Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard - continued): House of Lords)
Tuesday 20th February 2018

(3 years, 9 months ago)

Lords Chamber

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Department for Transport

Second Reading (Continued)

Earl Attlee Portrait Earl Attlee (Con)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for the skilful way in which she introduced the Bill this afternoon. I am pleased that the Government will not be Luddite and will welcome this new technology. In doing so, they will need to be careful and interfere and legislate only when it is necessary. The omens are favourable. It may appear that the Bill does not cover all the issues, but we must not forget that the Secretary of State can do a lot with the construction and use regulations made under Section 42 of the Road Traffic Act 1988. Those regulations are extensive.

When I refer to a self-driving taxi, I mean a vehicle that is available for the user to call up when required but which the user does not keep, own or operate. The point is that the vehicle operator would not necessarily be a conventional taxi operator. When I use the term “self-driving vehicle”, I recognise that there are various levels of autonomy. No doubt we will discuss that in Committee.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about taxation issues relating to electric vehicles. He is right to raise them. It is clear to me that at some point we will have to move to a system of universal road user charging rather than relying on taxing hydrocarbons, but overall I am rather more optimistic than the noble Lord.

I think autonomous and electric vehicles will be very disruptive but equally beneficial. Recently there has been much concern about the advent of the Uber taxi service, but that will be nothing compared to the effect of self-driving taxis. It is obvious that a major component of a taxi fare is the need to pay for a driver to be available for the next fare, but by definition a self-driving taxi will not need a driver, so that cost will be eliminated. It will also have the unfortunate effect of eliminating the possibility of migrants earning their living as taxi-drivers, which is very common, while their children study to be professionals later in life. When the self-driving taxi has dropped off its passenger, it can be programmed to go to where it is most likely to pick up its next fare. Alternatively, it might go to where it can most economically recharge itself.

I welcome the insurance provisions in the Bill, which no doubt we will look at closely in Committee. I do not share the pessimism of many noble Lords. It is interesting that we can expect a self-driving vehicle never to commit a traffic violation; in other words, it will be programmed not to commit a traffic violation. That would include never going so fast that it cannot stop within the distance it knows to be clear. Furthermore, we can expect a self-driving vehicle to record all its sensor inputs for the few minutes prior to any incident. This was touched on by my noble friend Lord Borwick. Thus, if there is an accident, and there will of course be some, it will be easy to work out why it occurred and the data must be made available to all those with a legitimate interest.

There is, however, a worry about software causing an accident. Of course, how to avoid that problem is a technical issue, not one for us, even though we can be confident that there will sometimes be a problem. However, I suggest that it will be nothing compared to the risk presented by a young novice driver or someone whose driving is impaired through drink, drugs or tiredness.

Another disruptive effect of self-driving taxis and vehicles is that households may move from having two conventional cars to having one conventional car and one electric car, or to not having a second car and calling up a self-driving taxi when required. These self-driving taxis will be used far more intensively than our contemporary vehicles and there will be less to wear out. They will have no internal combustion engine or complex transmission. The useful life of a contemporary private car is about 250,000 miles with a 15 to 20-year life expectancy. It is therefore currently essential that the cost of production of a modern conventional car is kept very low, thus we have large and very efficient motor manufacturers. With self-driving taxis, the amortisation of the cost will be much better since they will be much more intensively used. This could mean that the cost of manufacturing these vehicles is less important and could allow smaller manufacturers back into the market. However, in answer to the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig of Radley, and the noble Lord, Lord Birt, there are already type approval regulations in place, maintained by the Department for Transport and internationally, and these can be amended to deal with electric and autonomous vehicles. So I do not think there is a problem of a lack of legislation; the Secretary of State has all the powers he needs.

I have always resisted the suggestion that a person should be licensed to maintain a motor vehicle, because I am a Conservative and do not want to regulate unless it is essential. However, there are two reasons why it may be essential with this new technology. The first is the software problems that have already been touched on. Even now, we are seeing unscrupulous HGV operators using Defeat software to avoid the use of AdBlue supplements or altering the engine mapping to achieve increased power and lower fuel consumption. The cost, of course, must be increased emissions, so playing around with the software of the vehicle is extremely undesirable. Clause 4 goes some way towards addressing this issue. The second reason for needing qualified technicians is that I understand that electric vehicles can use much higher voltages than current vehicles. This presents a real risk to the operator of the vehicle and any unqualified technician attempting to maintain it. My noble friend Lord Selborne talked about the need to train engineers and technicians. Wherever I look, the engineers and technicians are always a problem.

Some noble Lords have raised the issue of electricity supply, and I hope we will hear something on that from the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, who will be following me. The population of electric vehicles is low at the moment but I expect it will grow rapidly. For instance, my neighbour already has one and when I replace my current vehicle I expect it will be electric-only. The problem is that if everyone comes home in the evening and connects their electric car to the electrical system, with each drawing 16 amps at the same time, there will be problems, a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Birt. The supply system simply could not tolerate that much concentrated demand. I expect the noble Baroness will talk about smart metering, and we should listen carefully.

