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Minister claims strong backing for electrification

12 February, 2016

There is near uniform agreement in government that vehicle electrification is the way forward to reduce emissions, according to Oliver Letwin, Cabinet Office minister for government policy.

He was responding to questions from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) Select Committee.

Letwin was invited to address the committee following his recent appointment as chair of a new inter-departmental ministerial committee on clean growth. The group was set up late last year to discuss issues relating to air quality and decarbonisation where these require attention across several government departments.

Speaking in answer to questions from the chair of the EFRA committee, Neil Parish, during a session of the air quality inquiry, Letwin said: “There's a colossal opportunity for Britain to play a leading part in an industrial revolution – which is probably going to happen anyway – but where we have a choice either to be a major part of it or to lag behind it....and we want to be a major part of it.

“We can turn a series of very, very great challenges into a series of very, very great opportunities...and that, I think, is the prize.”

Letwin highlighted the opportunities provided through vehicle electrification. He said: “There are pretty well uniform views across the (inter-ministerial) group that the long-term – or even medium-term – solution lies in the electrification of our car fleet.

“There are huge advantages we can have here which don’t lead to conflicts between carbon dioxide and NOx for example; electric engines sort out both problems.”

The Cabinet Office minister said that a new Government strategy would be unveiled within two years to give Britain “pole position” in the electric car revolution in both usage and production.

During the EFRA evidence session, Letwin revealed that talks are under way with an Indian car manufacturer for mass production of a long-range electric car at a “very affordable” price.

Letwin predicted a “tipping point” at which the take-up of electric vehicles would dramatically escalate. For taxi, bus and van fleets this could be just “around the corner”, to be followed by mass adoption of the technology for cars then lorries.