93.Domestic transport (i.e. excluding international aviation and shipping originating or arriving in the UK) was responsible for around 27% of the UK’s territorial greenhouse gas emissions in 2018. It was the only major sector of the UK energy system to have increasing emissions over the course of the last carbon budget. The Committee on Climate Change stated in 2018 that the transport sector was “significantly off-track from the cost-effective path” for meeting the UK’s emissions targets. In this Chapter we, focus on emissions from road transport, and the targets and policies the Government should adopt to help to decarbonise the UK’s road transport system.
94.The Committee on Climate Change has suggested that the main reason for the recent increase in transport emissions has been growing demand for car and van travel combined with slowing efficiency gains. This is borne out by statistics published by the Department for Transport in 2018, which showed that the distances driven in cars and vans, and overall emissions from cars and vans, have both been steadily growing since 2013. This is despite the fact that, according to the Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions, there “remains substantial potential for improvement” in the efficiency of conventional cars and vans in the “short to medium term”. The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told us that average new car emissions in the UK rose by 0.8% from 2016 to 2017, the first rise in emissions on record. It estimated that 55% of this was attributable to consumers buying less efficient models and 45% to consumers switching from diesel to petrol cars. For example, registrations of superminis fell 14.3% from 2016 to 2017, while registrations of SUVs grew 5.1%. In its 2018 progress report to Parliament, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that the Government implement stronger fiscal incentives to encourage consumers to buy lower emitting vehicles.
95.Car owners must currently pay vehicle excise duty, which varies by carbon emissions and fuel type. When the car is registered, the duty applied covers a spectrum from £0 to £2,135 according to fuel type and emissions. However, from the second year onwards the standard rate is £145, £135 or £0 for petrol and diesel cars, ‘alternative fuel’ cars, and fully electric cars respectively. Although these rates favour vehicles with lower emissions, Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, told us that he thought the Government had “undermined the use of vehicle excise duty as a tool in driving CO2 behaviour”:
There is significant CO2-related vehicle excise duty in the first year. Very few people see that because it is wrapped up in the price of their vehicle or their lease. Eighty-five per cent of vehicles are financed in some way; these days, not many people buy a vehicle with cash. The used car market is where vehicle excise duty potentially has more power and capability, and now there is a flat-rate vehicle excise duty for anything other than a zero-emission electric vehicle.
96.There is significant scope for emissions reductions in the transport sector as a result of the purchase of more efficient vehicle models, without requiring technological developments or alternative fuel sources. However, the current fiscal incentives for cars are not sufficient to encourage consumers to purchase lower-emissions vehicles, given that most of the increase in average new car emissions in 2017 was caused by consumers choosing more emitting models. The Government must reconsider the fiscal incentives for consumers to purchase both new and used vehicle models with lower emissions, and develop a strategy by the time of the Spring Statement 2020 to use vehicle excise duty and other incentives to drive the purchase of vehicle models with lower average emissions. This must include consideration of post-sales vehicle excise duty and the second-hand market.
97.Under EU law, the UK currently has legislation setting maximum average emissions standards for cars and vans. This aims for average car emissions to drop to 95g of CO2 per km by 2020 (compared to 161gCO2/km in 2006). The EU has recently agreed new standards requiring a further reduction on 2021 levels of 15% by 2025 and 37.5% by 2030. These will come into force on 1 January 2020. This is after the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU, meaning that the standards would not automatically be incorporated into UK law on exit day. The European Parliament has also approved the European Commission’s proposals for new legislation regarding emissions from heavy-duty vehicles. This would require a 15% reduction in average new truck emissions by 2025 and a 30% reduction by 2030 compared to 2019. The Government informed us that since “new heavy duty vehicle CO2 regulation has yet to be finalised and adopted by the EU”, its implementation in the UK “will depend on when this is achieved and the terms on which the UK leaves the EU”. Prior to the EU’s new standards being agreed, the UK Government stated that, in the context of Brexit, it “will pursue a future approach to vehicle emissions regulation that is at least as ambitious as the current arrangements”, but it is not clear whether or not this commitment applies to regulations that the EU has since agreed.
98.The Government must commit, prior to the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, to adopting transport emissions regulations that are, as a minimum, in line with current and future EU regulations on transport emissions. This should include legislation regarding emissions reductions requirements for heavy duty vehicles, regardless of the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU.
99.The Government’s stated long-term ambitions for decarbonising road transport are for:
The Government has said that “the 2040 ambition is consistent with [the UK’s original overall decarbonisation] target” (to achieve 80% decarbonisation compared to 1990, by 2050). However, Professor Jim Watson, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, told us that “the 2040 target for phasing out fossil vehicles is just not ambitious enough”. Modelling undertaken by the UK Energy Research Centre projected that a 2040 ban “may neither hit the [original 2050 emissions reductions] target nor make the early gains needed for a 1.5°C trajectory”. Instead, it suggested that a 2040 ban would have to include hybrid as well as conventional cars in order to meet the UK’s existing targets, and that this ban would have to be brought forward to 2030 in order to align with a pathway to 1.5˚C global warming. Lord Deben, Chairman of the Committee on Climate Change, similarly told us that if the Government did “not bring those dates forward, the contribution that is necessary from the electrification of motor vehicles will not be sufficient to meet the requirements of the budgets”. We heard from several other witnesses who also advocated an earlier ban. The Committee on Climate Change has recommended that the Government’s planned ban both be brought forward, to “2035 at the latest”, and cover “any car or van with petrol or diesel combustion engines” (i.e. including hybrid vehicles). When we asked the Government for the basis on which it disagreed with the Committee on Climate Change and other stakeholders with regards to the date of the ban, it declined to explain.