However, there may be a silver lining. Wind power is still generated throughout the night when overall electrical demand is lower. It is obvious to charge up an electrical vehicle in the middle of the night rather than on arrival in the early evening. What is not so obvious, although it has been touched on by the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, is to use the battery capacity of electric cars to feed back into the electrical distribution system in the early evening when the power is needed. The car could then charge up in the middle of the night, and it would be a simple matter to programme it so that it would not compromise the minimum range desired and set by the owner. The beauty of this is that the problem of the capital cost of battery storage and wind power would be reduced. It is true that batteries will always have only a finite amount of cycles in their life, but that could be accounted for in the commercial arrangements.

While we need some understanding of the technology, we do not need to worry too much about steering it. That will happen automatically. The question that we will have to address is how much regulation of the utilities to put in place. Nevertheless, the electrical supply for electric vehicles could be a win/win situation where the capital cost of the batteries is amortised over both the operation of the car and the wider electrical supply system. I think our discussions on this in Committee will be very interesting.

One of the advantages of a fully autonomous vehicle is that a person who is medically unable to drive will in future be able to be taken somewhere by a vehicle that they do not actually have to be able to drive. I have no problem with that; it is an obvious advantage. However, what if someone is impaired through drink and drugs, therapeutic or recreational? We currently have an offence of being drunk in charge of a motor vehicle, which is very sensible, but may have to review it at some point in the future because otherwise we could have a situation where a blind person could use a self-driving taxi but a person who had been drinking a little could not. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, and I are very concerned about drink-driving. Surely in future self-driving taxis will mean that there is no need for anyone to drive to a pub or restaurant and consume any alcohol.

In conclusion, I welcome the Bill and look forward to supporting the Minister in Committee.

Baroness Worthington Portrait Baroness Worthington (Non-Afl)
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My Lords, I am pleased to be taking part in today’s debate. I will begin by declaring my interests. I have taken a role in the international NGO Environmental Defense Fund, heading up its European affiliate. One of our aims is to help to speed the transition to a net zero greenhouse gas emissions economy. My other interest is that I drive a plug-in electric vehicle and know first-hand the joys and frustrations of this mode of transport. Unlike the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, I lease my vehicle, which is one way around the problem of fearing that the next generation will always be better than the one you have. In my comments today I shall focus on two main issues relating to the part of the Bill dealing with electric vehicles: the need to make smart-charging infrastructure mandatory now, and the need for firmer policy to drive investment throughout the charging and EV supply chain in Great Britain.

In my limited experience in the House I have often judged the importance of a Bill by the size of its impact assessment, and unfortunately this Bill gives itself away by the size and brevity of its impact assessment. Clearly more could be done using this parliamentary opportunity. As it stands, the Bill is something of a missed opportunity, and I hope that during our scrutiny we can work with the Government to turn it into a piece of legislation to truly put the UK at the forefront of the revolution in mobility that we are witnessing on a global scale.

The UK is both a large consumer and manufacturer of vehicles. In 2016, 3.3 million new cars were registered here, bringing the total number of registered vehicles in the UK to 37.3 million. The latest manufacturing figures in the UK show that 1.7 million cars rolled off the production line and 2.7 million engines were manufactured here. The vast majority of all cars made and sold are conventional cars powered by internal combustion engines. A recent study estimates that the total number of electric vehicles on the road today across the entire globe is a mere 3 million—fewer than all the new vehicles registered here in one year. As the noble Lord, Lord Birt, mentioned, the total number of EVs on the road today in the UK is around 130,000—just 0.3% of the total number of licensed vehicles.

It is clear that the demand for cleaner vehicles is increasing, thanks to heightened awareness about the impact of transport on the quality of our air and on climate change; the reducing costs of alternative designs; the increasing ranges; and the wider availability of charging infrastructure. However, there are still a number of frustrations that early adopters have to endure, and new legislation to address them is most welcome. Most users will find charging at home the most convenient option. However, the availability of public charging infrastructure is a key factor in allowing extended journeys and helping those in households without off-street parking to enjoy the benefits of electric vehicles.

There are just under 4,000 public charging points in the UK, but the network is poorly co-ordinated and access is very patchy. There is an urgent need for a standardisation of charging regimes. Vehicles are designed for mobility, yet in my experience it is common to travel to new parts of the country only to find that access to the charging infrastructure requires membership of a regional subscription-based club. There is currently no single national database of all publicly accessible charging points, and to access the widest range of points requires the installation of a number of different applications and the cross-checking of a variety of different data sources—a frustrating and time-consuming occupation. I hope that the Bill will address this.

Another aspect of EVs that must be addressed to facilitate their widespread uptake is the need for charging to be done in a smart way, as the noble Earl, Lord Attlee, mentioned. This means providing the right technology and incentives to enable vehicles to be charged at times of day when power is abundant, which usually correspond with when it is cleanest and cheapest. It must be made mandatory for all the charging infrastructure installed to be connected to the internet and capable of receiving and using a data signal about the state of the grid, both in real time and projected forward.

