ELB Partners MD Peter Eason

London haulier ELB Partners has hit out at the government for "moving the goalposts" on plans to phase out diesel engines.

Last week, a UK ban on selling new petrol, diesel or hybrid cars was brought forward from 2040 to 2035 at the latest.

The change came after experts said 2040 would be too late if the UK wants to achieve its zero carbon emissions by 2050.

However, ELB MD Peter Eason said the "ever-changing EV plans are causing uncertainty" and that "HGVs are likely to be similarly affected".

All 60 trucks run by the Wimbledon-based business, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, are powered by the latest Euro-6 engines.

But Eason said phasing out diesel from 2035 – and now, according to Transport minister Grant Shapps, as early as 2032 - suggests the “politicians are in panic, which is sending mixed messages to businesses that underpin UK plc".

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"Rushing the decision will mean the phasing in of electric vehicles," he warned. "That could mean business and the City may not be adequately geared up. EVs are the future but currently, apart from the woefully inadequate charging infrastructure, logistics businesses making multiple drops around the capital would not be in business for long, as they would have to be taking trucks back to the depots for a lengthy charge.

“With cleaner diesel technology, we can sweat those assets and manage the emissions in line with the requirements of the ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) which means more cost-effective deliveries."

Eason added that as long as the market had a "like-for-like replacement", he would embrace the electric route: "But my biggest problem is the goalposts are continually being moved. They need to decide what they want to do and stick to it.

“If the infrastructure is in place then I will be happy to do it, as it is going to happen in the end. I think there will be electric vehicles that are suitable for us, but another consideration is the batteries – what are we going to do with them when they are no longer of use? Everyone is talking about the EV revolution, but no one is talking about the end of life for batteries and their disposal – are we simply saving up a future environmental crisis and kicking this can down the road?

“The government has to be honest with business on the whole life of EVs because their current mixed messaging means that we could end up panic buying rather than making strategic decisions about the right environmentally-friendly vehicles – and that could cost businesses like ours a lot of money, particularly in a cash-poor industry that has wafer-thin margins.”