Fleets have been urged to work together and consider cutting vehicle numbers to help the UK achieve ‘net zero’ emissions.
The Government passed legislation in June, committing the country to ending its contribution to global warming.
It requires greenhouse gas emissions to be net zero by 2050, compared with the previous target of at least 80% reduction compared with 1990 levels.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) has said it will take “robust action” for the target to be achieved.
Fleets were again reminded of the vital role they have to play in the UK achieving net zero at last month’s Fleet Heroes conference, organised by Energy Saving Trust.
Tim Anderson, the trust’s new head of transport, told delegates: “Decarbonisation in transport has flatlined. We are travelling as much as we ever did; we are emitting as much CO2 as we ever did.
“Even with all the sales of ULEVs (ultra-low emission vehicles) and EVs (electric vehicles), there isn’t a material change in our carbon emissions.
“There is a big challenge ahead, but the rewards will be great in terms of climate change, air quality, investment and jobs, and, ultimately, for fleet operators. Saving energy and reducing emissions is good for business.”
The Government acknowledged, in response to a report from the CCC in the summer, that there is a need to go “further and faster” to reduce transport emissions to hit its net zero target by 2050.
It said that a ‘transport decarbonisation plan’ would be published next year, setting out what Government, business and society must do to deliver the emissions reductions needed from all modes of transport.
Caroline Watson, programme director for transport and planning at C40 Cities, says “the time for action is now”.
C40 is a network of 94 cities around the world, which represents a twelfth of the world’s population, one quarter of the global economy and 70% of global CO2 emissions.
“Fleet operations can have a huge impact, more so than the average person,” Watson explained. “Work out what your plan is to at least halve your emissions by 2030 and tell manufacturers you want zero emission vehicles. Let’s not focus on why we can’t do it.”
Watson says fleets should also consider options for cutting vehicle use. “We need to reduce the number of vehicles on our roads,” she said. “We can’t keep making excuses why we can’t do this.”
Kevin Welstead, sector director for EVs at SSE Enterprise, says that key barriers to the decarbonisation of fleets were typically centred round the cost and lead times of vehicles, the reliability and accessibility of the charging infrastructure, and not enough focus on the needs of fleets from policymakers.
Issues around charging infrastructure could be solved in part, he said, by collaboration between fleets.
He told delegates: “Fleet operators may need to work together to provide the infrastructure.” For example, he suggested bus depots with charging facilities could be used during the day, when not in use, by last-mile delivery fleets.
“A community hub-based approach is what we expect to see in metro cities, not just London, to help that transition,” he said.
SSE had recently secured £5.2 million (£3.4m grant funded) for a scheme helping homeowners, with no off-road parking, to charge their EVs in Oxfordshire.
The ‘Park and Charge’ project will see SSE install charging hubs, which will enable residents, visitors and businesses to charge at up to 35 local authority-owned car parks across the area.
It is also part of a ‘Bus2Grid’ project that will involve more than 30 electric buses using smart technology to provide bi-directional charging – so-called vehicle-to-grid (V2G) technology – that enables the bus batteries to interact with the energy system.
Welstead said: “We believe fleets are going to play a pivotal role to achieving net zero and that helping fleets overcome some of the challenges to transition is key.”
Anderson concluded: “Action is needed and that action has to happen not tomorrow, not next week, not in 2030, but right now.”