100.Conversely, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told us that is was “concerned about the significantly high ambition levels that have been set for the uptake of ultra-low and zero emission cars and vans […] by 2030”. However, Professor Watson countered that although “some car manufacturers say that it is terribly difficult […] that is what companies say when faced with something challenging”. Indeed, some manufacturers, such as Nissan and Volvo, appear to have set themselves more ambitious targets than the UK’s current targets (both are aiming for electric vehicles to make up half of their sales in Japan and Europe by 2025). Numerous countries, including Norway, India, China, Slovenia, Austria, Israel, the Netherlands, Ireland, Denmark and Scotland, also have more ambitious targets than the UK’s current targets (with prospective bans starting between 2025 and 2035), undermining the Government’s statement to us that it seeks to “maintain the UK’s leadership position”. Both the UK Energy Research Centre and the Committee on Climate Change have said that an earlier ban on conventional vehicle sales would deliver not only emissions reductions but also economic benefit to the UK.
101.The Government’s ultimate goal is for “almost every car and van” to be zero emission by 2050. In order for this to be consistent with a 2040 target for banning the sales of conventional vehicles, this would require the scrappage of many cars at a maximum age of 10 years. In contrast, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders reports that the current average age of scrappage is 14 years and that this has been rising since 2009. This average age would suggest that a ban by at least 2036 would be required to meet the overall aim of a zero-emission vehicle fleet by 2050.
102.The Government has said that a 2040 ban on the sale of conventional cars and vans is consistent with the UK’s current emissions reductions targets for 2050, but this has been disputed by independent organisations such as the UK Energy Research Centre and the Committee on Climate Change. There is a strong case for bringing the date for a future ban forward, given that several manufacturers already have more ambitious commitments in place. The Government should act on the advice of the Committee on Climate Change and bring forward the proposed ban on sales of new conventional cars and vans to 2035 at the latest. This ban should explicitly cover hybrid as well as internal combustion engines.
103.The Committee on Climate Change has determined a pathway of annual electric vehicles sales that it estimates would be indicative of sufficient progress towards the UK’s long-term emissions targets. Sales of electric cars are currently falling behind these volumes, with the shortfall growing each year since 2014. Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, also warned us that electric vehicle uptake “is not increasing at the rate that we probably need to see to deliver the trajectory defined in the ‘Road to Zero’ [strategy]”. A 2018 survey of British consumers by Deloitte reported the following consumer concerns as barriers to increased uptake of electric vehicles:
Other surveys have reported different proportions of consumers for each concern, but found the same concerns. Over time, technological improvements in electric vehicles are expected to improve the range, costs and charging time characteristics. Nevertheless, there is a role for the Government to play in addressing these consumer concerns.
104.Concerns regarding range, charging time and charging infrastructure are all related to the availability of chargepoints. Although the Government has said that the UK has “one of the largest, and most comprehensive rapid [chargepoint] networks in Europe”, and is spending £1.5bn on support for zero-emission vehicles, PwC has noted that “public charging infrastructure in the UK […] has not [evolved] at the same rate as the electric vehicle stock”. Whereas the number of electric vehicles has grown at close to a 100% compound annual growth rate since 2012, the equivalent rate for the number of chargepoints available has been 44%. Several submissions to our inquiry, including from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders and UK Research and Innovation, argued that better charging infrastructure was required to drive uptake of electric vehicles, and the Government itself has stated that “it is clear that […] many more public chargepoints will be needed” and that “the consumer experience of public electric vehicle charging needs to be improved”.
105.National Grid identified five types of location that would require chargepoints:
National Grid advised that with just 54 charging stations in total, placed at appropriate points along the strategic road network, 99% of drivers in England and Wales would be within 50 miles of a chargepoint, regardless of the direction in which they were travelling. It estimated that this could be delivered at a cost of £0.8bn, which it said equated to 65p per year, for all registered road vehicles, over the 40-year lifetime of the assets. However, it warned that “investment will be needed by industry and enabled by government”:
Whilst the private sector has ambitions to invest in the ‘connection to car’ [the chargepoint itself], and we will support the wider grid reinforcement, there is a risk that the ‘connection to the grid’ [between the chargepoint and the existing grid infrastructure] may not take place until mass market electric vehicle adoption kicks in. Without some targeted intervention in this specific area, there is a risk that the roll-out will not happen fast enough, or with sufficient capacity to be able to meet the needs of the increasing number of cars that will require charging.
National Grid has suggested that the costs for this infrastructure could be recovered either through the private sector charging more for motorway charging, through vehicle excise duty or car tax, from consumers’ electricity bills or from general taxation. Highways England has committed £15m to ensure that its users are within 20 miles of a rapid chargepoint along 95% of the strategic road network in England, but as of July 2018 it had only issued grants to two local authorities and received applications from a further four.
