The Transport stage at this year’s Innovation Zero held talks throughout the two days of the event (24 to 25 May) with industry leaders and experts discussing the road to decarbonising the UK’s transportation sector.
Net zero mobility
“We seem to have one of the smallest stages here at Innovation Zero, but we’ve got the biggest challenge in greenhouse gas,” said Andy Eastlake, CEO of Zemo Partnership, opening the ‘What Will Zero Carbon Mobility Look Like’ panel on Thursday morning.
“Not only is transport the biggest greenhouse gas contributor here in the UK at the moment, it’s arguably one of the most complex and it’s arguably one of the most far reaching, touching into every aspect of industry and of our lives.”
The panel discussed a range of benefits waiting to be gained though zero carbon transport such as providing millions of new green jobs.
Matthey Eastwood, head of innovation and supply chain at Transport Scotland said: “Zero carbon mobility allows us to unlock wider societal benefits. Decarbonising transport is also about decarbonising an industry and a supply chain that supports transport; that creates a route for economic opportunity.
“It also creates a route for creating new green jobs and also the just transition to net zero; the UN Economic Commission report estimated that around 10 million jobs could be created across the world by decarbonising transport.”
Government support for the creation of green jobs was also shown at Innovation Zero in Deputy Prime Minister, Oliver Dowden CBE MP’s speech on 24 May, in which he states that low carbon technologies are expected to support “up to 480,000 green jobs by 2030.”
EVs have a unique offering for households looking to use cheaper energy as well as providing grid balancing mechanisms.
“Currently, your car sits idle doing nothing for 95% of the time, it just sits on the driveway, sits in the car park, and it’s not delivering any benefit,” said Claire Spooner, deputy challenge director at Faraday Batter Challenge – Innovate UK.
“But if we could use the battery that has been charged overnight, to power the grid during the day, it gives us suddenly a different energy dynamic, the different flexibility to how we’re approaching our time, our energy system and utilising the resources we already have – if we built the car, how do we make sure it’s used as much as possible.”
Earlier this week Current± spoke with former director of technology and innovation at Octopus EV, Claire Miller around the as-of-yet untapped potential of vehicle-to-grid (V2G).
“V2G is a really interesting opportunity. It’s a technology which will unlock potentially huge grid benefits to increase the amount of renewables on the grid, as well as bringing benefits to individuals and fleets,” said Miller.
Part of the task to rollout these technologies is to adapt consumer habits, however fellow panellist, Lord Patrick Mcloughlin, chairman for Transport for the North warned that this must be a just transition.
“One of the ways you can bring in change is by bringing fix fiscal measures which encourage it, and that is very, very effective. Actually just by doing a fiscal change can induce quite a big revolution and have a really knock on effect,” said Mcloughlin.
“What you have to do on fiscal change, though, is make sure you don’t end up in a position of social exclusion and consider how you give the opportunities to everyone.”
Spooner highlighted an already apparent disparity in the ownership of EVs, stating: “I would say people who can afford EVs generally have driveways.”
The scale of the issue at hand
In a separate session at Innovation Zero, CEO of the sustainable energy business Gridserve, Toddington Harper, cited the IPCC’s latest climate report which served as a final warning to keep global temperature warming to 1.5°C, emphasising the scale of the task of decarbonising transport and the urgency with which it must be undertaken.
Referring to the book Speed & Scale by John Doerr Harper laid out a pathway to achieve the required decarbonisation goals to limit global temperature rises.
“The plan involves reducing carbon emissions across different areas. About half of that is from transport and energy. It’s about a target to get to a reduction 50 Giga tons of carbon emissions of annual carbon emissions every year by 2050 and halfway there by 2030,” said Harper.
“So there is a plan, and this plan is aligned with the science of climate change. We need to have a target 50% of the world’s miles being electric by 2040. Let’s put a number on that there’s about 17.5 trillion miles driven every single year – that’s a very big number. In the UK, there’s around 370 billion miles a year.”
So far the UK is making some advancement continued Harper, who said that last year 7% of the UKs miles were electric.
But to make significant progress, the transport industry must make EVs as hassle-free for drivers as internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles, said Harper.
To tackle this, Gridserve use a ‘sun-to-wheel approach to replace the ‘well-to-wheel lifecycle of fossil-fuelled cars.
“We build solar farms instead of oil wells, we refine it with batteries, we transport it via cables and grids and we distribute it through electrical cords and electric hubs and ultimately into electric vehicles themselves.”
In his concluding remarks Harper called for tougher more urgent action against the climate crisis: “It’s just really, really important that we don’t rest on our laurels. We need to get on with this at the speed and scale the climate crisis requires, it is on our watch and future generations will judge us according to how we deliver.
Wouldn’t it be great? Won’t it be great? If we are the ones when they look back and they say they’re not those people, they knocked it out of the park. They knew the evidence was clear, the scientists told us the solutions are available and cost effective and you know what – it absolutely delivered.
“Now, isn’t that a much better story to tell?”