I am delighted that the Environmental Defense Fund has collaborated with the national grid and WWF and catalysed the publication of a live data feed that already provides this data for the UK via an open source API. I am even more delighted that information about the carbon intensity of power is increasingly available on a European and international scale, thanks to the incredible talent behind These data feeds clearly illustrate that all power is not created equally: there are times of the day and year when it is much cleaner, thanks to the mix of generating sources on the system. In order for electricity to be used sustainably for transport, it is imperative that we look at the issue holistically, ensuring that the extra load on the electricity grid is timed to take advantage of cleaner sources of power. That will help us avoid the need for costly and dirty back-up sources of power when demand is high. The technology to do all this already exists; the Bill does not need to rely on secondary legislation to make it the norm. We can and should do it now in the Bill.

There are many other issues which we will surely touch on in Committee, including enabling consumers to add the cost of charging their car to their utility bills regardless of where they consume the power, and the need to ensure that planning regulations and building codes properly integrate electricity charging infrastructure into all new developments of all types and scales—something to which the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, alluded.

I turn to my second point about zero-emission vehicles: the need for firmer policy to guide investment in the necessary infrastructure and supply chains. In the industrial strategy, the Secretary of State, Greg Clarke, stated:

“Britain is extraordinarily well-placed to benefit from”,


“new industrial revolution. We are an open, enterprising economy, built on invention, innovation and competition. Our universities and research institutions are among the best in the world. We have a deserved reputation for being a dependable and confident place to do business, with high standards, respected institutions, and the reliable rule of law”.

All that is true, in particular the last point about our use of the rule of law in driving change.

However, we are the home of the Industrial Revolution, and we still get about 70% to 80% of our primary energy from fossil fuels. We are making progress towards decarbonisation but there is still a long way to go. The Government’s clean growth strategy still projects that we are not on track to meet our fourth and fifth carbon budgets in the next decade, and the chief culprit for that is transport emissions. On air quality, too, we are failing to meet WHO and EU standards. Our cities are making us sick and we are failing to move sufficiently quickly to bring down emissions of pollutants. Clearly, more needs to be done and can be done. Today we start debating a potentially very important Bill, using scarce public resources and parliamentary time—but we are merely discussing enabling legislation. Nothing in the Bill gives the much-needed policy certainty that investors look to before committing their capital.

If we had tried to build a renewable power sector on the basis of providing some enabling powers about grid infrastructure standards, we would not now be home to a world-leading offshore wind industry and would certainly not be building new nuclear power stations. We do not have a CCS industry in the UK yet, precisely because of the absence of a policy framework. For too long we have relied on increases in renewable energy across electricity, heat and transport. This has failed, particularly in the transport sector, where emissions remain stubbornly high and rising.

Other countries and states have already learned this lesson and taken action. China most recently took action to boost the market for zero-emission vehicles by introducing a mandate that 10% of all vehicles sold in China must be electric or equivalent by 2019, rising to 12% in 2020. This mandate is based on a similar policy introduced many years ago in California and since adopted in nine other US states. More recently, Quebec has followed suit. In Europe, there were moves to introduce a similar policy as the reality of China’s enormous policy shift started to set in and the industry tried quickly to adapt, but the Commission’s proposals were watered down. In the UK we can take up the baton and move to match or even exceed the international leaders in policy-making. That is, after all, one of the things we are good at.

A market-based mandate for zero-emission vehicles would harness the efficiency of the private sector, ensure that support for electric vehicles and their equivalents did not rely on the public purse and kick-start investment that shows some signs of having stalled. The SMMT reports that last year UK car production volumes took a dip, and cited policy uncertainty as one of the reasons. Brexit surely plays a part in this, but so too must the announcement by the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, that we plan to ban the internal combustion engine in 2040. That is too far away to affect investment decisions in a positive way but is certainly close enough to be disconcerting to all those invested in the internal combustion engine supply chain today.

As we found in designing the Climate Change Act, long-term targets are useful only if they are coupled with clear, unambiguous policy frameworks in the near term. I look forward to the Government publishing the Road to Zero strategy, but I must ask the Minister whether she thinks it is credible or proper that we should be debating legislation ahead of its publication. Surely we should make a strategy and then legislate with a bold vision—the kind of bold vision that the noble Lords, Lord Lucas and Lord Birt, referred to our needing.

The Committee on Climate Change has made it clear that the Government need to do more to plug the gap in our carbon budgets. We have failed to adequately address air quality, which is a blight on our urban life. We have all the necessary reasons to act with more conviction than the Bill sets out. I very much look forward to hearing more from the Minister, who I am sure is, like the Government, committed to putting the UK at the forefront of the race towards the modern mobility that we all deserve. I hope that as the Bill passes through our Chamber we will succeed in making the case that it can and must be strengthened.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson (LD)
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My Lords, I start by declaring an interest as the owner of an electric car. I welcome the Bill because of the huge potential of such vehicles to reduce congestion on our roads and improve air quality. However, along with others, I must add that I regret that the Bill is so narrowly focused. As always, the Government claim that it is designed to place us as a world leader. In practice, we are of course already lagging behind and nothing in the Bill will help us leapfrog our already more successful rivals.

Let us start with the Title, which is overly specific. In 2011, the UK was a trailblazer when it announced that every new car and van should be ultra-low emission by 2040, but we have already been overtaken. The Government last year committed to phasing out diesel by 2040—in itself, that was a reduced ambition from the 2011 one—but already Norway, Austria, India, Ireland and Scotland are committed to either 2030 or an earlier date. China’s zero-emission vehicle mandate has already demonstrated the surge of electric vehicle manufacturing which follows such a commitment. The UK will not get the investment in EVs, batteries or charging infrastructure unless the Government up their game.

