Next Green Car's 2017 Review

Looking back over the past 12 months, it is easy to forget just how much has gone on in the automotive industry during the course of 2017.

As with every year, new models have been launched though there are more plug-in cars around than ever before. Major automotive manufacturers have merged too which certainly doesn't happen every year. Governments have confirmed that future legislation will very definitely be pro-electric, welcome news for those manufacturers that that have confirmed their own electric roadmaps in 2017 too. In short, 2017 has been a bumper year for Next Green Car, with all sorts of angles to cover. Here we round-up our biggest stories of 2017.

Company news

We start with new companies being formed, one of which created an electric vehicle super-group. The Renault Nissan Alliance morphed into the Renault-Nissan-Mitsubishi Alliance with the acquisition of the third of those brand names. In the UK at least, the group accounts for more than half of all plug-in cars sold, with plenty of clear air between it and the second largest EV market share holder, the BMW Group on less than 18%.

The new company not only dominates the plug-in car market now, but has confirmed plans to try and increase its share thanks to increased use of shared platforms and tech development. It will be a tough ask though since the expanded PSA Group - now comprising Peugeot, Citroen, DS Automobiles and the newly acquired Opel Vauxhall - has announced that it will be improving its electric offerings going forward, including a Corsa EV due in the next few years.

BMW electric plans

Those groups are far from the only ones announce major plug-in plans and roll-outs. Others to set their stalls out are the VW Group, BMW Group, Daimler, Mazda, Honda, and Toyota. Perhaps the two that caught the headlines most though were Jaguar Land Rover and Volvo. JLR confirmed this year that it will electrify its entire model line-up by 2025, and every new model from 2020 will be offered with an electrified variant.

Volvo's news came along first though and is the more significant when combined with another announcement made earlier in the year. The Swedish manufacturer will offer an electrified model of every new car it puts on sale from 2019 - though it has been doing this for the past few years so far anyway. Put together with the news that it has stopped developing new diesel engines and Volvo will very quickly have one of the greenest car line-ups around. And that's before you add in the launch of its performance arm Polestar as a separate company; one that will only build electric models.

Polestar

Polestar isn't the only new entrant to the plug-in car world announced in 2017. There are a number of start-ups that have come along - and some have gone already too - but the one that caught the eye most in the UK is that Dyson will produce an EV with the next three years. Having long been the subject of rumours, the appliance manufacturer confirmed that it will build a high-end EV to compete with the likes of the Audi Q6 e-tron, Porsche Mission E, Tesla Model's S or X, and the Jaguar I-Pace.

This last model is another 2017 hit, with the concept launched early in the year, but very much setting the tone for Jaguar Land Rover for most of the past 12 months. The all-electric SUV will start the British manufacturer's EV plans, though it will be beaten to the market by PHEV versions of the Range Rover and Range Rover Sport from Land Rover.

The I-Pace will be the first pure-EV though, and it has already been confirmed to form the basis of a one-make race series to support the Formula E championship - a competition Jaguar is already taking part in.

Jaguar I-Pace Trophy

This year has also been a great one for Formula E organisers as manufacturers have flocked from other series to join the burgeoning championship. Mercedes and Porsche have pulled out of DTM and WEC LMP1 competition respectively to sign up to the electric racing series, and will join the likes of Nissan (which will replace group stablemate Renault), Audi, DS Automobiles, BMW and Jaguar - all within the next year or so.

Many of the above manufacturers were listed earlier in this piece as those focusing on an electric future. New EVs launched this year include a refreshed BMW i3 and new sportier i3s and the Nissan LEAF 40 kWh - two of the best-selling EVs around. Trumping both as the new poster-car for the EV market is Tesla's Roadster though, due in 2020 and launched to much surprise but also excitement. All of the new plug-in models revealed this in 2017 though - and there have been plenty - will do well to have such a direct impact on urban mobility as the new LEVC TX.

