With news that the government has now agreed a Net Zero emissions target for 2050, it will be interesting to see what steps it takes next to support meeting this.
The Committee on Climate Change – which made the net zero recommendation in its recent report (see our blog) – has outlined what it believes the UK needs to do to hit this target.
Among the suggestions are bringing the ban on sales of new petrol and diesel cars forward five years to 2035.
2018 a record-breaking year
Numbers of alternative vehicles – i.e. electric and hybrid – are certainly growing. For example, electric vehicle (EV) sales increased by a record-breaking 19% in 2018, with a new EV being registered every nine minutes.
But overall, these lower-carbon alternatives still only account for 6% of all new cars sold so far this year (January to May 2019).
Since the end of last year, the government’s plug-in car grant has also reduced from £4,500 to £3,500 – with plug-in hybrids no longer qualifying for the £2,500 incentive they previously received.
So if the government does decide to get new fossil fuel cars off the road sooner, it’s likely these grants will need revisiting to encourage greater uptake of lower-carbon alternatives.
Charging stations overtake petrol stations
Where we are really seeing progress is in the availability of public EV charging stations.
By May 2019, the number of public EV stations out-numbered petrol stations for the first time, with 13,688 public chargers located across 8,546 locations.
There are currently 8,400 petrol stations in the UK.
An optimistic global picture
When it comes to the global picture, experts are optimistic about the future uptake of EVs.
In its recently-published Electric Vehicle Outlook 2019, Bloomberg forecasts that EVs will account for 57% of all new passenger car sales globally by 2040.
Numbers wise, this equates to two million sold in 2018 which, according to Bloomberg, will rise 28 million by 2030 and 56 million by 2040.
Conventional car sales to halve
At the same time, it predicts global sales of petrol and diesel cars will halve from 85 million in 2018 to 42 million by 2040.
Bloomberg predicts the transition to electric buses will happen far faster, with 81% of global bus sales being fully electric by 2040.
Another key growth area is ‘shared mobility’ – that is taxis, ride-hailing services (e.g. Uber) and car sharing.
Shared mobility key growth area
Currently, 1.8% of these vehicles are electric powered. But by 2040, this is forecast to increase to 80%.
At the same time, shared mobility services are expected to account for 19% of total miles traveled globally, up from 5% today.
Bloomberg also expects that we’ll see more hydrogen vehicles on the roads too.
London takes hydrogen lead
Already, London has invested in a fleet of hydrogen buses, with the world’s first hydrogen-powered double-deckers due to hit London streets next year.
While they are expensive to purchase (£500,000 per double-decker), hydrogen buses only require one five-minute refill a day. They also have a longer range than battery buses and can therefore be used on more routes.
Throughout the London area, Transport for London currently operates 165 zero-emission buses, with 68 more electric double-deckers being added this summer. This gives the city the largest zero-emission bus fleet in Europe.
Hydrogen or battery-powered heavy goods vehicles are not predicted to expand so quickly, accounting for just 19% of heavy trucks on roads by 2040, according to Bloomberg.
New long-range solutions emerging
Range is still an issue for long-distance journeys. But with battery range expanding (and battery costs falling), new solutions are likely to emerge.
For example, the worlds-first long-range solar-powered passenger car is due to launch next year, with a reported range of 800km (497 miles).
The car – called Lightyear One and created in Holland – is fitted with a solar roof and battery system.
So the number of EV options is set to increase, which is likely to promote wider take up. But whether this happens quickly enough to support the UK’s Net Zero goals remains to be seen…
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