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£30 million allocated for highway decarbonisation projects

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Cutting-edge, innovative ideas to decarbonise the country’s highways are the key aim of the £30 million Live Labs 2 competition, announced and funded by the Department for Transport (DfT).

The funding will support pioneering projects looking at ways to decarbonise local highways infrastructure in regions across the UK. There will be a particular focus on making the construction, maintenance and running of the UK’s roads more sustainable.

Now in its second round of funding, the competition, organised by the Association of Directors of Environment, Economy, Planning and Transport (ADEPT), is the latest move in the government’s drive to create cleaner air and reach net zero emissions by 2050.

The launch of the second round of the competition follows the success of the first £22.9 million Live Labs programme which launched in May 2019 and supported the creation of 8 local projects testing innovative solutions on local roads.

Previous projects included:

  • fibre cables that detect vibrations from vehicles and dynamically change signal junctions to combat congestion
  • trials involving drones to detect potholes in Kent
  • plastic roads in Cumbria to boost value for money in the construction of highways

Staffordshire County Council also secured the expertise of 2 industry leaders to install plant-based living walls to tackle roadside emissions. The walls act as natural filters made from plants and mosses as part of a national clean air trial.

Meanwhile, Buckinghamshire Council and Suffolk County Council demonstrated how the application of smart transport technology can be expanded to offer greater social value than initially anticipated.

Their project involved repurposing road sensors, typically used to monitor traffic volumes and weather conditions, to be used in adult social care.

The technology was additionally used to allow vulnerable people to live independently for longer by installing the sensors around a house to monitor daily activities, sending signals to carers when needed.

Paula Hewitt, ADEPT President, said: “ADEPT is delighted to be able to move ahead on Live Labs 2 with this new round of DfT funding and support. The highways and transport sector is the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter and although we are seeing a transition to electric vehicles, there is a huge gap where we are yet to tackle road infrastructure and maintenance.

“Local authorities are perfectly placed to lead the drive to create net zero highways and local roads from the bottom up. The Live Labs format has proven particularly successful for highways authorities, enabling rapid change, innovation and experimentation.

“Following the success of the first ADEPT SMART Places Live Labs programme, Live Labs 2 aims to build on the partnerships between DfT, councils, commercial partners, SMEs and academia to deliver scalable zero carbon objectives with potential for commercialisation and applicability to diverse areas across the UK.”

The ADEPT Live Labs initiative demonstrates the government’s commitment to investing in innovation to decarbonise the UK’s transport network, with the aim of making it greener and more efficient for all.

By issuing significant investments for each project, the fund aims to help local highways authorities and enterprises develop and propel their ideas to market even quicker.

The great 2021 pothole backfill begins

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Councils across England have been allocated their share of £500 million for highways maintenance, with the funding expected to fix the equivalent of 10 million potholes across the country.

It is the second of 5 equal instalments from the £2.5 billion Potholes Fund, providing £500 million a year between 2020/21 and 2024/25, announced by the Chancellor in the 2020 Budget – and is part of wider funding the DfTprovides for road maintenance, totalling over £1.1 billion across England in 2021/22.

With the average pothole costing around £50 to fill in, the funding will ensure that the equivalent of 10 million potholes can be rectified, making thousands of local roads both safer and easier to drive and cycle on.

Transport Minister Baroness Vere said: “We know potholes are more than just a nuisance – they can be dangerous to drivers and cyclists alike, and cause damage to thousands of vehicles every year.

“The funding allocated today will help councils ensure roads in their area are kept up to standard, and that the potholes that blight road users can be dealt with promptly.”

The DfT claims it has already invested heavily in pothole filling since 2015, including the £296 million Pothole Action Fund, which ran from 2015/16 to 2020/21. It also topped up highway maintenance investment in 2018 with a one-off £420 million boost to all highway authorities in England, including London.

The government says it’s committed to supporting motorists through schemes like the Road Investment Strategy 2 (RIS2), investing £27 billion in the biggest ever roads programme – with £10 billion of the record-breaking sum specifically for road maintenance, operations and renewals.

