Electrify your transport fleet

A bullish report into the future of Britain’s automotive industry called for decarbonisation of the fuel not the vehicle, with experts saying the Government’s ban on diesel and petrol cars “wasn’t helpful”.

Following research proving that the manufacture of electric vehicles generates 63% more CO2 than its petrol or diesel equivalent, the report encouraged manufacturers to follow the lead of Polestar and VW in being more transparent about the emissions generated during the production of each model.

In a panel debate to coincide with the launch report, a survey of attendees said 52% didn’t believe the UK could be a credible leader in new technologies because other governments were investing more around the world.

Titled ‘Decarbonising Road Transport: There is no Silver Bullet’, the report also warned of the desperate need to address the legacy fleet of 40m vehicles on UK roads, 10% of which are more than 20 years old.

“We need to do more than just electrify the fleet,” said Andy Eastlake, managing director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership. “We are still selling diesel and petrol cars, the engines of which could play out until 2050, so we have to look at decarbonising fuel.”

Commissioned by firms including Honda, Aston Martin, Bosch and McLaren, the report urged policy makers to adopt a range of technology solutions to support a more rapid drive to Net Zero for the industry.

Dr Uwe Gackstatter, President of Bosch Powertrain Solutions, demanded Government leave engineers to come up with the solutions.

“When JFK said America was going to put a man on the moon he didn’t say what sort of rocket the astronauts would be in and what sort of fuel it had to use, he left that up to the engineers and scientists.

“The UK has perfect conditions for wind and therefore hydrogen, and it also has excellent engineers. The Government needs to motivate and support them.”

In reference to calls for an EPC for cars, former Aston Martin chief Andy Palmer said it was vital to understand there were many routes to net zero.

“You can demand zero CO2 from the tailpipe but a lot of CO2 is then produced in manufacturing,” he said. “And while synthetic fuels are not CO2-free at the tailpipe, they can be at production and expulsion. There are lots of solutions and it’s important we make that distinction.”

Matt Western MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Groups for Motor and Electric Vehicles, said while a clear target for ending the sale of diesel and petrol cars is vital for the industry to prepare for a managed transition to a cleaner future, we should not be fooled into thinking this alone will solve the problem.

“We need to address the decarbonisation of both vehicle and fuel to have any real hope of meeting our CO2 reduction ambitions,” he explained.

“The UK is home to some incredibly innovative companies and research institutions. We should foster their creativity by taking a technology neutral approach to our emissions reduction ambitions, allowing the industry to do what it does best; innovate.”

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The report continued: “Making all new vehicles zero emissions at the tailpipe only works if the energy grid is zero emission, it also only addresses those new vehicles sold each year (circa 2m per annum in 2019), whereas introducing renewable fuels impacts on all vehicles in the car park, circa 40m.

“There is a golden opportunity in a post-Brexit, post-corona virus world for the UK to become the global leader in state of the art zero emission technology, but we must find a way to support both the technology development and the industrial development that follows.”

Some of the starkest warnings surrounded electric vehicles, with firms such as Tesla encouraged to publish details of the energy used to manufacture its vehicles. It follows the example set earlier this year by Polestar, who published detailed figures of the CO2 emissions generated in manufacturing their new Polestar2 vehicle, which would need to run for 78,000 kms before its carbon footprint becomes smaller than that of a diesel Volvo XC40.

Bus company Optare, the Renewable Transport Fuel Association and Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership also contributed to the report.