There are already many jobs riding on this. There are 7,000 people in Sunderland working on the Nissan Leaf, which includes 300 people working on battery development. There are 1,000 or more jobs in the London Electric Vehicle Company, which is manufacturing the new electric taxi. It is time that the Government took a wider view, and with that we need a wider Title for the Bill. The Title refers specifically to electric vehicles, but Clause 8 also refers to hydrogen, which is not mentioned in the sub-headings, let alone the overall Title. I should be interested to know from the Minister why that is.

As far as it goes, the Bill is welcome, but it does not go far enough. For instance, it does not mention the issue of training. There is no recent precedent for the scale of change on which the industry is embarking at this moment, and the new technologies referred to in the Bill simply cannot be assimilated by engineers and car mechanics—or enthusiastic amateurs—who trained for standard diesel or petrol engines.

To illustrate the need for qualifications, I point out that households operate on 200 volt electricity but cars operate on 600 volts. That illustrates the additional danger that we are talking about for those working in the field. It is an issue of safety—and there are parallels here with the CORGI scheme for gas engineers, which has proved very resilient, effective and important in raising safety standards. The qualification already exists, and is quick and easy to access, but it needs to be made compulsory, and this Bill would be an opportunity to do that.

Clause 1 refers to a definition of automation but, like other noble Lords, I am rather confused about this, because we have cars that park themselves already, cars with cruise control and cars with automated emergency braking. In my view, they could all be judged to be driving themselves when that automatic process takes over. They are certainly not at level 5 in the standard definition of automation. Does the Secretary of State’s compulsory list, which he has to provide, include all those vehicles that are already on our roads? What about the insurance in relation to foreign cars that are automated? Where will they come into the scheme of things on this?

In respect of automated vehicles, the Bill essentially deals only with insurance, but other key issues will need to be addressed. Clause 4 touches on one of them—the issue of software, and its integrity. It is not just about ensuring that you have updated your software; it is also about the issue of cybersecurity, about data and their use. These cars produce vast amounts of very valuable data. To whom does that data belong? Does it belong to the manufacturer of the car, the manufacturer of the software, or to me? Do I have a right to privacy of my data? Is there a right for me to keep quiet about whether I shop in Sainsbury’s or in Tesco? I am not trivialising this issue; it is a really important one, which I believe needs to be addressed.

Alongside the issue of insurance, those who work in the field have also suggested to me that the current model of car ownership will change, and we are likely to move to fleets of cars that we will not own but will summon up when we need them. That is much more efficient because, currently, the cars we own are parked for 95% of the time and cause a great deal of congestion in that process. Is the model of insurance that this Bill suggests going to be suitable for the ownership of fleets that we simply rent for particular times?

Automation is not going to be an overnight change. It will happen gradually but swiftly—but it will, of course, reduce the number of accidents, because the overwhelming majority of car accidents are due to driver error. The other aspect that the Bill does not deal with is the process of modernising road layout and smart signage and the issue of road safety. What are the Government proposing to do to prepare us for automated cars in that respect?

In Part 2 of the Bill there is a more engaged approach to creating the right infrastructure for electric vehicles. This is a field that is developing very rapidly indeed. It always costs less to run an electric vehicle but it is estimated that, by 2020, it will cost a comparable amount to an ordinary, conventional vehicle to purchase one up front. Range anxiety is still something that is with all of us who own them, and every long journey still needs careful planning. That is ironic, as everyone has electricity, but it does not seem to be available to all of us. The Bill contains some sensible ideas on developing a market, and I welcome in particular Clause 13 and the attempt at standardisation.

As usual, many organisations have been in touch with us, and it has been very informative, but I received one email complaining about Clause 10 and the requirement for large fuel retailers to provide charge points. I wondered whether the organisation sending us that email had considered to whom fuel retailers will be selling fuel in 10 years’ time if not to electric vehicle owners. That is called preparing for the future.

I have a couple of questions. First, on the use of data, it is reasonable applied to public charge points, but are the Government planning to make requirements on the use of my data if I have a charge point on my house, as indeed I do—and what do the Government mean by a charge point? Will the regulations distinguish between the different speeds? You can have standard and fast or you can have rapid, and fast is not as fast as rapid. I am sure that there are other sorts in future in a process of development. Are the Government sensitive to those technicalities, and will the regulations take that into account?

We need a wider approach to the development of charging points. It is not acceptable for electric vehicles to be owned only by people who happen to have drives. We need a very much wider strategy—this Bill does not provide it—to provide additional charge points. The Government should be looking at a planning process to ensure that all new developments provide such charge points. If not, when we look to the future, this Bill will already be out of date. We need to work together to improve it and make it future proof and still useful in 10 years’ time.

Lord Tunnicliffe Portrait Lord Tunnicliffe (Lab)
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My Lords, we on the Labour Benches are broadly supportive of this Bill. Our colleagues in the other place supported it the first time round, when it was part of the Vehicle Technology and Aviation Bill. The Government have said that this Bill is about getting ready for the changes that we will see in motoring over the next decades. We are told that 85% of car accidents are in some way due to human error, and automated vehicles have a huge potential to radically improve road safety, reduce human error in incidents, improve traffic flow and combat our air quality and pollution crisis. They could also broaden access to mobility for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people. This is all to be encouraged.

