The transport revolution in the UK

It is no secret that the transport revolution is well on the way, though we do have a little way to go! Vehicles on the road contribute more than 90% of the UK’s transport-based carbon dioxide emissions. This is a huge obstacle for the UK and the 2050 net-zero goal. With only 200k electric cars on the road, despite a large increase in recent years, it seems difficult that the UK will be able to cut down on this emission intensive sector. So, what can/is being done about this?


Emissions by vehicle


It helps to first find the main contributor to emissions in the transport sector. Well with information from the BEIS and the DfT we could clearly see where the UK’s transport emissions came from in 2016.

  • Passenger cars and Taxis – 56%
  • Heavy Goods Vehicles – 16%
  • Light Duty Vans – 15%
  • All shipping – 5%
  • Domestic Aviation – 3%
  • Buses – 3%
  • Railways and Metro – 2%
  • Mopeds and Motorcycles – 0.4%
  • Other Vehicles – 0.4%

Passenger cars and taxis are clearly the main contributor. In fact, Passengers travelling by car, taxi and bus accounts for 60% of all transport emissions! Though do not be put off by public transport as it makes up a very small amount of the total emissions. 37% of rail and metro systems in the UK are electric too!


On the road to net-zero 2050! 


Though with many suggesting that this deadline is too late, can all cars really be emission free by 2050? Well, with the ban on new petrol and diesel cars set for 2040 and the increasing percentage of electric and hybrid cars, it is certainly possible. The CCC have suggested even bringing the date forward to 2035. It is estimated that by 2030 half of new car sales and 40% of new van sales will be Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs). Again, the CCC want this target to be 100% electric by 2050 instead.

Recommended incentives will have a major impact on the transition to electric. There have already been some incentives introduced:

  • The plug-in car and van grant offers up to £4,500 for an electric car and £2,500 for a hybrid car (the price has since been revised to £3,500 for electric cars and the hybrid subsidy has been dropped)
  • A grant of up to £500 towards installing personal electric chargers for your home
  • Local authorities around the UK have been required to install charging points


What challenges do we face?


We not only have the financial obstacle we also face an issue with the current energy infrastructure. The UK will need to see a massive upgrade in both efficiency and effectiveness to cope with the demand. The average UK household could see an 80% increase in their electricity demand, spiking nationwide demand by 30%! This is even when considering how energy efficient EV engines are. Local networks will have to be configured, replaced or renovated to create domestic and public charging points.

Currently, only 1 in 40 new car sales are electric. Hybrid cars that also use petrol outnumber fully electric cars 6:1, therefore, the phasing out of hybrid cars has been recommended. As it stands 40% of all cars in the UK are more than 10 years old. This means that banning petrol cars in 2040 means that not all cars will be zero emissions by 2050. This of course, wouldn’t be the case if further restrictions and actions are taken.

One of the biggest challenges for electric cars is the demand for charging points. This factor has inhibited the demand for electric vehicles, so much so that we may have been in a different situation today if this issue had been tackled earlier. The main worry is that most electric cars use to only manage an 80-mile range before they had to recharge (every 10 journeys). This had led many to have ‘range anxiety’ as they fear they will get a certain distance and be unable to charge their car, and will be essentially stranded. Newer electric models have a much longer range but with only 13,688 public charging devices across the UK, this fear is still commonly felt.


Why we need the transport revolution


In the race toward net-zero, the transport revolution will play a vital role in achieving the milestone. We need a revolution with our transport if we want to be net-zero, it’s plain to see. Both aviation and shipping accounted for 2-2.5% of global carbon emissions, respectively. While there are approaches, policies and schemes in place to limit emissions, we have a long way to come. In short, we need this revolution because transport is the greatest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions and if we really want to reach our 2050 target, we need to ditch carbon fuels.

This information comes courtesy of the BBC Energy Brief

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