Transport Committee - Plug-in vehicles, plugged in policy?Written evidence from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK


1. The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport in the UK (“the Institute”) is a professional institution embracing all transport modes whose members are engaged in the provision of transport services for both passengers and freight, the management of logistics and the supply chain, transport planning, government and administration. We have no political affiliations and do not support any particular vested interests. Our principal concerns are that transport policies and procedures should be effective and efficient and based, as far as possible, on objective analysis of the issues and practical experience and that good practice should be widely disseminated and adopted.

2. The Institute has a specialist Roads and Traffic Forum, a Public Policies Committee which considers the broad canvass of transport policy and a nationwide structure of locally based groups. This submission draws on contributions from all these sources.

3. In November 2011, CILT(UK) published a report of a study on the Transport Use of Carbon. This study focused on long distance passenger travel by all modes and sought to understand the amount of carbon used by each mode. It considered the way in which carbon is used not just in the fuel consumed, but also in building and scrapping the vehicles and in providing and maintaining the infrastructure.

4. Within the report there are significant conclusions about the use of electric vehicles for long distance journeys, which are set out below. The full report is attached and available at

Carbon in Fuel

5. Transport Use of Carbon study showed that substantial progress towards the decarbonisation of electricity generation is critical to meeting targets for the reduction in carbon used by transport (both for road and rail). While total decarbonisation of electricity production is not possible, the most important step is the removal of unabated coal (ie coal without carbon capture and storage) from electricity generation.

6. The study also noted that, if this were achieved, then the amount of carbon produced will be similar whether the assumption is made that the electricity is generated at the margin (eg, by “spare” nuclear capacity at low demand times such as for charging vehicles overnight) or by using the average generating mix (ie, nuclear, renewables, coal with CCS and gas).

7. From the point of view of appraisal, we believe that the emissions trading scheme ensures that increases in carbon from electricity production are offset by reductions in carbon production elsewhere, so that the production of carbon from electricity generation should not be directly taken into account in the appraisal of electric vehicles.

Carbon Used by Vehicles

8. Paragraphs 3.4–3.13 of our report deal with carbon emissions from cars and buses. We noted that electric vehicles currently use significantly less carbon than petrol or diesel cars, but the latter will continue to improve their performance. Provided that electricity generation is decarbonised, the future use of carbon by electric vehicles would be perhaps only one quarter of that of future petrol/diesel cars, and similar to that of electric trains per passenger-km.

9. Until electricity has been fully decarbonised it is important to avoid charging batteries in the peak which will call for extra generating capacity and might delay the phasing out of unabated coal. Until electricity generation is completely decarbonised electric cars whose batteries are recharged in the peak could emit more carbon than future generations of petrol and diesel vehicles (see figure 3.1 of our report). Pricing regimes should encourage the use of off-peak electricity for battery charging.

10. Irrespective of engine or fuel, the amount of carbon produced is highly sensitive to loadfactor. Cars currently carry around 1.5 passengers on average in a four or five seat vehicle. It is obvious that increasing the average load factor will significantly reduce the carbon use per passenger km. The same is true of local buses which on average have very high carbon emissions per passenger km.

Carbon Used in Vehicle Production, Maintenance and Scrappage

11. Transport Use of Carbon study noted that there was limited evidence of the amount of carbon used in vehicle production, maintenance and scrappage, but that conventional vehicles may consume 15–20% of lifetime carbon use. Currently electric vehicles use around twice the amount of carbon compared with conventional vehicles, probably because of the lower production volume and the inclusion of batteries and electric motors. But more evidence on this is needed, as well as investigation on the degree to which this is already offset by the emissions trading scheme.

April 2012

Prepared 20th September 2012