106.Several submissions, including from the Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions, highlighted the importance of local charging. The Government has set aside £4.5m grant funding for local authorities to deliver on-street charging. The Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions told us that “ensuring local authorities take up government funding schemes” would be important to the acceleration of a chargepoint roll-out. Another particular aspect that was commonly raised was the importance of interoperability between different chargepoint networks. The National Franchised Dealers Association told us that of the fourteen major chargepoint networks in the UK, only three were interoperable, which meant that electric vehicle drivers “will likely need a subscription to multiple operators to ensure that they can recharge their cars when travelling longer distances”. It pointed to market solutions to this being developed in the USA, and to the ‘Open Charge Point Protocol’ being developed in the Netherlands, but warned that “there is little sign of a wide-ranging private sector interoperability agreement being implemented in the UK”.
107.In its latest review of potential future ‘energy scenarios’, National Grid stated that all of its possible scenarios “assume strong growth in electric vehicles”. Although it anticipated this placing up to 30% extra demand for total energy on the grid by 2050, it estimated that ‘smart’ charging (where electric vehicles respond to current electricity demand to shift their charging to periods of low demand) could reduce the corresponding increase in peak power demand to just 9%. Ofgem argued that, managed correctly, electric vehicles’ potential ability to “act as storage where they are able to export electricity to the grid” at times of peak demand could add flexibility to the UK energy system and assist in its management. EDF Energy cautioned that, in order for this to be the case, it would be “critical to ensure that the majority of electric vehicles are charged smartly for the majority of the time”:
This is an achievable outcome that can be based on technology that is already available. The roll-out of smart meters and half hourly settlement in the domestic sector should facilitate a greater adoption of smart charging. However, while off-peak charging will be cheaper, the convenience of fast charging options, at any time of day, means that a smart outcome for the system as a whole is not guaranteed. Government and stakeholders should therefore continue to promote smart outcomes and technology and monitor progress in this area.
108.The Automated and Electric Vehicle Act 2018 introduced powers for the Government to regulate the provision of public electric vehicle charging points and hydrogen refuelling points in order to:
There were also provisions in the Act for the Government to regulate all charge points so that they were ‘smart’, meaning that they could receive, transmit, process and react to relevant information. In addition to these powers, Tanya Sinclair, Policy Director UK and Ireland for ChargePoint, highlighted powers enabled by the Act to penalise companies whose charging points were unreliable. However, the Government has not yet introduced any regulations permitted by the Act. Ms Sinclair told us that the Government now “need to switch on those powers”. The Government indicated to us that it intends to consult on its powers to regulate smart charging “in the coming months with a view to laying the regulations by early next year”.
109.The availability of chargepoints is a significant factor in consumer uptake of electric vehicles. Although the extent of the UK’s charging infrastructure is growing, it is not expanding at a pace to match the roll-out of electric vehicles. Interoperability of different chargepoint networks will be required to avoid the need for a roll-out of multiple extensive networks. Widespread adoption of electric vehicles will not necessarily require an unmanageable increase in power generation requirements, but in order for the electricity demand from widespread electric vehicles to be more comfortably met, and in order for electric vehicles to contribute to increased grid flexibility, smart charging will have to be commonplace.
110.The Government must ensure sufficient roll-out of rapid chargepoints along the strategic road network, and smart chargepoints at domestic, destination (such as places of work or shopping centres) and local sites. It should work with public services and owners of public land, such as schools and hospitals, to accelerate the deployment of chargepoints. The Government’s forthcoming consultation on the regulation of charging infrastructure must determine measures to deliver interoperability, compatibility with a smart energy system, public availability of real-time information on the current functionality of chargepoints, and enforcement powers to ensure that chargepoints are reliable.
111.Electric cars typically have higher upfront costs but lower running costs compared to conventional cars. Deloitte has estimated that the overall cost of owning an electric vehicle would reach parity with conventional vehicles by around 2021–2024; some studies, such as that from Palmer et al., have suggested that the overall costs of electric vehicles can already be lower than conventional vehicles. The Government offers a ‘plug-in grant’ of £3,500 for vehicles with emissions of less than 50g of carbon dioxide per km and a zero emission range of at least 70 miles. The grant was previously £4,500 and a smaller grant was available for low-emission vehicles with less impressive emissions characteristics, but this was changed in October 2018. The Government explained that this change would “focus our funding on the cleanest vehicles, and ensure that the grant remains sustainable as the UK market for ultra low emission vehicles develops”. However, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told us that the plug-in grant had “been an essential lever” in encouraging the uptake of low-emissions vehicles and said the Government’s decision was “a shock to the industry and risks damaging the market and further confusing consumers as to which technology to buy”. Since the changes to the Plug-In Grant, overall sales of low-emission cars have fallen for the first time in 26 months (although fully electric vehicles sales have continued to grow), which Mike Hawes, Chief Executive of the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders, has described as a “grave concern”:
Manufacturers have invested billions to bring these vehicles to market but their efforts are now being undermined by confusing policies and the premature removal of purchase incentives. If we are to see widespread uptake of these vehicles, which are an essential part of a smooth transition to zero emission transport, we need world-class, long-term incentives and substantial investment in infrastructure.
Prior to the cutback of the grant, the Green Alliance, a charitable environmental think tank, had said that although the Government should “plan to reduce the subsidy per electric vehicle as costs fall”, international experience demonstrated that this should be done “according to a transparent formula” to avoid shocks to the market.
