Government unveils £20m funding for low-carbon freight projects

The UK Government has unveiled £20m investment for firms developing low-carbon vehicle projects as part of an overarching plan for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2040.

Launching the scheme at the Renewable Energy Association (REA) sustainable road transport conference in London this morning (11 January), Transport Minister John Hayes announced that 20 businesses would benefit from the low-emission freight and logistics trial. These projects will trial and develop a wide range of different technologies including electric vehicles (EVs), hydrogen dual-fuel trucks, and smart charging infrastructure.

“We are absolutely determined to get this right,” Hayes said. “Each one of these successful projects will help cut vehicle emissions, improving air quality and reducing pollution in towns and cities. This is yet another important step towards this Government’s commitment to reduce carbon emissions from transport to help tackle climate change.”

Biofuel integration

According to Government figures, the freight industry accounts for around 30% of the country’s CO2 transport emissions. The investment is expected to help fleets get their new vehicles on the roads from mid-2017 onwards.

The Transport Minister gave a strong indicator that the Government will support greater integration of biofuels into the UK’s transport energy mix to complement the growth of EVs. Since the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation (RTFO) was created in 2008, around £1bn of private investment in biodiesel and bioethanol plants has contributed £30m to the UK economy, Hayes said.

A consultation on increasing the amount of renewable fuels into the UK’s petrol and diesel to 9.8% will close this month. Hayes said today that renewable transport fuels offer the potential for “significant steps” toward reaching national climate ambitions, with the South Holland and The Deepings MP insisting that the Government remains “genuinely open-minded” on investment in sustainable aviation fuels and waste derived from cooking oils to tackle air quality issues.

Commenting on the announcement, the chief executive of the Renewable Energy Association, Nina Skorupska, said: “This funding is an excellent step towards supporting the widespread uptake of low-carbon vehicles and encouraging continued technological innovation. In his speech and in this announcement today, the Minister clearly communicated that there is a role for a full range of new technologies in decarbonising the vehicle fleet, including hydrogen, biofuels, green gas derived from wastes, and batteries.

“An excellent next step would be to support greater integration of biofuels into the transport energy mix. This would help the UK meet its short and medium term milestones for carbon reduction and would be a great win for the climate.”

Policy drive

Low-carbon transport has become a priority for Government in recent times, as damning statistics show that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the sector are gradually increasing, while the majority of other sectors of the economy have fallen. 

Climate Minister Nick Hurd yesterday revealed that electric vehicles (EVs) would provide a bridge between the shortly expected Emissions Reduction Plan’s aim to decarbonise certain sectors and the Industrial Strategy’s ideate to modernise infrastructure and systems.

From September 2017, new diesel cars on UK roads will have to meet more stringent Euro 6 emissions limits, while the Department for Transport (DfT) recently announced plans to increase the convenience and availability of EV chargepoints. In addition, in the Autumn Statement, the Government announced a further £290m to support electric vehicles, low emission buses and taxis, and alternative fuels.

George Ogleby

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