Digital technologies “vital” for UK to capitalise on green transport “revolution”

Rapid roll out of new digital technologies, like integrated mobility apps and remote diagnostics, will be vital if the UK is to capitalise on the growing low carbon transport market, says a new report by think tank Green Alliance.

Global sales of electric vehicles (EVs) are forecast to increase 14 fold by 2030, with EVs sold in Europe potentially reaching 12 million a year.

Profits from new mobility services are predicted to overtake those from car sales by 80 per cent by 2030.

If the UK doesn’t accelerate the adoption of smart clean transport it will miss out on these emerging global markets, warns the report, compiled for the Tech Task Force.

If the UK is to avoid losing the edge in the clean transport market, the government must act urgently to support the uptake of EVs and low carbon mobility

Failing to adopt smart clean transport will also undermine the UK’s efforts to reach the goal of net zero by 2050, Green Alliance says.

Cutting carbon emissions from transport, currently the country’s biggest source of emissions, will require a rapid shift to EVs and at least a ten per cent reduction in car miles driven.

Caterina Brandmayr, senior policy analyst at Green Alliance, said: “If the UK is to avoid losing the edge in the clean transport market, the government must act urgently to support the uptake of EVs and low carbon mobility.

“It has invested considerable resources in research and development in this area but this is only one side of the equation: there’s limited policy yet to help this innovation translate into greener, more efficient transport systems across the UK or global opportunities for UK businesses.”

Smarter transport

The Tech Task Force, convened by Green Alliance, includes leading UK innovation organisations and technology companies. It is investigating the role of digital technology in the shift to a low carbon economy and in supporting UK manufacturing industry and businesses across the country.

Smarter transport: a digital revolution for electric vehicles and mobility services, is the first in a series of industrial sector investigations compiled for the task force by Green Alliance.

The report shows the substantial impact digital technology could have in accelerating clean transport markets, including:

  • Better integration of transport services:Smart sensors and big data can enable more competitive mobility services based on convenience and integration with existing public transport, cutting city traffic and improving air quality. Examples include mobility app Whim, currently being piloted in the West Midlands, to promote joined up transport services.
  • Predictive maintenance:This will help maximise vehicle use and life, for optimal fleet management. For instance, startups such as Carfit and TWAICE track car wear and tear, and battery health. Net global additional profits from remote diagnostics are predicted to reach $16 billion by 2025.[6]
  • Resource efficient manufacturing:With material input prices rising by more than 80 percent between 2004 and 2018, and concerns over scarcity of key raw materials, industry 4.0 applications that cut energy and material use could help put UK supply chains at the forefront of EV manufacturing. This would boost productivity in lagging UK regions.
  • Access to critical materials:Digitally enabled EV battery reprocessing, building on solutions such as those investigated under the Faraday Institution’s ReLiB project, would ensure EV manufacturers can source valuable materials in the UK, with potentially half of UK cobalt demand in 2035 met from used EV batteries.

However, gaps in transport policy are leaving the UK behind in the race to profit from these kind of solutions, as countries like China and other European countries move ahead. On top of Brexit uncertainty, this is pushing manufacturers to take their investment elsewhere.[7]

To secure a leading edge for the UK in these fields, while also cutting emissions and addressing air quality and congestion, the new government must press forward with a Transport Decarbonisation Plan that:

  • Bans new diesel and petrol car sales by 2030 and supports digital adoption in manufacturing to provide a strong business case for investment in next generation EV manufacturing in the UK.
  • Helps the domestic EV industry by supporting domestic battery manufacturing and establishes digitally enabled UK battery reprocessing infrastructure.
  • Redirects the roads budget towards walking and cycling infrastructure and public transport to enable effective delivery of smart mobility services, particularly outside London.
  • Puts in place regulation and support for local authorities that enables better use of data and integration of mobility services with public transport across the country.
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