Smarter transport

A digital revolution for electric vehicles and mobility services
Caterina Brandmayr Caterina BrandmayrHead of climate policy020 7630

UK must embrace digital opportunities or risk missing out 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 EVs are forecast to increase 14 fold by 2030, with EVs sold in Europe potentially reaching 12 million a year.[1] Profits from new mobility services are predicted to overtake those from car sales by 80 per cent by 2030.[2] 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.[3]
Failing to adopt smart clean transport will also undermine the UK’s efforts to reach the goal of net zero by 2050. Cutting carbon emissions from transport, currently the country’s biggest source of emissions, will require a rapid shift to electric vehicles (EVs) and at least a ten per cent reduction in car miles driven.[4]
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 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.[5]  
  • 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 other countries like China, Finland and the Netherlands move ahead. On top of Brexit uncertainty, this is pushing manufacturers to take their investment elsewhere.[6]
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.
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.” 

Phil Kelly, head of Sustainability and Building Physics at Ramboll, said:
“Digital technologies can help to speed up decarbonisation of the transport sector and create more liveable towns and cities. The UK could lead a smart clean transport revolution to benefit all parts of the country, but business innovation and investment is urgently needed in these growing markets to make it happen.”

Rodney Turtle, VP for public policy and government affairs at Schneider Electric, said:
“Schneider Electric welcomes Green Alliance’s report. We fully endorse the need to accelerate the uptake of EVs and for a better charging infrastructure to be available to all at more locations and at greater powers. This would enable adoption across the country and motivate investment in smart low carbon solutions. There’s also great potential to use smart charging to support the local electricity distribution network and turn EVs into an asset for the UK’s energy system.”

Steve Brambley, chief executive of GAMBICA, the Trade Association for Instrumentation, Control, Automation and Laboratory Technology, said:
“One of the best ways a manufacturer can raise productivity and competitiveness is to cut consumption and waste of energy and materials. Automation and digital technologies can make significant bottom line savings, for instance by switching off and turning down energy consuming equipment and reducing the amount of resource waste in rejects and scrap. While some industry leaders in the automotive sector have taken advantage of digital solutions to get more competitive, it is clear that others need greater policy support to motivate their adoption.”

Simon Edmonds, Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer, Innovate UK said: “New trends in the automotive industry are already sweeping the sector and the UK is well-placed to lead on the smart transport revolution. This means accelerating the transition to zero emissions vehicles, powered by ever more efficient batteries. At the same time, we are seeing breakthroughs in autonomous vehicles. This has the potential to effect big changes in the economy and society. We will increasingly move from an ownership to a service model of car use and this will have knock-on effects in industries from insurance to parking. These are exciting times and it is our role to help encourage these changes which will lead to greener, safer vehicles and provide the high-quality jobs of tomorrow.”

[1] Bloomberg New Energy Finance, 2018 EV outlook; Cambridge Econometrics, 2018, Fuelling Europe’s future; Cambridge Econometrics and Element Energy, 2018, Low-carbon cars in Europe: A socio-economic assessment
[2] Accenture, 2018, Mobility as a service: mapping a route toward future success in the new automotive ecosystem.
[3] The task force brings together businesses and innovation organisations committed to smart clean growth to identify where policy can accelerate the adoption of technologies that could promote clean growth across the UK. This report is supported by: Innovate UK, GAMBICA, the trade group for the instrumentation and automation industry, Schneider Electric and Ramboll, a design and engineering consulting group
[4] Committee on Climate Change, 2019, Net zero, technical report
[5] World Economic Forum and Accenture, 2016, Digital transformation of industries: automotive industry.
[6] Honda will shut its giant plant in Swindon by 2021 Dyson, the UK-based company best known for its vacuum cleaners, would have built its first electric car in Singapore. And, while Jaguar Land Rover announced new investment in their Castle Bromwich plant earlier in summer, the UK only attracts a small fraction of investments in EVs and battery manufacturing worldwide.