Biofuel and low-carbon truck investment stalls

Policy and investment in the UK's low-carbon truck and biofuels sector has stalled in meeting air quality emissions targets and CO2 reductions.

That’s according to a new report from the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP), which found that the direction and complexity of fuel infrastructure investments have provided an ‘unstable climate for investment’ – particularly with regards to biofuels. (Scroll down for full report).

Announced at the LowCVP’s Annual Conference yesterday (15 July), the report states that public policy has had a negative effect on UK biofuel investments and practically unchanged biofuel consumption since 2003, although biodiesel consumption had increased slightly.

Low-carbon investments in the UK automotive industry totalled £17.6bn between 2003 and 2013, with 291 unique investments by 85 different companies, aiding the recovery of the UK automotive sector between 2003 and 2013. 

However, LowCVP’s members acknowledged that much was still to be done to make the automotive industry cleaner and more sustainable.

Repeat success

LowCVP’s managing director Andy Eastlake said: “Experience over the last ten years shows that a consistent policy approach based on collaboration between all stakeholders can deliver dividends. This represents the first strides on the road to meeting the environmental imperative of decarbonising road transport by 2050.

“There are, however, no grounds for complacency and the job is far from done. We urgently need to repeat the success seen in our passenger car and bus sectors, in all aspects of road transport such as the truck and commercial vehicle industries and of course the supply of low-carbon fuels and energy to power all forms of transport.”

The report states that, over the past decade, sustained investment in the low-carbon automotive sector has seen some reductions in vehicle emissions, with tailpipe emissions down 25%.

However, improved efficiency has not stopped the continuing rise of UK air pollution. UK cities are expected to exceed EU pollution limits until 2030 and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution from vehicles causes an estimated 29,000 deaths per year in the UK.

Several recommendations for the future policy of UK automotive policy and the automotive industry are outlined in the report. While most automotive policy frameworks were helping to grow the industry, a stronger emphasis is needed to move low carbon from the technology development phase to manufacturing. It also called for low-carbon policy to align with air quality issues.

More EVs 

In response to this report, the Renewable Energy Association (REA) has called for the Government to work with automotive stakeholders to drive down emissions and introduce greater clarity on the role of biofuels in transport.

REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska stressed the need for increased renewable capacity with the growth of the electric vehicle market. “New capacity must be from low-carbon sources – such as biomass, solar, wind and marine renewables – if electric vehicles are to contribute to reducing the risks of dangerous climate change,” she said.

While there have been trials of electric buses in London and plans to introduce Nissan’s electric taxis to the capital by 2015, emissions and air pollution remain burning issues for the UK’s cities and the automotive industry. As reported by edie last week, Greater London, Leeds and Birmingham look set to exceed European nitrogen dioxide levels until at least 2030, with Oxford Street in London found to suffer some of the highest NO2 pollution levels in the world.

Last month, LowCVP released a similar, two-part report that sets out how the UK can hit the 2020 target of 10% transport energy from renewable sources, as defined in the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. Read that report here.

Matt Field

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