Government announces plan to push EV uptake, reduce car usage

The UK government has set goals of accelerating the uptake of zero-emissions vehicles and shifting people out of cars by making public transport, cycling or walking “natural first choices” for travel. It has also committed to matching the European Union’s tough fleet CO2 emissions targets.

The steps that will be taken to achieve those goals will be outlined in a new Transport Decarbonisation Plan that’s due to be published at an environment summit in November. The plan will be a key part of the government’s goal to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050.

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently published an official document, entitled Setting the Challenge, that outlines “where we are today and the size of emissions reduction needed”. This doesn’t set out specific policies, which will be developed as a result of public consultations and workshops, but outlines “strategic priorities”. These include:

 Making public transport and active transport (such as cycling and walking) “the natural first choice for our daily activities” so that people use their cars less. This will involve reducing public transport’s emissions and making it convenient and cost-effective, plus developing Mobility as a Service platforms.

 Decarbonising road vehicles, with a focus on “ensuring a supportive regulatory framework” and “building [consumer] trust in new technologies”.

 Making the UK a “world leader in green transport technology and innovation” by encouraging research and development investment in new technology.

Westminster is already aiming to ban sales of all non-electric cars by 2035 or sooner, with the aim “to put the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacturing of zero-emissions vehicles”.

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The DfT publication claims that transport is now the largest contributor to the UK’s domestic GHG emissions, contributing 28% of the total. Passenger cars were responsible for 55% of domestic GHG transport emissions, although total GHG production by such vehicles has dropped 5% since 1990 despite total miles travelled rising by 22%. 

However, the report also notes that average CO2 emissions per mile for new cars has risen since 2016. While it acknowledges the dramatic decline of diesel sales has played a role in this, it cites fast-rising sales of SUVs as the main reason.

The report note that sales of ultra-low-emissions vehicles – which includes electric cars – have increased massively in recent years, from around 1300 in 2010 to more than 230,000 today.

It added that more EV charging infrastructure will be required to continue that growth, given that 20-30% of British motorists don’t have access to off-street parking where private chargers could be located. It also calls for a “roaming solution” that would allow EV drivers to access any public charger through a single payment method.

The Setting the Challenge document also outlines steps to reduce GHG emissions from goods transport, public transport, air travel and maritime travel.

The publication is the first step in a planned seven-month process that will lead to the publication of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan in November. That will include a number of planned publish feedback opportunities, starting later this year. The full document can be read on the DfT website here.