112.It is disappointing that the Government cut back the plug-in grant with electric vehicle sales below the indicative target set by the Committee on Climate Change. The Government should set out, by the time of the Spring Statement 2020, how it intends to adjust the plug-in grant scheme in the future, using a transparent framework linked to ultra-low emissions vehicles sales.
113.In an attempt to reduce the running costs of electric vehicles, the Scottish Government has developed a public network of chargepoints that are mostly free to use, subject to a one-off £20 registration fee. Sales of electric vehicles in Scotland grew by 67% in 2017 compared to 24% in England, but a lower proportion of overall vehicles sales in Scotland were of electric cars than in England. Scotland also has fewer ultra-low emissions vehicles per head than England overall.
115.Almost half of new car registrations in the UK were fleet vehicles (purchased in bulk for uses such as rental cars, company cars or taxis) in 2018. Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, highlighted these as a particular target for fiscal incentives, arguing that “it is far more difficult to change an emotional purchase of an SUV for the school run than it is a company for a necessary vehicle for which there are potentially more tools in place that we could use to drive adoption”. However, he said that company car taxation had been “significantly disrupted” with recent decisions, noting that ‘benefits in kind’ tax on a fully electric vehicle would rise to 16% in 2019/20 before falling to 2% in 2020/21. The Government explained this by saying that it wanted to provide long-term certainty by maintaining previously announced rates, although this contrasts with its willingness to change the plug-in grant at short notice.
116.The Green Alliance has also argued that the Government should target the fleet vehicle market—including the Government’s own car fleet—given that this sector could more easily offset the high upfront costs of electric vehicles against their low running costs. It specifically recommended that:
The Government has since stated its intention for 100% of the central Government car fleet to be electric by 2030, and announced that it had already reached almost 23%. The European Parliament has approved the European Commission’s proposals for new legislation regarding the proportion of low-emissions vehicles in publicly-procured fleets of vehicles. This includes a range of measures to promote the public procurement of low-emissions vehicles including minimum proportions of vehicles procured to be low-emissions. We asked the Government if it intended to adopt regulations at least as ambitious as any such regulations adopted by the EU post-Brexit, but it declined to comment.
117.Uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles can potentially be driven in the fleet vehicle market more quickly than in the private consumer market. Options for supporting the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles in the fleet vehicle market include fiscal incentives and public procurement targets. The Government should commit to adopting regulations on the public procurement of ultra-low emissions vehicles that are at least as ambitious as the EU’s post-Brexit. It should further commit to having a 100% ultra-low emissions vehicle fleet by 2022 and to supporting local authorities in also having 100% ultra-low emissions fleets by 2030.
118.Alongside cost as a barrier to consumer uptake, the Committee on Climate Change has reported “increasing evidence that production volumes [of electric vehicles] are insufficient, with demand outstripping supply for many models, resulting in long waiting times”. The European Federation for Transport and Environment, a sustainable transport advocacy group, has similarly argued that the low take-up of electric vehicles was partly due to manufacturers allocating insufficient resources to meeting demand as well as spending disproportionately little on marketing. Evidence from elsewhere in Europe suggests that car dealers are also dismissive of electric vehicles, misinforming shoppers on vehicle specifications, omitting electric vehicles from the sales conversation and strongly orienting customers towards petrol and diesel vehicle options. The Committee on Climate Change therefore recommended in 2018 that the Government reviewed the electric vehicle market, to “establish whether the willingness of manufacturers and dealers to sell electric vehicles is a barrier to uptake”.
119.The Environmental Defense Fund Europe, an environmental non-profit organisation, highlighted ultra-low emissions vehicles sales mandates in China and various US states and recommended that the UK adopt a similar approach. The Green Alliance has also recommended that the UK adopt zero-emissions vehicle sales targets, using a tradeable credit scheme so that manufacturers could sell ‘surplus’ zero-emissions vehicle sales certificates to competitors. Research in Canada suggested that a mandate on manufacturers to ensure that 30% of their sales were of ultra-low emissions models by 2030 would be achievable and reduce the cost to the Government compared to a consumer-incentive driven strategy. Although recently adopted EU regulations (see paragraph 97 of this Report) introduced ultra-low emissions sales targets on manufacturers, these targets are voluntary.
120.One current barrier to the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles in the UK is an insufficient supply to meet consumer demand, which has led to long waiting times. There is evidence in the UK and internationally suggesting that this could be partly due to inadequate support for the ultra-low emissions vehicle market from manufacturers and dealers. The Government should review the functioning of the ultra-low emissions vehicles market annually, to determine if there are sufficient incentives for manufacturers and dealers to drive the adoption of ultra-low emissions vehicles, with the first review published by the time of the Spring Statement 2020. This should include consideration of the value of introducing minimum sales mandates on manufacturers, using tradeable sales certificate framework.
121.Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) and buses are responsible for around 27% of all road transport emissions. The Government has agreed a voluntary ambition with the HGV industry of reducing emissions across the sector by 15% by 2025, compared to 2015 levels. This is intended to be achieved through a variety of measures such as driver training, the use of aerodynamic equipment and the adoption of more efficient tyres. The Government has not, however, set any longer-term targets for HGVs, in contrast to its targets for cars and vans. The National Infrastructure Commission has recommended that the Government should commit to decarbonising road freight by 2050, and announce plans by the end of 2021 to ban the sale of new diesel-powered HGVs no later than 2040. It described this as a “challenging” but “possible” target, and indicated that a ban on sales of new diesel-powered HGVs by 2040 would be required in order for the whole fleet to be zero-emissions by 2050, in keeping with the Government’s overall net-zero emissions targets. This aligns with the average age of HGVs at scrappage, which has rarely fallen below 11 years since at least 2000.