Government drive to simplify EV charging network to combat ‘range anxiety’

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Small businesses and those in leasehold and rented accommodation are set to benefit from up to £50 million to install electric vehicle chargepoints.

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that the Electric Vehicle Homecharge Scheme (EVHS), which provides up to £350 towards a chargepoint, will continue next year and be expanded to target people in rented and leasehold accommodation.

At the same time, the Workplace Charging Scheme (WCS) will be opened up to small to medium enterprises (SMEs) and the charity sector, providing a boost as staff return to work. The changes will also mean that small accommodation businesses, such as B&Bs can benefit from the funding, boosting rural areas, and tackling the ‘range anxiety’ associated with long journeys.

This investment comes as the department launches a consultation on improving the charging experience – simplifying payments and increasing reliability – which it says takes the country a step closer to delivering on the commitment to end the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030.

Transport Minister Rachel Maclean said: “Whether you’re on the school run or travelling to work, or don’t have access to a private parking space, today’s announcement will bring us one step closer to building and operating a public chargepoint network that is affordable, reliable and accessible for all drivers.

“As the UK accelerates towards net-zero emissions by 2050, we are determined to deliver a world-leading electric vehicle charging network, as we build back greener and support economic growth across the country.”

The consultation suggests simplifying payment at chargepoints, meaning electric vehicle drivers can use contactless payment but do not have to download an app. It also seeks to make chargepoints more reliable and to force operators to provide a 24/7 call helpline for drivers.

Drivers should also be able to find and access chargepoints easily, so the government is proposing that operators should make location data, power rating and price information more accessible for drivers. This it says is essential for ensuring costs are fair, for driving competition, and for increasing the confidence of both existing electric vehicle drivers and those considering making the switch.

The government says its proposals will ensure that it’s as easy – or even easier – for drivers to charge their car as it is to refuel a petrol or diesel vehicle.

The new investment follows £20 million in funding announced last week for councils to improve the on-street charging infrastructure in their local areas.

CEO of Co Charger, Joel Teague, said: “From a Co Charger point of view, this announcement is particularly welcome because it will put more chargepoints into homes and businesses where they can be shared with their neighbourhoods. Dependable, affordable charging while at home or work is essential for people to make the switch to electric motoring, and by sharing these newly funded chargepoints communities will be able to meet that need.”

Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) National Chair, Mike Cherry, said: “It’s great to see the Department for Transport putting businesses front and centre as part of the UK’s mission to achieve net-zero by 2050.

“Small businesses want to play a critical role in helping the UK reach its green targets, and electric vehicles are the future. That’s why this is important news for the nation, particularly rural areas which are often left behind.”

Funding for on-street EV charge points doubled

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The government is to fund an additional £2.5 million towards the installation of over 1,000 new EV chargepoints, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has confirmed.

The funding will support the on-street residential chargepoint scheme, launched in 2017, which helps people access charging infrastructure near their homes when they don’t have off-street parking.

It will go towards helping local authorities to install these chargepoints, which can be built into existing structures like lamp-posts. The scheme aims to encourage even more people to choose an electric vehicle by making it easier to charge their cars near home, following a 158% increase in battery electric vehicle sales compared to July last year.

The scheme has already seen 16 local authorities prepared to install 1,200 chargepoints this year. The Transport Secretary is now doubling funding for the scheme to meet demand and accelerate the take-up of electric vehicles as the UK moves towards net zero emissions by 2050 and further improve air quality.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “It’s fantastic that there are now more than 20,000 publicly accessible chargepoints and double the number of electric vehicle chargepoints than petrol stations, but we want to do much more.

“It’s vital that electric vehicle drivers feel confident about the availability of chargepoints near their homes, and that charging an electric car is seen as easy as plugging in a smartphone.

“That’s why we are now doubling the funding available for local authorities to continue building the infrastructure we need to super-charge the zero emission revolution – right across the country.”

