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Electric Vehicles- the magic bullet to meet carbon reduction targets in UK cities

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Oliver Heidrich, Dr Graeme Hill, Professor Richard DawsonORCiD, Professor Phil BlytheORCiD


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Transport relies strongly on fossil fuels and accounted for 27 % of final energy use (IPCC, 2014). There is an urgent need to concentrate on cities and their sustainable transport strategies for dealing with the challenges (and opportunities) climate change may bring. Today 54% of the world’s population live in urban areas which is anticipated to increase to 66% by the year 2050 (United Nations, 2015). Across the world many cities publish climate change mitigation strategies and other measures to support the wide spread uptake of Electric Vehicles (EVs) and this paper investigates the effectiveness of these strategies in UK cities, the provision of infrastructures and discusses the related initiatives that should help to reduce carbon emissions. We show that 13 out of 30 UK cities mention EV in their strategies. Analysing EV registrations and the EV infrastructures that is provided by cities we found that there is no statistical difference in the number of charging points or EVs between the cities that have EVs as part of their climate change mitigation strategy and those that do not. Although noting the UK purchased more EVs in 2014 than in the total purchased in the previous five years added together (SMMT, 2015), with a further increase of EV ownership of 90% in the first three quarters of 2015, based on data released by the DfT (2015). Nevertheless to support the country in attaining the target that the net UK carbon account for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline (AoP, 2008) the Committee for Climate Change (CCC, 2015) estimated that by 2030 some 60% of all newly registered vehicle need to be EV. This means that the EV ownership needs to grow year on year by 45% between 2015 and 2030 (Neaimeh et al., 2015). We demonstrate that local strategies are failing in achieving the much needed step change. Investigating the emission factors we show that EV’s, when compared to an efficient Internal Combustion Engine (ICE), might not be the magic bullet to achieve the needed reductions by 2020 or 2027, but as improvements in current ICE vehicles decelerate it will be necessary to switch to EVs to achieve reduction beyond 2027. This will allow time for cities to improve their strategies and implement the necessary infrastructure needed to support the efforts at the national scale driving the uptake of EVs forward. References The Climate Change Act. CCC (2015) Sectoral scenarios for the Fifth Carbon Budget- Technical report. London, UK: CCC. [Online]. Available at: DfT (2015) All licensed vehicles and new registrations (VEH01). Available at: IPCC (2014) Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change. Contribution of Working Group III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, UK and New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press. Neaimeh, M., Serradilla, J., Hill, G., Pinna, C., Guo, A. and Blythe, P. (2015) Rapid Charge Network (RCN)- Activity 6: Study- Final Report. Newcastle, UK. [Online]. Available at: SMMT (2015) New car registration - 7 January 2015 (data for December and full year 2014). London, UK. [Online]. Available at: (Accessed: 01st July 2016). United Nations (2015) World Urbanization Prospects: The 2014 Revision. New York, USA.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Heidrich O, Hill G, Dawson R, Blythe P

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 9th biennial conference of the International Society for Industrial Ecology (ISIE)- Science in Support of Sustainable and Resilient Communities

Year of Conference: 2017

Print publication date: 26/06/2017

Online publication date: 25/06/2017

Acceptance date: 01/01/2017


Series Title: Science in Support of Sustainable and Resilient Communities

Sponsor(s): EU FP7- RAMSES