122.There are a variety of different potential technologies that could enable zero-emissions HGVs. Whereas the Committee on Climate Change has said that “battery electric vehicles are now well placed to deliver the bulk of decarbonisation for cars and vans”, it is less clear that electrification of HGVs is the optimal technological option. The Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions explained that because “batteries have a relatively low power density and long charging time, battery electric heavy duty freight is unlikely to be feasible”. However, Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, told us that “we have not got to the point where we should be trying to pick a winner”.
123.In 2018, the Committee on Climate Change recommended that the Government develop a strategy for decarbonising heavy goods vehicles, which it said would “necessitate small-scale trial deployments of hydrogen HGVs in a variety of fleets prior to [the second half of the 2020s], in the UK or elsewhere”. The Government’s ‘Road to Zero’ strategy said that the Government would conduct research into low-emissions technologies for HGVs “with a view to ultimately performing full-scale demonstrator trials on the UK road network if appropriate technologies are identified”. However, ULEMCo, a company that converts HGVs to run on hydrogen, told us that it “already supports a fleet of vehicles across a range of hydrogen hubs in the UK”, suggesting that Government support could already go beyond early-stage research. In addition to trials of different technologies, the National Infrastructure Commission has recommended that the Government should work with distribution and transmission network operators to “prepare detailed assessments of the infrastructure required to enable the uptake of battery electric or hydrogen HGVs, including the refuelling requirements at depots and key rest areas on major freight routes”.
124.A ban on the sale of new diesel-powered heavy-goods vehicles will be needed by 2040 in order for the sector to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050. This will require policies now that will drive the development of alternative technologies and demonstrate the technical feasibility of such a ban. The Government should introduce a ban on the sale of new diesel-powered heavy goods vehicles, for no later than 2040. It should additionally support trials of low-emissions HGV technologies on a timeframe that aligns with the proposed ban, and work with network operators and the delivery industry to plan for the potential charging infrastructure required for zero-emissions HGVs. Given that some HGVs are already being converted to run on hydrogen on a commercial basis, the Government should review the opportunity for market support mechanisms to drive higher rates of HGV conversion.
125.Andy Eastlake, Managing Director of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, noted that emissions were generated over the full lifecycle of a vehicle, not just as it travels. Indeed, research for the European Parliament estimated that manufacturing accounts for around 23% of an internal combustion engine vehicle’s lifetime emissions, and can account for as much as 80% of an electric vehicle’s lifetime emissions depending upon the source of the electricity used to charge the vehicle. In addition to the emissions associated with manufacturing, the availability of some of the materials required to make the batteries used in electric vehicles has also raised concern (see also Box 4). Mr Eastlake argued that in the long term, “we probably do not want 40 million very large electric cars circulating on our roads in the same way as we have 40 million vehicles currently”:
Our objective is not to have a lot of zero-emission vehicles on the road, but to have zero-emission mobility. That can be delivered through a combination of buses, cars, small L-category vehicles—not the current type—rail and trams. We need to deliver a mobility system, not a fleet of vehicles.
Box 4: Material resources required for electric batteries
Electric vehicle batteries typically require specific materials in their manufacturing, including lithium, cobalt, graphite and nickel. The United States Geological Survey reported in 2019 that, globally, there was an estimated 62m tonnes of lithium, 25m tonnes of cobalt, over 800m tonnes of graphite and at least 130m tonnes of nickel that could be economically extracted (continued resource exploration may well cause these figures to increase over time). Compared to the quantities of these materials used in an average electric vehicle battery, this would equate to the amounts needed for at least 2.3bn cars or around 30 years of the current global car production output. The European Commission has further noted that the recycling potential for electric vehicle batteries is “significant”.
The Geological Society warned us, however, that “as it stands, there are no significant lithium or cobalt mines online anywhere in Europe”, leaving “many long-term supply questions in the context of a booming industry, unanswered”. The European Commission has said that “building up and strengthening EU activity in battery material supply is imperative to reduce the EU’s future dependence on imported battery component materials for cell manufacturing”.
Amnesty International has additionally noted that more than half of the world’s cobalt sources are in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where mining can be poorly regulated and dangerous, and is frequently carried out by children using hand tools. It has called for greater transparency in supply chains so that the origin of cobalt can be better traced.
Source: The Geological Society (), para 6; European Commission, ‘’ (2018); United States Geological Survey, ‘’ (2019); European Parliament, ‘’ (2018), p23; Diekmann et al., ‘’, Journal of the Electrochemical Society vol 164 (2017); ‘’, Statista, accessed 4 July 2019; Amnesty International, ‘’ (2016)
126.The Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring has reported that the average car is parked 96.5% of the time and is in use only 3.5% of the time. There is therefore significant scope to increase the proportion of the time that each vehicle is used, with consequent reductions in the total number of vehicles required and hence the emissions associated with their manufacture. This would require shared ownership or use of vehicles, which the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders told us was already how the automotive industry expected urban transport to develop:
In recent years, a clear shift from traditional vehicle ownership to usership has emerged. Individual access to vehicles is still generally the preferred option […] However, new technologies, linked to smart phones, etc. have led to a proliferation of pay-as-you-go schemes, such as car clubs or on-demand mobility services. Many automotive companies are recognising this shift and embracing the new opportunities offering their own services or partnering with other service providers.
