Clean Growth

Low carbon vehicle production. How are manufacturers meeting demand?

By February 11, 2019 No Comments

Low carbon vehicle production. How are manufacturers meeting demand & what technologies are being developed to sustain road & non-road industries?

Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary, made a stark observation recently “I think the climate risk is the most important systemic risk for the near future. I believe we are losing the race. Climate change is running faster than we are. And we have this paradox: the reality is proving to be worse than scientists had foreseen, and all the last indicators show that.” (1)

Economies are now being spoken about more freely with relation to climate change. Donald Trump’s scientists presented him with a paper advising that ‘man made’ Climate Change could “Wreak havoc on the US economy”. The UK has it’s Clean Growth strategy, aimed at ensuring environmental concerns are prevalent amongst business models & industry.

However, despite there being a considerable push globally to ensure the grave warnings of the IPCC report 2018 are met & that the tactical promises of The Paris Agreement are acted upon; humans still have considerable work to do to combat man made climate change.

One industry which still hails great leaps & bounds in it’s development, is the automotive sector & fuel management systems. Despite the evidence clearly proving that traditional diesel & liquid fuel commercial vehicles are contributory to 6% of the global Co2 emissions, developments in this sector are working fast to create a balance for cars, haulage & shipping.

Global governments have created low & zero emissions zones in their cities, with the UK following suit with the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emissions Zones) spreading across the UK capital, London. Despite the push for the EV market, with  hybrid buses now the norm in London & the spread of the EV Taxi; cost and charging infrastructure  are still prohibitive for widespread adoption

Reuters reported recently that, car makers plan to spend at least £2.5 billion on EVs, driven largely by environmental concerns and government policy, & supported by rapid technological advances that have improved battery cost, range & charging time.

With the costs of UK public transport continuing to rise and the recent increase of 3% for train fares; many working people still rely on personal transport, whether this is a car, van or motorcycle & replacing the incumbent & trusted fuel burning vehicle with an EV, is a big leap for many motorists, even ignoring the added capital outlay.  Furthermore, what are the implications for the infrastructure and energy demand if there was a sudden widespread adoption of  EV users? Is there a sufficient energy supply? Are the charging points in place? What is being done to tackle ‘distance anxiety’?

Michael Woodward, UK automotive partner at Deloitte, said: “In 2018, we saw global EV sales surpass two million units for the first time; twice those sold in 2017. In the UK, the cost of petrol and diesel vehicle ownership will converge with electric over the next five years.

“Supported by existing government subsidies and technology advances, this tipping point could be reached as early as 2021. From this point, cost will no longer be a barrier to purchase, and owning an EV will become a realistic, viable option for new buyers.” (2)

Understanding the LCA (Life Cycle Assessment) of a vehicle, sees four stages in it’s construction:

Fuel production, vehicle production, use & end-of-life disposal. It is this cycle which has prompted  automotive manufacturers to consider the circular economic processes of vehicle production, rather than focussing simply on the manufacture & sale. Manufacturers also have to consider the fuel, the use of the vehicle & the recyclability of the vehicle at the end of it’s life. The term ‘Low Carbon Vehicle’ pertains to the entire life of the vehicle, from construction, through use to it’s end of life.

Ricardo Energy & Environment consultants have been performing LCA studies for many years covering a large breadth of products including industrial equipment, vehicles, lighting, packaging & paper products.

Siemens are also using cutting edge technologies to combat the challenges for the automotive  industries. The use of their ‘Digital Twin’ software has enabled them to extend the virtualisation of traditional automotive developments, into the EV development market. Their system will virtually simulate the life cycle of the vehicle, putting them at the cutting edge of low carbon vehicle production & development.

Swedish start up, Uniti, who have chosen the UK to manufacture their electric city car, have identified that:

“despite the undeniable benefits of emissions-free mobility, modern electric cars are only fractionally more sustainable than their fossil fuel counterparts – when their entire life cycle impacts are considered.” & “manufacture these vehicles in fully automated lean facilities – utilizing state-of-the-art automation of high-pressure resin transfer moulds and subsystem assembly”. (3)

The Uniti EV vehicle is clearly aimed at the city driver/commuter & as many research papers agree, for the inner cities this is the way forward for the commuter traveller.  However, how do we assess the low carbon suitability of other commercial vehicles, such as delivery vans & heavy haulage? In answer to this question, the UK Government agency Innovate UK commissioned the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership to ‘to assess a range of new technologies in comparison with the latest Euro VI diesels.’ (4)

As far back as 2016, low carbon truck trials were being undertaken in the UK, ‘co-funded by the Department for Transport, Innovate UK and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV). The trial was provided with £11.3 million by Government and £12.1 million by industry participants to create a £23.4 million pilot’ (5).

With traditionally fuelled HGV’s contributing 4% of Co2 emissions (according to 2017 UK statistics in the Dolphin N2 PGES paper) The DfT commissioned Atkins & Cenex to research the impacts & benefits of alternatively fuelled trucks, which were deployed across a range of freight operations. The purpose of this project was to collate data & analyse the benefits of these systems. ‘A total of 380 trucks were deployed, the majority being dual fuel (diesel/gas) vehicles, with some dedicated gas vehicles, and some vehicles running on used cooking oil.’ (5)

The summary of the outcomes of this project are as follows:

‘Executive Summary Table 2 below summarises the performance of the technologies in the truck trial. Whilst there were significant deployments of dual fuel gas trucks in the trial, the data from the UCO and dedicated gas trucks are from individual fleets. (6)


LCTT Technology Performance Summary (includes biofuel use)


Performance Variable Dual Fuel Gas/Diesel Dedicated Gas Dual Fuel UCO/Diesel
Substitution ratio 44% (25 – 52%) 100% 86%
Efficiency loss vs diesel 7% (0 to 25%) 24% 0%
Tank to wheel (TTW) emission saving 3% (-24% to 12%) 11%* 86%
Well to Wheel (WTW) emission saving 0% (-24% to 9%) 10%* 84%


One recent event which shifted it’s focus to Low Carbon Vehicle production this year & highlighted the need for a considerable shift in the agriculture & rural vehicle portfolios, was the Energy & Rural Business show in Telford last week. Andy Eastlake from the LowCVP spoke at the conference about how the advances in low carbon agricultural vehicle production, can be incorporated & adapted for the road vehicles he predominantly focuses on. “Really excited to come to this community & see how actually in the rural sector we are joining up low emission vehicles, energy, low carbon energy & of course the business opportunities as well. So it is that integrated approach that is so critical & will be transferable on to the road sector where the bulk of my work is carried out” Andy Eastlake, Managing Director – Low Carbon Partnership.

Therefore, despite the stark observations Antonio Guterres has given, industry both in the road & off road sectors are striving to create a balance & are developing greater options for a low carbon vehicle industry.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason on behalf of Dolphin N2