The key provisions in the Bill are welcome, but they seem to be just part of the story when it comes to preparing ourselves for transportation of the future. I wonder if the Government have thought ahead to the impact that automated vehicles might have on our already stretched infrastructure. If the cost, dangers and environmental impact of driving are brought down, how many people might drive their own vehicles, or be driven in their own vehicles, in 20 or 30 years’ time, rather than taking public or other modes of transport? That is something we should think about.

The Bill updates the regulatory regime around motor insurance, removing uncertainty for insurers and manufacturers for claims relating to automated vehicles. It also seeks to address the inhibitors to widespread take-up of electric vehicles. In doing so, it gives the Secretary of State a large number of secondary legislative powers in relation to standards for design of charging points and transmission of data, which I will return to in a minute.

While we broadly support its aims, there are areas of the Bill on which we intend to pose questions and suggest amendments. Clause 1 requires the Secretary of State to keep a list of automated vehicles. The definition is therefore in the hands of the Secretary of State, an issue which remains unaddressed as the Bill reaches your Lordships’ House. The Bill assumes that there is a clear distinction between a vehicle that is automated and one that is not, when the distinction may be more complex. The Government should make sure that they draw on all available expertise and consult before drawing up such a definition. We should not underestimate the size of the task of creating an appropriate regulatory environment for these vehicles. The history of creating a safe regulatory environment in transport is extremely grim. In virtually every mode of transport—aviation, railways or motoring—regulation has caught up with the need to secure safety only after multiple crashes. It is important that a well-resourced and thought-through approach is applied to developing these regulations. We have to recognise that high reliance on digital technology platforms is a very new area. My personal view is that the technology is pubescent: it is full of promise and deeply unreliable.

We welcome the Government’s action to facilitate automated vehicle insurance policies in the future but we need to ensure that changes to insurance processes in the Bill do not result in policyholders being left with additional costs and that there are clear lines of responsibility between manufacturers and insurers. With the introduction of new technology, we must ensure that we have in place cybersecurity measures against hacking. We do not want automated vehicles or charging points to become vulnerable or dangerous. As with other forms of software, automated vehicles will need to be updated and remain so to prevent safety risks. The Government should require automated vehicles to be up to date for the automated function to be used. They should also make clear how the large amounts of data stored in automated vehicles and their charging points will be shared and regulated.

There are currently 11,840 charging points for electric vehicles across the UK and only seven hydrogen filling stations. There are multiple charging point operators, each with their own plugs, software, customer charges and payment methods. If we are to increase the take-up of electric cars, we must make sure that charging points are universally standardised across the country. The Government should ensure that they assess the costs, benefits and feasibility of charging points so that we end up with a national network for both commercial and public use. We are glad that the Government have agreed to publish an updated strategy for promoting the uptake of electric vehicles by the end of March this year and look forward to seeing it in due course.

In making way for the number of electric vehicles on our roads to grow, we need to consider the effect this will have on the current workforce and the potential for a skills gap. Electric and hybrid vehicles need fully trained technicians and a recent study on behalf of the Institute of the Motor Industry showed that 81% of independent garages found it difficult to recruit technicians with the skills to work on such vehicles. Provisions must be put in place for mechanics and small businesses to upskill, so that we may prepare the workforce as we develop this new technology.

As I mentioned, Part 2 of the Bill is full of regulation-making powers for the Secretary of State. Regulations may impose requirements and prohibitions in relation to payments at public charging points, services and facilities available and the transmission of charge point data, to name but a few. We are concerned about the Government’s liberal use of wide-ranging secondary legislation and will examine the Bill more closely to see whether they are using such powers inappropriately. We look forward to hearing the view of the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee on this.

We support the Bill but we are disappointed that it is not accompanied by a broader strategy to combat poor air quality and climate change. This is an important opportunity missed. The proportion of renewable transport fuels in the UK fell from 4.93% to 4.23% in 2015 and the Government are in danger of missing their legally binding renewable fuels target of 10% of transport fuel coming from renewable sources by 2020. Electric vehicles are one way for the Government to confront the air quality crisis that they are presiding over, but the Bill could have been a much more ambitious vehicle for tackling pollution and improving public health. We look forward to discussing these and other issues further with the Minister as the Bill progresses through your Lordships’ House. I am particularly looking forward to the many amendments promised by the debate this afternoon.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
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My Lords, this Bill is an important piece of the Government’s broad programme of work to ensure that the UK continues researching, developing, manufacturing and deploying innovation in order to harness improvements in vehicle technology. I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I think it is fair to say that there is more concern from noble Lords on the measures related to automated vehicles than electric ones, so I will begin by addressing those.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friend Lord Lucas raised the question of legitimate handover. Transferring control of an automated vehicle from a human driver to the automated system will, of course, require a handover process which ensures that the vehicle is always under the control of either the driver or the automated system. We envisage that vehicle manufacturers will design that system so that it provides prompts to the driver, making them aware when it is legitimate for them to hand over control. We will need to ensure that a driver does not undertake a non-legitimate handover and tries to force the vehicle to take control when it is inappropriate or operate the automated system when it is not designed to be operated. If they do so, they may ultimately be liable for the consequences of those actions.

The noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, my noble friend Lord Lucas, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and many other noble Lords raised the complex issue of software. It is not the policy intent or function of the Bill to provide the regulatory framework for safety and security standards of the software. That is being developed with international standards at the level of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe and, domestically, as part of our ongoing regulatory programme. We are playing a key part in the United Nations Economic Commission and chair a number of its committees. Based on discussions with manufacturers, we expect that they will inform the owners of cars when a safety update to the vehicle software is needed. However, the overwhelming majority of these updates will be made automatically. The wording in the Bill places the onus on the manufacturer to communicate effectively about the need to install updates, but it is a complicated issue. As and when software updates are developed further, we will need to ensure that there is clear guidance on this for both manufacturers and vehicle owners so that it is clear where the responsibilities lie.

There are several factors which could influence the reason why a collision occurred. At this stage, we are keeping the process of determining liability as it is now, with the courts ultimately making judgments based on the facts. Under our proposals, the insurers will compensate the victim and be able to recover from the liable party, which could include the manufacturer or any other party. The three issues of legitimate handover, software and liability are examples of how complicated and complex this area is. I look forward to getting into the detail of it in Committee.

My noble friend Lord Goschen, the noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, and other noble Lords raised the issue of ethics. There are many important questions to be asked about ethics when driving. One of these is how drivers respond when a collision appears unavoidable. Right now, we expect drivers to do the best they can. Given that, as many noble Lords have highlighted, the majority of road collisions involve some form of human error, the advent of automation promises to reduce the number of unavoidable collisions. However, it raises additional question about ethics. As my noble friend Lord Attlee highlighted, with automation we can avoid the risks of novice drivers or someone driving impaired through drink, drugs or tiredness, but reduction is not elimination and at some point automated vehicles will be involved in unavoidable collisions.

We expect the automated vehicle will be able to identify where there is a pedestrian present but may well not be able to identify any more details around the pedestrian’s age or gender. We do not yet know about these details. When faced with such a collision, we imagine that the automated vehicle will be programmed to maximise safety, but, again, this is still being developed. We must address these issues publicly and transparently. Ethical issues were an important focus of the Lords Science and Technology Committee’s report, which calls for further government-commissioned social research. We are taking forward several actions from that report to help in that discussion.

My noble friend Lord Goschen also asked about the wider regulatory framework. I spoke about the Law Commission in my opening remarks. The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, also mentioned that. I will give a bit more detail on that which may address some of the concerns of the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe. The Law Commission is undertaking a three-year programme to review the regulatory framework for road-based automated vehicles with a view to enable their safe deployment. Its task is to provide recommendations for a legal framework which can remain effective in the face of vehicles that may no longer require a human driver, and its work will be part of a national conversation on this important future technology. The commission is likely to consider how automated vehicles could fit within the existing regulation of public transport frameworks and look at on-demand passenger transport provision, a point raised by my noble friend Lord Attlee. Again, where ethical considerations are relevant, the Law Commission will highlight the choices which need to be made regulation-wise. It will avoid judging what may or may not be desirable ethical outcomes but will set out possible approaches to promote consistency and transparency. The review is being undertaken to explore the law relating to the deployment of automated vehicles in the United Kingdom and will consider changes necessary to provide a robust and future-proof legal framework to support the deployment of the vehicles. It will also look at areas such as civil and criminal liability frameworks as they apply in the context of automated vehicles, product liability, sellers’ liability, the law of negligence and criminal sanctions et cetera.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked what data will be available from automated vehicles. My noble friend Lord Attlee highlighted the importance of ensuring that this data is available to all those who need it. The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, rightly raised concerns about the safety of sharing this data from automated vehicles. These vehicles will generate a huge amount of data during their day-to-day operation. How this data is shared, and with whom, will have an impact on an individual’s privacy. This, of course, is an issue which the Government take very seriously. It is expected that the data recorders, like most new vehicle technologies, will be regulated at an international level. The international debate on what data needs to be collected beyond who or what was in control of the automated vehicle still needs to take place. As I said, we are actively engaged in the relevant discussions on that at the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. We have also begun speaking to relevant parts of the industry to build our understanding of who will need to access the data, how it should be shared and how to manage concerns over privacy. We will continue this engagement as the technology develops. As the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, pointed out, who actually owns that technology is an important question too.

Many noble Lords raised the issue of standards. I take this opportunity to reassure the noble and gallant Lord, Lord Craig, and indeed all noble Lords, that the Government take very seriously the approval process which ensures that all vehicles on our roads are safe for use. As my noble friend Lord Attlee pointed out, the Government already have the power to make regulations under the Road Traffic Act 1988, which could be used for automated and electric vehicles, but we certainly anticipate the need to legislate further to safely facilitate the deployment of automated vehicles. It is too early to legislate for standards at this time. As many noble Lords have pointed out, the development of automated vehicles is in its infancy and legislating too early or unilaterally may hinder our development of the technology and constrain our ability to steer consensus on international standards.