The Commission on Travel Demand, an independent working group funded by UK Research and Innovation, has also noted recent increases in car-sharing, but reported that this had “yet to lead to any transition away from personal car ownership”. Indeed, the number of vehicles per capita in Great Britain has increased by around 5% since the 2012 recession. The Aldersgate Group, an alliance of multiple UK businesses across various sectors, has recommended that:
The Government should update its procurement framework so that all departments, agencies, local authorities and public bodies investigate whether they can save money and reduce their transport emissions by replacing their fleets with membership of an existing car club scheme.
It noted that Croydon Council had found that it could save on costs and emissions by doing this, with employees having exclusive use of cars in a shared fleet during working hours and the public able to use the cars as part of a car club outside of working hours. The Minister of State for Transport, Michael Ellis MP, told us that reduced congestion through more efficient use of road space, including through ridesharing, was one of nine key principles identified by the Government’s ‘Future of Mobility Urban Strategy’, and said that the Government was “considering whether setting shared mobility targets would be appropriate”.
127.One important factor in consumers’ decisions to purchase a vehicle or not would be the availability, quality and cost of public transport, alternative options such as walking and cycling, and car share schemes. The Government’s Clean Growth Strategy highlighted £37bn of investment in public transport between 2011 and 2016 and listed ambitions to make buses and trains more efficient, but did not specify any ambition or policies for encouraging greater use of public transport. Campaign for Better Transport, a charitable transport campaign group, has noted that funding for supported bus services in England and Wales had fallen by around 45% since 2010. The Government also published a ‘Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy’ in 2017, and told us that “almost £2bn of investment is projected over this Spending Review period to 2020/21 to increase cycling and walking”. However, the Committee on Climate Change has argued that “the continued rise in road transport emissions highlights the urgent need for stronger policies to reduce growth in demand for travel”. The Government admitted that the estimated impact of all sustainable travel interventions since 2009 was for a reduction in the number of car kilometres travelled per year of just 0.5% by 2021.
128.With regards to influencing travel choices, the relative costs of private and public transport are important. On this front, Andy Eastlake told us that “fuel duty, which has been frozen for over 10 years, is another [policy] that sends a very strong message”. Whereas fuel duty has been frozen since 2009, rail prices and bus prices have risen every year over the same period. Although the RAC has questioned whether or not increasing fuel duty would decrease demand given that some consumers might be unable to adapt their transport, a 2014 evidence review found that there was a correlation between fuel duty and car use. Together, the nine previous freezes in fuel duty are estimated to have increased traffic and carbon emissions by 4% (as well as costing the Treasury over £6bn per year).
129.Andy Eastlake highlighted that because electric vehicles do not pay fuel duty, “there is no doubt that, if we deliver on our objectives, that will be a significant hole in Treasury finances”, and said that the Government had not articulated how it would address this. Fuel duties raised £27.9bn for the Government in 2017/18. Policy Exchange, a think tank, has calculated that if the UK were to follow the Committee on Climate Change’s recommended route to meeting its emissions reductions targets, fuel duty revenues in 2030 would be between £9bn and £23bn lower than the Office for Budget Responsibility has assumed. Several stakeholders, such as the National Infrastructure Commission and the Aldersgate Group, have recommended the introduction of a ‘road pricing’ system that would use increased vehicle connectivity and other technological developments to monitor road users and charge them according to where and when they drove. Both argued that such a system could help to reduce congestion, support a transition to car usership and incentivise more sustainable travel choices. The Centre for London has suggested that a similar system could be integrated with public transport such as buses and trains, and could promote as well as incentivise sustainable journey options.
130.Tim Lord, Director of Clean Growth at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, told us that the Government understood that instead of replacing conventional cars with electric cars, it had to rethink “how we move around and mak[e] sure that we are doing that much more efficiently”, highlighting the ‘Future of Mobility’ grand challenge in the Industrial Strategy. However, the associated ‘mission’ addressed only the manufacturing and deployment of low-emissions vehicles, not wider changes to the transport system. Furthermore, the Government’s major targets for decarbonising transport—as set out in the ‘Road to Zero’ strategy—focus on tailpipe emissions and the sales of ultra-low emissions vehicles rather than lifecycle emissions or the emissions of the transport system as a whole. Mr Eastlake therefore told us that the Government’s “metrics certainly are not right for the very long term”.
131.The Government’s current long-term targets for decarbonising transport focus heavily on reducing exhaust emissions and increasing sales of low-emissions vehicles, rather than delivering a low-emissions transport system. In the long-term, widespread personal vehicle ownership does not appear to be compatible with significant decarbonisation. The Government should not aim to achieve emissions reductions simply by replacing existing vehicles with lower-emission versions. Alongside the Government’s existing targets and policies, it must develop a strategy to stimulate a low-emissions transport system, with the metrics and targets to match. This should aim to reduce the number of vehicles required, for example by: promoting and improving public transport; reducing its cost relative to private transport; encouraging vehicle usership in place of ownership; and encouraging and supporting increased levels of walking and cycling. The Government should commit to ensuring that the annual increase in fuel duty should never be lower than the average increase in rail or bus fares.
