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The Road to Zero Strategy

The UK Government’s Road to Zero Strategy published in July 2018 sets out a number of policies designed to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The Government described its approach as “deliberately holistic…(developing) adequate vehicle supply, a strong consumer base, the right market conditions and a fit for purpose infrastructure network.”

What is the timetable for the Road to Zero? The timetable set out by the Government is both ambitious and vague. By 2040 it intends to end the sale of new conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans. The majority of all new cars and vans sold will be 100% zero-emission, and all new cars and vans will have what it terms “significant zero-emission capability.” By 2050, the aim is to have “almost every car and van to be zero-emission.”

Road to Zero aerial photo

How will the Road to Zero happen? Firstly, the Government is keen to reduce the emissions of vehicles already in use, through the introduction of cleaner fuels and more fuel-efficient vehicles. Secondly, we will be encouraged to purchase the cleanest new cars, vans, buses, and trucks; whether that is through incentives or by increasing the cost of ownership for fossil-fuelled transport. By 2040 there will be an outright ban on the sale of fossil-fuelled cars and vans. Thirdly, the Government will support the development of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure and provide incentives to put the UK at the head of the design and manufacture of zero-emission vehicles.

How will the Road to Zero affect me? There will inevitably be a move towards the purchase of zero-emission cars and vans; with a large number of new models appearing in the coming years the choice is far more extensive and the appeal greater than it has ever been. Electric vehicle ownership, so long the preserve of less than 1% of the market, will increasingly become the norm. In addition to the increase in non-fossil fuel vehicles, several other changes will make the Road to Zero a reality. In order to reduce emissions, the way we travel will have to change, with fewer journeys taken and an improvement in public transport, to bring about a more integrated transport system within the UK. As a part of this, car ownership may decline as people travel less, and vehicle sharing becomes more prevalent. What is next for the Road to Zero?

The dangers associated with climate change have become more apparent in the last 12 months. There has been increased pressure on the Government to push forward the phasing out of conventional petrol and diesel engine vehicles. In March 2020 the House of Commons Committee on Climate Change recommended that the market for zero-emission electric vehicles should be 100% by 2035 at the latest to meet the 2050 net-zero target. The Government has yet to respond officially, but the pressure to move quickly along the Road to Zero has never been more apparent.

We will look at the move towards zero-emission vehicles in more detail over the coming months. The way we travel, our ownership of vehicles and how they are powered will change dramatically over the coming years.