The allocation of funding for on-street residential chargepoints is part of the £1.5 billion investment underpinned by the Road to Zero Strategy. The strategy consists of one of the most comprehensive packages of support for the transition to zero emission vehicles in the world, supporting the move towards a cleaner, greener, accessible and reliable UK transport network.

As part of this, the government is also investing £37 million into British engineering to develop electric chargepoint infrastructure that it says could rapidly expand the UK chargepoint network for people without off-street parking and put the UK on the map as the best place in the world to own an electric vehicle.

Innovations to receive investment include underground charging systems, solar powered charging forecourts and wireless charging projects.

£33m fund to develop low-carbon vehicles

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A new Government investment through the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is set to offer £33 million to companies to develop ‘next generation’ low-carbon vehicles.

Part of the Government’s Modern Industrial Strategy which aims to boost productivity by backing businesses within the UK, the initiative is expected to create over 2,000 jobs in research and manufacturing.

Projects range from the development of high-performance battery packs and electrified construction equipment, to hydrogen-powered engines – as well as helping support the establishment of future supply chains.

Successful projects that have already received funding include YASA Limited for the EV-LIFT project which aims to produce a best-in-class Electronic Drive Unit (EDU) for next generation battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

To mark the announcement, Business Minister Andrew Stephenson visited McLaren Group in Woking. The company is one of 32 organisations, working in 5 consortia, benefiting from £9.8 million new investment towards its ESCAPE project. This will create a complete end-to-end supply chain for a key component to be used in all electrified vehicles, whether automotive, railway, marine or aviation – a first for the UK.

“This new investment will enhance the UK’s leading position in the development of the next generation of electric and autonomous vehicles and clean growth,” said Stephenson.

“We are committed to building on those strengths to ensure we are a leader in the design and manufacture of automotive vehicles as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“These projects will build the capacity and capability of UK companies to manufacture low carbon technology and provide high skilled, well paid jobs across the country.”

Ian Constance, Chief Executive of the Advanced Propulsion Centre, said: “Supporting the development of cutting-edge low carbon vehicle technology is crucial to ensuring we have a robust supply chain that enables the future of the UK automotive industry.

“The wide range of projects awarded funding is proof that there isn’t one answer to reducing transport emissions. We must continue to collaborate across sectors in order to boost innovation in many aspects of the industry so we can take advantage of export opportunities to other markets.”

Image by Stefan Schweihofer from Pixabay

More funds made available for cleaner buses

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A further £25 million is to be committed by the government to the Clean Bus Technology Fund, a project launched in 2017 to upgrade buses with technology reducing nitrogen dioxide emissions in areas of poor air quality.

14 local authorities have been chosen by the government for the cash boost, following on from last year’s £40 million grant to 20 local authorities. 

Existing fund recipients were invited to apply for funding to extend their projects earlier this year, with all applicant bids successfully confirmed.

Discussing the government’s commitment, Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey said: ”I am delighted to announce a further £25 million to retrofit 1,817 buses through the Clean Bus Technology Fund.

“We all know that air pollution is the top environmental risk to health in the UK. Nitrogen dioxide emissions must be lowered if we want to ensure cleaner and healthier air across the country.

“Local authorities are the best placed to introduce systems that work for their areas, which is why we are working closely with them to ensure they have the appropriate funding and support.”

The new £25 million investment will support the 2017 UK Plan fro Tackling Roadside Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations which sets out how councils with the worst levels of air pollution at busy road junctions and hotspots will take robust action.

“We are committed to driving down emissions across all modes of transport, and I’m delighted to see the bus industry putting itself at the forefront of this,” said Transport Minister, Jesse Norman.

“This £25m investment will help the sector work towards the continued acceleration of low emission buses and a 100% low emission bus fleet in England and Wales.”

Government is working closely with 61 English local authorities, and has placed legal duties on them – underpinned by £495 million in funding – to tackle their nitrogen dioxide exceedances.

By the end of this year, all local authorities will have carried out studies and, where appropriate, developed or be developing bespoke plans tailored to the nature of the nitrogen dioxide problem in their own local area.

