The Road to Zero

The Road to Zero

Head of Communications | Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership

The Government’s Road to Zero strategy was finally published this July. It signals a dramatic change in the technologies that will be used to power our cars, vans, trucks and buses in future.
 
The new strategy complements the Clean Growth Strategy and wider Industrial Strategy which were published by the Government last autumn.
 
It identifies 46 measures (though some critics have pointed out that relatively few of them are new) which are intended to incentivise uptake and drive clean vehicle production as well as break down other practical and policy barriers. The Government is committed to reviewing progress by 2025 and to make further interventions as required.
 
The most eye-catching elements of the Road to Zero focus on the targets for cars but the strategy also includes measures for the important freight sector, which is responsible for approaching 40 per cent of the UK’s emissions of greenhouse gases from all road transport. 
 
The Government aims for “at least 50 per cent, and as many as 70 per cent, of new car sales and up to 40 per cent of new van sales being of ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) by 2030”. (The definition of a ULEV car or van is likely to be tightened in 2021 from under 75 to less than 50 grams of CO2 per km from the tailpipe, measured against the relevant test cycle.)
 
To encourage cleaner van uptake the Government will be consulting on the reform of VED to incentivise van drivers to make lower emission vehicle choices when purchasing a new vehicle.
 
The most important element of the new strategy in terms of the freight sector, at least in the short term, is the proposed introduction of a voluntary commitment to reduce HGV greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent by 2025, compared with 2015 levels. Both the industry’s main trade bodies, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) and the Road Haulage Association (RHA) have indicated their support for the voluntary target.
 
To complement the Government’s strategy, the FTA has announced that it will relaunch the Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme (LERS), its own voluntary industry initiative, to record, report and reduce transport emissions. The new scheme will be provided free to all haulage operators and will incorporate the 15 per cent target to help individual companies meet it and track their performance against it. LERS also features an interim target of five per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020.
 
Although new emissions standards for HGVs have contributed to significant air quality improvements in recent years, CO2 emissions from these vehicles have remained relatively constant and ultra-low to zero emission options will have to be developed and made available commercially for all types of HGVs.
 
That’s why, the Government says, alongside the voluntary commitment, it is launching a joint research project with Highways England to identify and assess zero emission technologies suitable for HGVs on the UK road network. It also aims to work with industry – through facilitators like the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP) - to develop an ultra-low emission standard for trucks and encourage industry R&D in this area. (Note that to help incentivise uptake of larger low emission vehicles, last year the Government extended the Plug-in Van Grant to cover vehicles weighing more than 3.5 tonnes. LowCVP is now actively working to define the detailed test requirements for such vehicles.).
 
The new strategy also includes a considerable focus on decarbonising road transport fuels. Low emission fuels such as biomethane and biodiesel are the focus of considerable efforts, and the Government is currently consulting on the potential adoption of E10; a 10 per cent ethanol mix in petrol. (The UK has a legally binding commitment to increase the supply and sustainability of low carbon fuels to 12.4 per cent of all conventional road transport fuel by 2032.)
 
Further tests of the latest natural gas HGVs will also take place to gather evidence that will inform decisions on future government policy and support. The Government sees gas-powered trucks as a short to medium-term option for cutting emissions while zero emission options are being developed and deployed.
 
Also, in the near term, retrofit options which have been developed for trucks and buses will be extended to include vans and black cabs.The Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS), developed jointly by the LowCVP and the Energy Saving Trust (EST) with industry stakeholders validates technologies against a common standard, assessing their ability to contribute to meeting Clean Air Zone requirements.
 
The scheme is intended to provide the backbone of future retrofit funding, enabling the UK market to lead in this important sector. A ‘freight portal’ to ensure that HGV operators have access to reliable information on cost-effective measures to improve fuel efficiency and reduce their emissions in the short-term has also been developed by the EST.
 
It’s clear, though, that the Government expects diesel to continue to dominate in the heavy vehicles sector for some time to come, while measures to accelerate low and zero emissions technologies are developed. Diesel trucks relying on older technologies, without retrofit equipment added, may well be subject to access restrictions in areas of higher air pollution, of course. 
 
In the longer term, there is confidence that the electrification of large and long-haul HGVs is possible. Manufacturers have already produced large electric HGVs and there have been several successful trials of dynamic charging technologies for HGVs internationally. Hydrogen, too, is still seen by many as a feasible zero emission solution for large, long-haul HGVs.
 
In his foreword to the Road to Zero, the Transport Secretary Chris Grayling said: “The coming decades are going to be transformative for our motor industry, our national infrastructure and the way we travel.
 
“We expect to see more change in the transport sector over the next 10 years than we have in the previous century.
 
“We are expecting our economy and society to experience profound change, which is why we have marked the Future of Mobility as one of the four grand challenges as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.”
 
The full Road to Zero strategy document is available here
 
For further information, visit: www.lowcvp.org.uk