UK Government funnels £90m into electric scooters and delivery drones
The UK Government has unveiled a £90m funding package to be spent on "making journeys easier, smarter and greener", with the bulk of funding set to be allocated to electric scooters and low-carbon deliveries by drone.
Launched today (16 March) as part of the UK’s “Future of Transport” regulatory review, the pot will enable real-world trials of e-scooter networks and medicine delivery by drone across three areas – Portsmouth and Southampton; Derby and Nottingham; and the West of England.
Local authorities in each area will receive one-third of the pot in order to implement systems in collaboration with universities, hospitals, local transport hubs such as airports, and local businesses.
Throughout these projects, data will be collected and used to shape wider, future action on decarbonising last-mile deliveries and short-distance journeys in urban locations.
Future action will also be decided upon with input from the “Future of Transport” consultations, including a fresh consultation opened today. The new consultation asks businesses, charities, local authorities, thought leaders and citizen’s groups for their advice on scaling up e-scooter use in the UK. Specifically, policymakers at the Departments for Transport (DfT) and Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) are seeking input on:
- Vehicle standards and insurance requirements
- Age restrictions
- Whether local authorities should receive devolved funding and powers to ensure safe use
E-scooters are, of course, quicker than walking and lower-emission than individual journeys by petrol or diesel car. But while they are established in a number of nations, including the US and Spain, uptake in the UK has proven slower. Scaling their use up, therefore, will come with numerous economic and social considerations. On the latter, several disability charities have highlighted how e-scooter rental schemes, which tend not to enforce strict parking requirements on users, have led to reduced accessibility on urban pavements.
Scaling up their use will also come with environmental considerations; transport is currently the UK’s most-emitting sector, but progress to roll out charging infrastructure in line with its electrification has proven limited.
“Decarbonising transport is key to ending our contribution to climate change,” BEIS secretary Alok Sharma said, speaking to the UK’s net-zero target.
“This review could drive down transport emissions by making greener ways to travel available to more people. [Trials] will also help to spur low carbon innovation by providing our best and brightest researchers with testing facilities for the clean transport technologies of the future.”
Regarding the drone proportion of the new funding, trials and consultation, this builds on Boris Johnson’s previous commitment to invest £300m in low-carbon drones and taxis.
Announced last year as part of a joint venture with transport and cleantech firms, the package is supporting last-mile delivery drones as well as freight drones, electric passenger planes and low-carbon, flying urban taxis.
It built on the UK Government’s Sector Deal for Aerospace and Industry, which, aside from large aircraft, allocates funding for innovations in last-mile delivery, urban and short-distance mobility.
The conclusions of the Future of Transport review are expected to provide further policy clarity and support for these emerging technologies. DfT secretary Grant Shapps said that whatever the outcomes, they are likely to bring about a “transport revolution” which “changes the way people and goods move forever”.