On additional regulation-making powers to cover automated vehicles as suggested by my noble friends Lord Borwick and Lord Lucas, that would indeed allow more flexibility in the future and potentially future-proof this legislation. I am used to being much more defensive when I am asking for Secretary of State powers, so I am very happy to take that suggestion away and consider it further ahead of Committee.

The definitions of “monitoring” and “safely” were raised by the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, and my noble friends Lord Selborne and Lord Borwick. It is, of course, imperative that we get these words right and that we do our best to avoid complex legal arguments in the future. I will take that issue away for consideration. I am very happy to meet noble Lords to discuss this further ahead of Committee, but look forward to discussing it further then.

My noble friend Lord Lucas makes another convincing case for automated vehicles on rail lines. I was very interested to discuss this issue with him recently and look forward to discussing it further as plans develop.

I turn to electric vehicles and the electricity system. The noble Lord, Lord Birt, and several other noble Lords mentioned managing loads on the system. Of course, more electric vehicles on our roads means that we will need more electricity to power them. Unmanaged, this could add to the pressure on power generation in the grid. However, the measures in the Bill are designed to allow us to manage future demand and control the cost to customers. The national grid predicts only a 10% increase in demand by 2040 from electric vehicles, which is around 6 gigawatts, and is confident that it can cope. In July 2017, the Government launched their smart plan which set out how the system, including new sources of demand from electric vehicles, can be managed more efficiently. The measures in the Bill are designed to relieve the pressure on the grid from electric vehicles charging during peak time. When drivers arrive home in the evening, they will most likely need their car to be charged only for when they leave in the morning. It is not necessary for this charging to take place during the evening peak time. Ideally, it will be shifted to the early hour off-peak times.

As my noble friend Lord Attlee highlighted, smart charging will encourage electric vehicle users to charge their cars at a time when it is most beneficial for both them and the energy system. This should be cheaper for consumers as well as reducing peak loads on the energy system. This is an important area, and I look forward to finding the YouTube clip illustrating this mentioned by my noble friend Lord Goschen. The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, made a compelling case for smart charging. Clause 3 contains powers to make new charge points capable of monitoring energy consumption and transmitting that data. Clause 12 contains the power to require this data to be sent and made available to relevant third parties, so there is a lot in the Bill on smart charging, but again I look forward to discussing that further.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, asked about freight. We want all road vehicles, not just cars, to be zero-emission vehicles. Personal use cars are perhaps more developed than haulage vehicles in this regard, but this is a key area which we want to support. We have funded £20 million-worth of innovation trials that have put around 500 low-emission vehicles into UK fleets of companies such as Waitrose, DHL and UPS. That funding has included supporting infrastructure. The measures in the Bill cover electric batteries and hydrogen fuel cell trucks as well as cars, but it will be interesting to see whether we can do more on that.

The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, spoke about the importance of extending the availability of charge points, as did many other noble Lords. The Bill provides powers to require the installation of public charging points only at motorway service areas and large fuel retailers. The idea behind that is that these strategic locations are particularly important to address anxiety about range for drivers on longer journeys. However, it is clear that we will need many more charging points across the UK in the future. The recent Budget committed us to place greater emphasis on locating charge points at rail stations. We have enhanced capital allowances to offer tax relief for companies to install recharging equipment. Noble Lords also mentioned golf clubs, which is a very good idea. We are looking at charge points being installed at supermarkets, hotels and retail centres. We shall consider adding the wider provision of charge points to the Bill but, as I said, currently the focus is just on the large fuel retailers.

As the noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, and other noble Lords pointed out, planning policy is an important tool in encouraging both residential and non-residential developments to bring charge point infrastructure into their thinking. Local planning policies are guided by the National Planning Policy Framework, which stipulates that developments should, where practical, incorporate charging facilities. In the Budget we announced additional initiatives. After the Grenfell review, the Government will update the building regulations to mandate that all new residential developments must contain the enabling cabling for charge points. The Government will also update road works guidance for local authorities so that infrastructure is installed when these works are happening anyway. Officials in my department are working on the details of these measures with our colleagues in the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government; the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord Brooke, of working together with communities to deliver these charge points is good, and we will take that forward.

Lord Campbell-Savours Portrait Lord Campbell-Savours
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My Lords, have the Government ruled out at this stage a differential in the unit price for electricity used by someone to charge their car as against the unit price for electricity consumed in the home for, say, white goods, lighting and heating?

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
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I do not believe that that has been ruled out. I will come on to our strategy, which we will publish shortly; it will look at those kinds of issues.

The noble Baroness, Lady Worthington, made a number of wider and compelling points about transport emissions and how we can better influence investment decisions. I am afraid that I do not have time to go into those now or to begin to address them, but I hope that the noble Baroness will meet me so that we can discuss that further.

The noble Lord, Lord Birt, asked when we will publish our updated strategy, which will look at managing electricity and increasing charging points. We last set out our strategy on electric vehicles in 2013, so it is due an update. While our ambition that nearly all cars and vans should be zero-emissions vehicles by 2050 remains unchanged, obviously the market and technology have developed hugely since then, as the noble Lord, Lord Birt, pointed out. It is therefore right that we review the steps we need to deliver our ambition on this. We plan to publish the strategy by the end of March, and I hope that it will address many of the wider points raised today by the noble Baronesses, Lady Randerson and Lady Worthington, the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, and other noble Lords.