Launched earlier this year and now on sale, the range-extended Black Cab is set to become a fixture on the streets of London and cities around the world. Considering how important the London taxi is for moving about the capital, the change over from older diesel models to cleaner, zero-tailpipe emission capable taxis will have a fairly significant effect on air quality within the next few years as they roll-out. It’s a factor that made us create an Innovation prize as part of our NGC Awards to recognise LEVC.

LEVC TX

The TX has partly come about in response to new rules coming in to limit newly registered taxi and private hire vehicle emissions in London. The city has made headlines a number of times in 2017, especially with the introduction of the new T-Charge. Covering the same area as the C-Charge, the Toxicity Charge will mean that drivers of older, more polluting vehicles will have to pay to drive in central London. There are already plans to make the emissions regulations stricter, as well as to increase the size of the zone in the next few years.

Emissions and tax

Emissions have been big news all year, and there are no signs of that changing in 2018 either. Issues with diesel continue to come to the fore, which has significantly impacted sales of new diesel models. Most of this is due to the uncertainty as to potential future penalties and charges for drivers of diesel cars. This includes the news that new diesels bought from April 2018 will be charged vehicle excise duty (VED) as though in a tax band above, unless they meet real driving emissions tests. A little will be down to an unofficial (non-government backed) but essentially industrywide scrappage scheme though. Rules changed from manufacturer to manufacturer, but most offered significant discounts for those trading in older models - particularly diesels - and buying new cars, with a focus on some of the greenest models around.

Rule changes from the UK Government paint a confusing picture though, with VED bands changing significantly in 2017, and largely removing the tax benefits that were available to drivers of lower emission cars. Instead of bands based directly on the official CO2 output of the model, new car buyers from 1st April now pay a fixed annual fee of £140. There are exceptions to the rule, with zero-emission cars charged nothing, alternatively fuelled cars given a £10 discount, and models worth more than £40,000 charged a premium rate for years two to six. The only emissions based rates other than for zero-tailpipe emission vehicles come in the first year. Although this has seen increases in costs for the highest polluting cars, the first year rate is included in a new car's OTR, so has far less impact on the buyer's ongoing costs since it's wrapped up in the initial purchase price.

In contrast to this, the government announced in the Autumn Budget that there will be an additional 1% added to the diesel BIK supplement for company car tax. This, along with greater support for ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs), has created the potential for even greater savings for company car drivers that pick a plug-in model. Good news for green cars in one tax system, but a step-backwards in the other.

Plug-in Car Grant

There has been a commitment to continuing the Plug-in Car Grant scheme until at least 2020, and a new Autonomous and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently being discussed in parliament, which includes provision for greater control of EV charging infrastructure. Amongst the proposals is that charge points will have to be installed on forecourts of large fuel retailers, and payment systems must be simplified and easier for anyone to access.

One of the biggest pieces of industry news from the UK Government in 2017 though was the announcement that there will be a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2040. This is hoped to give manufacturers a shove into making greener cars, but the ban will only apply to models that have no degree of electrification.

It is expected that mild hybrids will still be allowed to be sold, and very likely that conventional hybrids will remain on sale. We will have to wait and see whether the ban will apply to all non-zero tailpipe emission capable models - only allowing technology such as plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell cars - but the ban could be largely redundant anyway. At NGC we expect that the market will have moved on sufficiently in the next 20 years or so that almost every model will be electrified anyway. If the ban is stricter than currently expected, that would prove very welcome news, but to get past emissions regulations if nothing else, the vast majority of a manufacturer's fleet will have to be electrified in some way by that date anyway.

So 2017 has been a year of big announcements, a shaking up of the old guard, and a promise of uncertainty (but hopefully excitement) in the automotive industry for the next few years at the very least. We hope you have enjoyed our coverage of the key green car news, the features, reviews, and tools we offer too, and that you will continue to visit Next Green Car in 2018 and beyond. Until then, we wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Chris Lilly

Author:Chris Lilly
Date Updated:22nd Dec 2017

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