A new Department for Transport (DfT) report says that the UK is on track to supporting 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2050, writes Poppy Kettle.
It’s somewhat poignant that the Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge report was launched at a time when the public is debating the necessity of all journeys that they are making. Over a very short period huge shifts in behaviour and movement have been imposed on an international level and the environmental benefits have been both surprising and widely publicised.
Though the lockdown is only for the short term, the positive environmental results of these behavioural changes will be sure to resonate with at least some when making travel decisions after restrictions have been lifted.
In February, the government announced that it is bringing forward the ban on diesel and petrol cars from 2040 to 2035, which has led to increased focus on how the UK is going to have the needed electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure in place in time. The EV market is now well placed to deliver the bulk of decarbonisation for road vehicles. The focus is instead on promoting mass uptake. Some of the challenges to this include increasing the necessary infrastructure whilst improving consumer experience when using it.
The government is supporting EV infrastructure through the provision of public and private chargepoint grants. The Committee on Climate Change has reported that in order to meet the 2050 target, 3,500 rapid and ultra-rapid chargers are needed along motorways to enable long journeys and 210,000 chargers are required in cities. This is a massive increase on the 21,000 public chargers available as of 2019.
Over recent years, policy recommendations for transport decarbonisation have focused primarily around electrification. As more EVs join the roads and are using greener electricity to be charged, emissions will drop dramatically. Of course, electrifying transportation increases the demand for power. National Grid says that whilst it expects the demand for electricity to significantly increase, they have policies in place to address this. Further, the government is mandating that new chargepoints must have smart capability in order to control the rapid increase in demand.
The coronavirus pandemic has provided us with an unusual opportunity to preview what the result of a decarbonised transport system will look like. Through experiencing proven results, it is possible this period may trigger wider public interest in decarbonising the transport sector, ahead of the final Transport Decarbonisation Plan which is set to be released in Autumn 2020.
Poppy Kettle is a net zero policy executive at the Environmental Industries Commission.