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UK: The Road to Zero

  • UAE
  • Energy and infrastructure


On July 9 2018 the Department for Transport issued Road to Zero, which sets out a policy for delivering significant decarbonisation of transport, and putting the UK at the forefront of the design and manufacture of zero emission vehicles, with a target for new cars and vans to be effectively emission free by 2040. It builds upon the Industrial Strategy issued last year, the Clean Growth Strategy and the UK Plan for Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations. It brings together many strands needed to manage climate change and air pollution consequences of diesel and petrol transport.

Since 1990 the UK has had tremendous success in cutting overall greenhouse gas emissions by 41%, whilst the economy has grown by two thirds. On the other hand, greenhouse gas emissions of transport have only fallen by 2% over the same period. Transport is now the largest sector for UK greenhouse gas emissions at 27% of which over 90% is accounted for by road transport. Driven by the need to cut these emissions and the increasing risks of air pollution to the public, Government is now acting to accelerate change.

The strategy is holistic and acknowledges that change will depend upon adequate vehicle supply, a strong consumer base, the right market conditions and a fit for purpose charging infrastructure.

The policy headlines are:

Reducing emissions from existing road vehicles and driving uptake of the cleanest new vehicles 

  • A legally binding obligation to increase use of low carbon fuels over fifteen years to reach 7% by 2032.
  • Take action against garages which remove emissions reduction technology.
  • Extend the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme to include vans and black cabs.
  • Promote the uptake of fuel efficient company cars, fleet operators and private motorists.
  • Continue to offer grants to motorists who choose plug in cars until 2020 with the current rates continuing until October 2018 and ensuring that Government chooses the least polluting vehicles for its own fleet.

There are also a number of initiatives on air pollution including a Call for Evidence on the consequences of particulate pollution from tyres, brakes and road wear to understand the options for how they may be reduced.

Reducing emissions from Heavy Goods Vehicles

There will be a voluntary industry scheme to reduce emissions by 15% from 2015 levels by 2025. Research will focus on low emissions technology suitable for UK HGV traffic and consider the use of and test natural gas as a fuel.

Putting the UK at the forefront of design and manufacture of zero emission vehicles

Government has set a target for research and development into clean transport of 2.4% of GDP by 2027 and increasing R&D tax credit to 12%.

Government will take steps to ensure that the whole supply chain is best placed to deliver decarbonised transport through a productivity and improvement programme including training technicians and focussing investment effectively. For example, the Faraday Battery Challenge will receive £246m to research next generation batteries which some see as being a pre-requisite of successful decarbonisation.

Support the development of one of the best electric vehicle charging networks in the world

This includes launching a £400 million Charging Infrastructure Investment Fund to accelerate deployment of chargers. The changes will be wide ranging to ensure that chargers meet set requirements and are located in the right places and known to the public. Government will consult to ensure that new build houses are equipped with chargers.

New street light columns will also be equipped with chargers.

Finance will be made available to deliver change including increasing the Workplace Charging Scheme grant to encourage businesses to fit chargers.

There will be a new Electric Vehicle Charging Taskforce to bring together the electricity and vehicle industries and ensure that the generation and distribution network is informed by and adapted for future charging needs.

Local initiatives include:

A £48 ultra-low emission bus scheme to accelerate deployment of supporting infrastructure.

A £6m fund for local authorities to install dedicated taxi chargers.

A campaign to raise awareness of best practice.

Home Charging is not forgotten

The Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme will continue until the sooner of 30,000 installations in 2018/19 or March 2019.

Consideration will be given as to how all residents access EV charging which is currently a challenge for those without off street parking.

Support for on-street charging

Money will be available for Local Authorities to roll out on-street charging; there will be up to £40 million to develop wireless charging and trial innovation in on-street charging.

Government acknowledges that delivering massive change to decarbonise transport will require coordinated action across central local and devolved government, business, regulators academia and environmental groups and, of course, the public. As the strategy is delivered it will be interesting to see how the UK market develops when compared with other countries which have offered very significant financial incentives to switch to EVs such as Norway where, in January 2017, the sales of plug in, electric cars and hybrids exceeded fifty per cent of all new car sales.

If you would like to discuss the above, please contact the team below.