132.Any move to electric vehicles must have an associated environmental impact assessment, including the potential for recycling lead, lithium, cobalt, nickel and graphite. Hydrogen technology may prove to be cheaper and less environmentally-damaging than battery-powered electric vehicles. The Government should not rely on a single technology.
133.The Government should review the potential to reduce emissions and support shared car ownership by incorporating Government Department car fleets into car sharing schemes. It should encourage other public bodies and local authorities to do likewise.
134.The growth in emissions from road transport has been driven by increases in miles travelled by vans as well as cars, which has been attributed to the rise of online retail, economic growth in sectors that make most use of vans (such as construction, retail and food) and a shift from using heavy goods vehicles to vans instead. The Aldersgate Group, an alliance of multiple UK businesses across various sectors, has highlighted the potential role for ‘urban consolidation centres’—”warehouses located on the edge of urban areas where deliveries from a variety of retailers are consolidated by destination”—in decarbonising freight, to improve the efficiency of ‘last mile’ freight deliveries. The National Infrastructure Commission has also stated that “consolidation centres have shown that they can reduce freight trips into congested areas”, but warned that “commercial viability and industry appetite remain challenges to roll out”. It recommended:
Where the business case supports consolidation centres, authorities should use the planning system to make land available and consider the case for funding land and construction or subsidising operations in the short term. The case for consolidation centres can be made stronger by building incentives for operators to make use of them, through planning restrictions on new build properties and giving consolidated services preferential regulatory treatment such as reduced loading/unloading restrictions at the kerbside.
We have also heard of the potential for electric-powered unmanned drones to provide last-mile deliveries, generating lower emissions than conventional land-based delivery modes.
135.The Government has consulted on sustainable last-mile deliveries, but its response focused heavily on low-carbon modes of transport such as e-cargo bikes and electric vans rather than approaches to adapt last-mile delivery systems, such as through the use of consolidation zones. Nevertheless, in response to our enquiries, the Government told us that it would “seek to support the increased provision and availability of micro distribution hubs whilst recognising the importance of ensuring such facilities are supported by local bodies”. It referred to the National Planning Policy Framework, which stated that “planning policies and decisions should recognise and address the specific locational requirements of different sectors [including … ] for storage and distribution operations at a variety of scales and in suitably accessible locations”, and said that it was exploring how the learning from two case studies in Southampton and Manchester could best be promoted.
136.We commend the Government on its existing work to support the establishment and use of urban delivery consolidation zones. However, with just two major examples of completed projects to point to, there is clearly scope for a wider roll-out. The Government should support the development of urban delivery consolidation centres, working with local authorities to assess the potential of such centres to reduce emissions and identify strategies to support their deployment and effective use.
310 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘’ (2019), p6
311 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’, p16
312 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’, p147
313 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’, p147
314 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), pp4 and 8
315 Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (), para 15
316 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 10
317 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, ‘’ (2018), p5—the average new SUV emits 27.6% more carbon dioxide per km than the average new supermini
318 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’, p176
319 ‘’, HM Government, accessed 18 April 2019
320 ‘’, HM Government, accessed 18 April 2019—alternative fuel vehicles include hybrids and those that run on bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas
321 —with tax rates of £145 applied to petrol and diesel cars and £135 applied to hybrid cars or those powered by bioethanol and liquid petroleum gas, there is not strictly speaking a “flat rate” duty for all cars other than a zero-emission vehicle
322 Council and Parliament Regulation and Council and Parliament Regulation
323 Council and Parliament Regulation —these standards will be weakened slightly for manufacturers whose new car sales are at least 35% zero- or low-emission by 2030
324 European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018,
325 European Parliament, ‘’, 18 April 2019
326 European Parliament, ‘’ (2019)
327 Department for Transport ()
328 HM Government, ‘’ (2018), p45
329 The Office for Low Emission Vehicles currently defines an ‘ultra low emission vehicle’ to be one that emits less than 75g of carbon dioxide from the tailpipe per kilometre driven measured against the European test cycle; the Government has said that it “expect[s]” to tighten this criterion to 50g from 2021—Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p24
330 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p2
331 Department for Transport ()
333 UK Energy Research Centre, ‘’ (2018), p8
334 C. Brand and J. Anable, ‘’, ECEEE Summer Study Proceedings (2019)
336 For example, see: OVO Energy (), para 6.6; E.ON (), para 35; and
337 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2019), pp198–200
338 Department for Transport ()
339 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 5
341 ‘’, Nissan and ‘’, Volvo, both accessed 10 June 2019
342 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p167 and ‘’, Reuters, 2 October 2018
343 Department for Transport ()
344 and Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2019), pp198–200
345 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p2
346 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, ‘’ (2018), p23
347 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2009), p101 and Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018),
348 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p166 and ; Department for Transport, ‘’ (2019), p1; Committee analysis
350 Deloitte, ‘’ (2018), p6
351 For example, see: Department for Transport, ‘’ (2016), p7; and National Franchised Dealers Association (), para 23
352 Automotive Council UK, ‘’ (2018), p30
