IP Information & News

Road to Zero — the movement towards low-emission vehicles

Dr Terence Broderick

By Dr Terence Broderick

Patent Attorney

Across the UK, we’re all aware of the need to improve air quality and energy security, make cities cleaner and quieter, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In a very welcome move, the UK government has published its ‘Road to Zero’ policy, which sets out how we can reduce carbon emissions from road transport. This will create a wealth of opportunities to develop new, green technologies.

Here’s what companies can do to take advantage of this momentum, as the UK looks towards the widespread use of cleaner road transport.

Driving change

Road transport is statistically one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gas emissions. Cleaner road transport is seen as one of the ways we can make the changes we need. The UK government has stated that, by 2050, almost every car and van on UK roads should be a zero emission vehicle.

These are big ambitions and require substantial technological development and sociological change, which presents opportunities for innovators who can develop products and services that enable this revolution to take place.

It’s not always about the cleanest choice

The government hasn’t always been commended for its pragmatism in recent times, but this policy does contain some sensible guidance. It recognises that the current availability of vehicles which could be considered low-emission is a constraint.

Indeed, no specific fuel source is identified as being a ‘no go’ option — the policy clarifies that all fuel sources have their place in the current climate and that buyers of vehicles should try to make the “cleanest choice” for their needs, rather than treating the cleanest choice as an absolute. In this regard, it doesn’t dismiss petrol and diesel vehicles as options, but rather treats them as an option which may be the most efficient and effective for some categories of user.

In identifying a role for all types of fuel source during the transition, the government is encouraging widespread innovation around both fossil fuels and renewable fuels alike, particularly with respect to commercial vehicles. That said, the unveiling of several alternative powertrain and biofuel options by commercial vehicle giants Iveco and Scania at the recent IAA show is an indication that cleaner choices are not far away.

Three key areas

The policy highlights three areas of focus for reducing carbon emissions from road transport between now and 2050. These are:

  • Reducing carbon emissions from vehicles already on our roads. For example, by increasing the use of low-carbon fuels, retrofitting new technology and educating drivers in more environmentally friendly driving.
  • Increasing the uptake of cleaner new cars and vans. For example, by addressing the issues with consumer acceptance and the supply of low-emission vehicles through regulation, grants to incentivise the purchase of these vehicles and providing information about the environmental performance of the choices available.
  • Improved infrastructure for electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. For example, ensuring charging points are more available across the country.

These areas neatly encapsulate where technological development is required and where innovators will be focusing their efforts as they seek to take advantage of the growth and momentum in this sector. Each of them provides unique technical challenges, which require a technical solution. Protecting your technology as you seek to become part of this revolution is important if you wish to take advantage of the demand for products and services as we head toward a low-emission society.

If you’re developing technology to help propel the UK to be a world leader in low-emission transport, our automotive and green technology specialists can help you to protect your innovations with patents. To find out more, please feel free to get in touch with me at tsb@udl.co.uk.

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