Battle for vehicle tech intensifies as digital giants wade into market

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Europe was the most active autotech M&A market in 2018 with 39% of deal activity, ahead of North America and APAC, yet accounted for only 7% of total global M&A transaction value.

The latest research from GP Bullhound reveals M&A activity in autotech across Europe, Asia and North America has steadily increased in the last few years, reaching a record 166 transactions in 2018, up from 144 the previous year.

Though Europe is the most active market worldwide for M&A transactions, Asia Pacific and North America lead in terms of deal value – with 72% and 21%, respectively.

The total global autotech fundraising value increased by 293% to €27bn over the past five years,

Sven Raeymaekers, Partner at GP Bullhound, said: “Europe’s autotech sector has been growing from strength to strength in the last few years, and the figures in our report attest to significant innovation and investment across the continent. The next challenge for Europe’s autotech firms will be to achieve scale in order to compete with the biggest players in the industry. The difficulty so far is that European autotech companies struggle to get the same level of funding as their competitors in APAC and North America.”

The report also reveals that technology giants such as Google, Intel, Tesla and Uber are challenging established automotive firms when it comes to innovation in autonomous driving, connected cars, electric vehicles, and shared mobility solutions.

With Tesla on track to outsell both BMW and Mercedes-Benz in the US and several global automakers issuing recent profit warnings, GP Bullhound says the automotive industry is facing unprecedented disruption from emerging and established technology firms keen for a slice of the action.

Guillaume Bonneton, Partner at GP Bullhound, added: “A battle is emerging between global tech giants and the traditional automobile manufacturers. The tech giants have an advantage in terms of total resources available, but do not rule out the OEMs as they are pouring significant levels of investment into the four key sectors highlighted in our report. Combined with the existing levels of trust they have from consumers, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top.”

The report considers four key trends set to significantly reshape the automotive sector over the next ten to fifteen years: shared mobility, electrification, autonomy and connectivity.

Autonomy looks set to catch up to shared mobility as the most disruptive sector with the greatest increase in transaction value from €0.2bn in 2014, to €8bn in 2018 and an average transaction value of €70m, just below level of shared mobility on €75m which has dominated since 2014. This came as shared mobility declined from €17bn in 2017, to €8bn last year.

Looking ahead, the report identifies micro-mobility – bike, scooter and mopeds-sharing– as a fast-growth area, with deal activity in bike-scooter sharing increasing from $14m in 2015 to $3.5bn by the end of 2018.

New low emissions buses as part of £48m investment

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Communities across the UK stand to benefit from greener journeys with the introduction of 263 new low emission buses on certain routes.

A £48 million investment from the Office for Low Emission Vehicles will fund green vehicles and infrastructure to drive forward government plans to clean up the air in towns and cities.

Speaking at the UK Bus Summit, Buses Minister Nusrat Ghani also announced a new partnership with Greener Journeys to reflect the ‘pivotal role’ played by the bus industry in tackling loneliness and social isolation.

The partnership will see companies across the sector pledge to tackle loneliness, including through innovative vehicle design and initiatives to encourage bus passengers to talk to each other.

Buses Minister Nusrat Ghani said: “Buses are far more than a way of getting from A to B. They are a crucial tool in the fight against loneliness and it is good to see the industry taking steps to tackle isolation.

“This government is doing more than ever before to reduce emissions across all modes of transport and I’m delighted to see the bus industry putting itself at the forefront of this.

Nineteen successful bidders across England and Wales will receive funding to purchase new low emission buses and supporting infrastructure, such as charge points.

The fundings is part of the government’s £1.5 billion Road to Zero strategy published last year.

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive, Greener Journeys, said: “We’re delighted to be partnering with the government to tackle the epidemic of loneliness affecting millions of people in the UK. Research from Greener Journeys shows that a third of people in Britain go at least a day a week without speaking to anyone – not a friend, colleague or family member.

“Buses play a vital role in facilitating social connections among the most vulnerable people, who rely on them to take them to visit friends and family. It’s fantastic to see the industry come together to launch such a brilliant range of initiatives to address the problem of loneliness.”