The noble Lord, Lord Berkeley, made the sensible suggestion that we should have one universal charging point. The shift to electric vehicles is being driven by the global automotive industry. The Bill does not set out precisely which charging connector could be used as the common standard in any regulation. However, it will allow technical specifications to be set so that drivers can be confident that they will be able to plug in and charge when they arrive at public charge points. I am afraid that I do not have the information about how many of these charge points are operational, but I will go back to see whether we can find that out. The noble Lord, Lord Brooke, is quite right that we must ensure that these all function as well.

My noble friend Lord Selborne and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, highlighted the importance of skills, and I agree that we must ensure that the UK has a suitably skilled workforce. Motorists with electric vehicles will clearly expect the same level of knowledge and customer service that they have come to expect in connection with conventional vehicles, and, as the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, points out, it is important that we make sure that those trained in these vehicles are trained safely.

As a professional body for the automotive industry, the Institute of the Motor Industry is well placed to help government understand the challenge of ensuring that maintenance and repair is carried out in a professional and safe manner. There are already some level 1 to 3 qualifications in electric vehicle maintenance and repair, and between 30 and 50 UK colleges and training providers offer these courses. However, we can of course do more, and I will look closely at the suggestion made by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, on this. We recognise that this is a potential barrier for the uptake of electric vehicles and we are already taking steps to address this.

On the Parliamentary Estate—I wondered whether this would come up—there are currently only two charging points in the underground car park. A major project is under way to refurbish the car park, and around 80 car charging sockets are planned—10% of the planned car parking spaces—with the capacity to add more in the future. The car park refurbishment project started in the summer of last year and is due to finish in summer 2019.

Baroness Randerson Portrait Baroness Randerson
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I add, as a piece of useful information, that in the underground car park there are also a lot of three-pin plug sockets, and you are entitled to park your car overnight and recharge it there using an ordinary plug. So the facility is there, but of course there is nothing in the House of Lords car park.

Baroness Sugg Portrait Baroness Sugg
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Absolutely. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, will be able to benefit from that and from the new charge points; as a pioneer of the new technology she certainly deserves to. However, I take the point that those are only for the underground car park and I will certainly follow up on whether we can do anything for the House of Lords car park.

The noble Baronesses, Lady Deech and Lady Randerson, and other electric vehicle users all highlighted the need for interoperability and access to these charge points. We recognise this, and the Bill has powers to address the inconvenience to drivers of carrying around lots of different means of access to the services, whether that is multiple memberships, regional memberships, access cards or unique applications. Obligations that the UK agreed to in the European Union alternative fuels infrastructure directive 2014 were implemented nationally in October and go a little way towards rectifying the current problems. That means that memberships or an advanced notice period can no longer be required before charge point access is granted, which should, we hope, assist in removing the necessity for multiple memberships. However, it does not remove the problem of a lack of consistency in the way consumers are expected to access different public charge points. Each operator remains able to determine whether access is by smartphone app, SMS text, phone number or any other method. As there are currently no statutory duties on operators, our only option is to take powers to legislate to ensure that drivers are offered a common method of access, and the Bill gives this power.

My noble friend Lord Borwick and the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, raised the issue of hydrogen. The use of “public charging points” throughout the Bill includes hydrogen refuelling as per the definition in Clause 8—although, I acknowledge, not particularly clearly. These words are very much designed to cover hydrogen refuelling, but we will consider whether we can do something more on that in the Bill.

On the question of level 3 vehicles, raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, the Bill does not cover cars which are currently on the road; it is designed to cover only fully automated vehicles, or so-called level 5 vehicles.

My noble friend Lord Borwick and the noble Lord, Lord Tunnicliffe, raised the use of delegated powers. That is of course important. We aim to be as transparent as possible in the Bill as to what will follow in regulations. The Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee is considering our memorandum and is due to publish before Committee. Policy scoping notes are being prepared, which outline the policy intent, the proposed content, the approach to preparing the regulations and the indicative timings for each power, and we will make sure that these are available to Peers prior to Committee so that they can be properly scrutinised.

Time is running out: if I have not been able to answer all the questions raised today, I will follow up in writing. Noble Lords have highlighted the narrow scope of the Bill, which indeed addresses only specific issues in this area. However, as my noble friend Lord Goschen said, this is a first step but an important one. The Bill will help ensure that the UK is ready for the change coming in vehicles and mobility. I hope that the advent of automated vehicles will not lead to the type of world that the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, described. To use a term that is popular today, it sounded like a “Mad Max” dystopia.

The powers in the Bill will help us deliver one of the world’s best recharging networks to support the Government’s ambition for almost every car and van to be a zero-emissions vehicle by 2050. Looking to the future, the Bill brings forward an important step by providing an insurance framework for autonomous vehicles which will put the UK at the forefront of automated vehicle ownership and use when this technology becomes available.

As I said, I am grateful for the contributions from all noble Lords this afternoon, and for the knowledge and experience that will help to improve the Bill as it passes through your Lordships’ House. Many interesting points have been raised, and I will consider these carefully before the Bill reaches Committee.

Bill read a second time and committed to a Grand Committee.