353 See, for example: Drax Group plc (), paras 13–16; Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 20; Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), para 6.2
354 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p90
356 PwC, ‘’ (2018), p3
357 For example, see: ABB (), section 4.0; National Grid (), paras 3.11–3.18; Drax Group plc (), paras 14–16; Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), paras 23–24; Environmental Defense Fund Europe (), para 6; ChargePoint (), para 4.2; Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), paras 6.2 and 50; UK Research and Innovation (), para 9; Durham Energy Institute (), para 8; National Franchised Dealers Association (), paras 23–29
358 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p82
359 National Grid (), para 3.12
360 National Grid (), para 3.13
361 National Grid (), para 3.14
362 National Grid (), paras 3.17–3.18
363 National Grid, ‘’ (), p5
364 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p97
365 For example, see: National Grid (), para 3.12; Drax Group plc (), para 15 and Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), para 50
366 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p85
367 Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), para 50
368 For example, see: Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 24; Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), para 50; National Franchised Dealers Association (), paras 24–29
369 National Franchised Dealers Association (), paras 24–25
370 National Franchised Dealers Association (), paras 26–27
371 National Grid System Operator, ‘’ (2018), p72
372 National Grid System Operator, ‘’ (2018), p82
373 Ofgem (), para 30—similar points were made by, among others: E.ON (), para 20; Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (), para 21
374 EDF Energy (), para 15
375 Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018,
376 Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018,
379 Department for Transport ()
380 Deloitte, ‘’ (2018), p8
381 K. Palmer et al., ‘’, Applied Energy vol 209 (2018)
382 ‘’, Office for Low Emissions Vehicle, accessed 13 June 2019
383 ‘’, Office for Low Emissions Vehicle, accessed 13 June 2019
384 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 20
385 ‘’, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, accessed 4 July 2019—see also monthly registration data published by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
386 ‘’, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, accessed 4 July 2019
387 Green Alliance, ‘’ (2018), p9
388 ‘’, Energy Saving Trust, accessed 13 June 2019
389 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p59
390 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2019), Table 0131
391 ‘’, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, accessed 18 April 2019
393 —see also Office for Low Emissions Vehicles, ‘’ (2018), paras 4.1–4.7
394 Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, Fifteenth Special Report of Session 2017–2019, ‘’, HC 1881, p8
395 ‘’, Office for Low Emissions Vehicle, accessed 13 June 2019
396 Green Alliance, ‘’ (2018), p7
397 Green Alliance, ‘’ (2018), p8
398 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p60
399 ‘’, Department for Transport, accessed 17 June 2019
400 European Parliament, ‘’, 18 April 2019
401 European Parliament, ‘’ (2019)
402 Department for Transport ()
403 from Lord Deben to Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP and Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, 11 October 2018
404 European Federation for Transport and Environment, ‘’ (2018)
405 G. Zarazua de Rubens et al., ‘’, Nature Energy vol 3 (2018)
406 from Lord Deben to Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP and Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, 11 October 2018
407 Environmental Defense Fund Europe (), para 4—see also Bloomberg, ‘’, 14 November 2018 and Bloomberg, ‘’, 17 January 2019
408 Green Alliance, ‘’ (2018), p9
409 J. Axsen and M. Wolinetz, ‘’, Transportation Research Part D vol 65 (2018)
410 Council and Parliament Regulation —see also: European Parliament, ‘’ (2019)
411 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘’ (2019)
412 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p62
413 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), pp29–36
414 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), p36
415 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, ‘’ (2018), p23
416 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), pp29–32
417 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p8
418 Royal Academy of Engineering and allied institutions (), para 53
420 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p14
421 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p66
422 ULEMCo Ltd (), paras 1.3 and 2.2
423 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), p36
425 European Parliament, ‘’ (2018), p43
426 The Geological Society (), para 6
429 Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Motoring, ‘’ (2012), p23
430 Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (), para 26
431 Commission on Travel Demand, ‘’ (2018), p30
432 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2014), p5 and Department for Transport, ‘’ (2019), p9
433 Aldersgate Group, ‘’ (2019), pp19–21
434 See also: ‘’, Zipcar, accessed 9 July 2019
435 Department for Transport ()
436 Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, ‘’ (2017), pp83–92
437 ‘’, Campaign for Better Transport, accessed 17 June 2019
438 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2017)
439 Department for Transport ()
440 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018), p153
441 Department for Transport ()
443 Office of Rail and Road, ‘’ (2019), p1 and Department for Transport, ‘’ (2019), p12
444 ‘’, RAC Media Centre, 1 June 2018
445 RAND Europe, ‘’ (2014)
446 Greener Journeys, ‘’ (2018), p7 and Institute for Fiscal Studies, ‘’ (2017)
448 Office for Budget Responsibility, ‘’ (2019), p76
449 Policy Exchange, ‘’ (2017), p85
450 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2018), pp119–120 and Aldersgate Group, ‘’ (2019), p35—see also Centre for London, ‘’ (2019)
451 Centre for London, ‘’ (2019)
453 HM Government, ‘’ (2017), pp48–51
454 ‘ ’, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, accessed 12 June 2019
455 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p2
457 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018), p8
458 Committee on Climate Change, ‘’ (2018)
459 Aldersgate Group, ‘’ (2019), pp13 and 15
460 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), p12
461 National Infrastructure Commission, ‘’ (2019), p13
462 Oral evidence taken before the Science and Technology Committee on 26 June 2019, HC 2021,
463 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2018)
464 Department for Transport, ‘’ (2019)
465 Department for Transport ()
466 Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, ‘’ (2019), para 82
Published: 22 August 2019