpipe emissions rather than lifecycle emissions. Many questions are now being asked about the UK government’s current trajectory – even from within government.

Many operators are now realising that an internal combustion engined vehicle (ICEV) fuelled by HVO has lower CO2 lifecycle emissions than a battery electric vehicle (BEV), while also being more cost effective and operationally efficient. This begs the question, why is the UK government proposing to ban the sale of new ICEVs to enforce BEVs?

It’s time for the commercial vehicle industry to speak up and make its voice heard. Our future should not be focused on obtaining a tick in the box against some spurious ESG target, it must be focused on keeping the country moving in the cleanest, most cost effective, most operationally efficient, least taxpayer reliant way.

Perhaps it’s now time to take off our lithium stained spectacles to reflect on what reality would look like if the UK’s proposed move to battery electric vehicles, through banning the sale of vehicles powered by internal combustion, was to be actually implemented. The following memorial prayer by a reformed and repentant battery electric vehicle activist may give us some idea.

"We commend to you our loyal servant the internal combustion engine. Like most things in life the ICE wasn’t perfect, but it had many great qualities and had mobilised humanity for over a century. Despite being developed into one of the cleanest propulsion technologies available, with better lifecycle CO2 emissions than many BEVs and almost no NOx, the ICE was condemned in a senseless sop to the asphyxiating stench of political correctness.

We would ask for guidance on what we should do now. We put our faith in batteries but now find we haven't the grid capacity to charge them. BEV range remains restrictive, while age related battery degradation and cold weather conditions continue to magnify this weakness. We didn't think through the implications of the additional time required for battery charging in comparison with vehicle refuelling, or the massive volumes of roadworks and associated disruption resulting from the implementation of a charging infrastructure.

We completely underestimated society's annoyance at all these compromises. Worse still, all this sacrifice has been for nothing since carbon dioxide levels have actually risen as a result of the massive emissions inherent in battery manufacturing and the fact that the unilateral focus on BEVs completely undermined the implementation of other more readily available clean technologies.

The enforcement of BEVs on society has been an unmitigated disaster which has cost taxpayers dearly and not only starved many genuine environmental projects of funding, but also other worthy causes such as health and education.

Forgive our arrogance. BEVs had a bright future and a vital role in mobility, but we squandered the opportunity believing instead that batteries were the all-encompassing silver bullet solution. Other propulsion technologies invited us to work with them to secure a cleaner future, but we shunned their approaches. Our goal wasn't lower emissions; batteries had lived in the shadow of the internal combustion for over 125 years and were going to have their day in the sun, regardless of the cost to humanity. With most other propulsion technologies now outlawed or politically undermined, we effectively stand alone and have come to understand the wisdom behind the saying, 'it is much easier to oppose than to govern'.

Forgive our financial recklessness and the £600+ million per week deficit in UK government revenues, resulting solely from the loss of fuel duty and VAT on fuel duty. We're afraid to mention the additional lost revenues from the VAT charged on the fuel itself, let alone the losses from road tax.

We even tried to suppress the financial losses incurred by UK business when we undermined the ICE without a viable option. We refused to wait on the introduction of the much superior (and less infrastructure reliant) solid-state battery technology and threatened to libel the government as 'anti-environmental' if they did not squander countless £billions of taxpayers' money to support current technology lithium-ion liquid electrolyte (mobile phone) battery propulsion.

Forgive our hypocrisy. We were happy to lambast VW while simultaneously encouraging BEV manufacturers to mislead the public with 'Zero Emissions' marketing and vehicle badging. We knew that our 'Zero Emissions' messaging completely failed to recognise the emissions from battery manufacturing and disposal, or the inconvenient truth that a major portion of the electricity used to charge BEVs is generated using fossil fuels, or even the fact that BEVs produce non-exhaust emissions from tyres, brakes and road wear. However, we continued unabated and now appreciate that our misleading propaganda was a distortion of the facts much greater than dieselgate. We were finally forced to admit that a BEV is not a 'zero emissions vehicle' but rather a significantly different 'zero tailpipe emissions vehicle'.

Forgive our duplicity. We complained when others ridiculed the limited range of our BEVs while responding with nebulous statements about improved versions being in the pipeline. We used old technology propaganda to undermine the latest Euro-6 ICE variants. We labelled clean diesel "dirty" while suppressing our struggle to find an environmentally friendly way to manufacture and dispose of batteries. We thought we could dupe society by peddling the concept of using redundant BEV batteries for static storage, however society soon realised that these enormous quantities of dead batteries would ultimately need to be dealt with.

Forgive our greed. We wanted complete market dominance and we wanted it given to us on a plate. We demanded high taxation on fossil fuels, while insisting on subsidies for BEVs. We demanded government funding for BEV development while simultaneously petitioning for the funding ladder to be pulled up on other propulsion technologies.

We were terrified by the threat posed to batteries by clean ICE (especially when fuelled by HVO, synthetic fuels, biofuels, natural gas or hydrogen) and unrelentingly petitioned for its destruction. We even believed hybrids were too much of a compromise. In our world no other technology was acceptable and we didn’t care if genuine environmental projects were underfunded as a result of our greed, just as long as taxpayers' monies were diverted to us. It had to be pure battery or nothing, whatever the cost to society.

Forgive our naivety. We believed evangelist Elon and his Teslanic teachings. We were oblivious to China’s cunning strategy for automotive world domination through its use of the BEV as a Trojan horse and completely failed to recognise the significance of China's stranglehold on the battery supply chain. While the general public remained unaware that politicians had been subverted by Big Battery, we successfully petitioned government to legislate batteries into a position of prominence and now find that the UK automotive industry is now effectively under the control of China.

Forgive our intolerance towards any other propulsion technology. We admit our attacks on the internal combustion engine and hybrids were only the start. Hydrogen Fuel Cell was also on our target list, because Elon said it was 'incredibly dumb' and we believed him. We recognised that the term 'battery vehicle' didn’t resonate with society, so we aggressively marketed BEVs as 'electric' while simultaneously promoting the view that Fuel Cell and Hybrid Electric Vehicles were not worthy to be called ‘electric’.

Forgive all our sins. We got so caught up in trying to establish battery propulsion and eliminating all alternatives that we lost sight of the economic, social and technical realities. We lost sight of the truth and are truly sorry for orchestrating this disastrous strategy.

Help us to see there’s no one size fits all solution, to accept that other propulsion technologies can deliver significant benefits and to work in harmony with them to deliver a truly cleaner and financially viable future for all."

Geoff Potter
MD, Gray & Adams (Ireland)