Is it realistic for half of new UK car sales to be low carbon by 2030?

The government has pledged that at least half of all new cars sold in the UK should be low carbon by 2030; but is this practical for the automotive industry?

There are already more than 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles on British roads and it seems the UK is on a low carbon mission.
There are already more than 150,000 ultra-low emission vehicles on British roads and it seems the UK is on a low carbon mission – image courtesy Depositphotos.

The proposal – which could dramatically reduce emissions – are outlined in the Road to Zero Strategy that sets out the government’s approach to increase the amount of zero emission cars, vans and trucks on UK roads.

Britain will also end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, as stated in the government’s Air Quality initiative, as part of plans to make the UK world-leading in electric and energy efficient vehicles.

Chris Grayling, Secretary of State for Transport, commented: “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.”

If the initiatives are enforced, then the motoring industry could help to deliver cleaner air, a better environment and a potentially stronger economy to the UK.

Is this a realistic and fair proposal for automotive manufacturers?

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), who represent more than 700 automotive companies in Britain, are “firmly committed” to alternative fuel sources, but remain concerned by the practical nature this shift to ultra low emission vehicles (ULEV) could bring to the sector.

In response to the initiative, Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “We are concerned about targets for ULEV penetration that go far beyond the high levels of expectation proposed by the European Commission. Achieving 50% market share would require a nearly 23-fold increase in uptake from the current position of just 2.2%.”

He added: “These new technologies, and the lengthy investment required to deliver them, cannot be fast-tracked. We need realistic ambition levels and measures that support industry’s efforts, allow manufacturers time to invest, innovate and sell competitively, and provide the right incentives and infrastructure to take the consumer with us.”

In 2001, diesel was subsidised by the UK government, and consumers were encouraged to trade in their petrol cars for diesel vehicles. This came in response to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which was an agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As demand rose for diesel vehicles, the diesel automotive sector grew, but it was not until a decade later that concerns were raised about the health impacts of diesel, including the harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides and particle matter.

The government now propose to ban diesel vehicles, but in order for manufacturers, consumers and the entire industry to adopt these latest ULEV technologies and make this plan possible, the country’s leaders must provide a long term commitment to the industry, alongside incentives such as financial backing, policy support and investment in infrastructure.

The rise of low carbon 

There are already more than 150,000 ultra low emission vehicles on British roads, with almost every major global automotive manufacturer (including Aston Martin, Jaguar Land Rover, BMW MINI, McLaren Automotive, Ford, Volvo, Audi) pledging to invest in electric car technologies. Momentum is also being driven from less expected areas, such as household appliance company Dyson pledging to invest £2bn in electric car technologies.

Infographic: Trends affecting business growth
65% of executives surveyed considered “environmental factors” to be a priority in the growth of businesses over the next five years, alongside economic policy and technological revolution.

It is not just the automotive sector either, businesses are becoming increasingly aware of energy sources and resources. A YouGov poll released last week found that 52% of business chiefs expect their products to be at least 50% low carbon by 2028, with one in five predicting their products to be entirely low carbon.

Dexter Galvin, global director of corporations & supply chains at CDP spoke to The Manufacturer about the costs surrounding reducing emissions, he said: “The cost of not doing anything is more significant, particularly as countries start to really regulate against carbon emissions.”

He added: “There will be a very significant impact on the bottom line of companies that have not reduced emissions or have low carbon products. The businesses that are reducing emissions are creating foundations for the future by producing a low carbon product portfolio.”

A further 65% of these executives surveyed considered “environmental factors” to be a priority in the growth of businesses over the next five years, alongside economic policy and technological change.

Latest UK electric car case study: D-1

 the supercar's design - its "petal-roof" and hinging doors - will be based on Singapore's national flower, the vanda orchid. low carbon
The supercar’s design – its “petal-roof” and hinging doors – will be based on Singapore’s national flower, the vanda orchid – image courtesy of Dendrobium Automotive Ltd.

An electric supercar named D-1 is to be produced and developed in the UK by new company, Dendrobium Automotive Ltd which falls under Singapore-based Vanda Electrics.

Due to be revealed later this summer, the supercar’s design – its “petal-roof” and hinging doors – will be based on Singapore’s national flower, the vanda orchid.

A concept car was initially created in March by Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), who took sketches of the D-1 and brought it to life.

This car was powered by a single motor and a lithium ion battery pack, modelled from the Formula E set-up that WAE designed for the race series.

When the D-1 – which is reported to have a seven-figure price tag – is built however, the company plan to power the vehicle by solid-state batteries.