Are trends electric?

1st May 2020

Web p23 shutterstock 1603896640 v3

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Transport


Victor Olumekun

Gloria Esposito looks at how the UK's road transport could meet net-zero aspirations, via both electric vehicles and sustainable fuels

The road transport sector is responsible for 25% of UK greenhouse gas emissions, and this is on upward trajectory. The government's Road to Zero Strategy makes electric vehicles (EVs) a focal point for decarbonising these emissions. Presently, 4% of new car sales are zero-emission models, covering plug-in hybrid and battery electric technologies. The government and the Climate Change Committee say this must reach 50-70% of new sales by 2030 – meaning a 30% increase in new EV sales each year is required. A combination of carrots and sticks will be needed to accelerate take-up, such as Zero Emission Zones and a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine cars by 2035. While industry experts predict EVs will reach price parity with fossil fuel counterparts by 2025, government fiscal incentives will need to continue for some time to make them affordable. Innovative fiscal policy will be required to accelerate EV demand while addressing loss of fuel duty. Carbon pricing should be a candidate, potentially aligning the cost of fuel and energy with lifecycle greenhouse emissions.

Net-zero road transport emissions by 2050 cannot happen through EVs alone. Wide-scale charging infrastructure deployment, and a smart, low-carbon electricity grid, are intrinsic parts of the roadmap. The UK's electricity supply is transforming, with carbon intensity falling by more than 50% during the past six years. The decarbonisation of the grid will allow EVs to be truly zero-emission.

Challenges and barriers

One of greatest challenges is the heavy-duty vehicle sector. The UK bus sector has been progressive, with 10% of new bus sales being electric; more than 300 are in operation. However, the market for electric urban trucks faces barriers. These include limited available models and high vehicle capital costs. Electrification of fleet depots is also difficult economically and in terms of charging infrastructure. It will take many years and government funding to kickstart the market.

For long-haul trucks, low-carbon and sustainable fuels such as biomethane and biodiesel will play a role; these are being deployed by logistics companies and supermarkets. The commercialisation of more advanced low-carbon fuels will be a necessity for the road transport and aviation sectors during the next decade.

Finally, zero-emission transport must be sustainable. Supply chains for the raw materials used in lithium batteries will require management in order to conserve resources and maintain availability. The responsible mining of metal resources will be increasingly important, driven by investors' ESG responsibilities. The automotive R&D community needs to address battery end-of-life, embracing the circular economy through improved battery design that allows raw materials to be recycled and batteries re-used. Numerous challenges must be addressed – but collaboration between stakeholders, innovation and intelligent national policies will help overcome them.

Driving change

Electric vehicles will play a significant role in the decarbonisation of road transport

25%- Road transport is responsible for 25% of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions

30%- A 30% increase in new electric car sales each year is required to hit UK government targets

50%- The UK's carbon intensity has fallen by more than 50% during the past six years

10%- of new bus sales are electric

Gloria Esposito, MIEMA CEnv is head of projects at the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership

Image credit: Shutterstock


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

Is the sea big enough?

A project promoter’s perspective on the environmental challenges facing new subsea power cables

3rd April 2024

Read more

The UK’s major cities lag well behind their European counterparts in terms of public transport use. Linking development to transport routes might be the answer, argues Huw Morris

3rd April 2024

Read more

Tom Harris examines the supply chain constraints facing the growing number of interconnector projects

2nd April 2024

Read more

The UK government’s carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) strategy is based on optimistic techno-economic assumptions that are now outdated, Carbon Tracker has warned.

13th March 2024

Read more

The UK government’s latest Public Attitudes Tracker has found broad support for efforts to tackle climate change, although there are significant concerns that bills will rise.

13th March 2024

Read more

A consortium including IEMA and the Good Homes Alliance have drafted a letter to UK government ministers expressing disappointment with the proposed Future Homes Standard.

26th February 2024

Read more

Global corporations such as Amazon and Google purchased a record 46 gigawatts (GW) of solar and wind energy last year, according to BloombergNEF (BNEF).

13th February 2024

Read more

Three-quarters of UK adults are concerned about the impact that climate change will have on their bills, according to polling commissioned by Positive Money.

13th February 2024

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close