Future of Mobility in the UK: initiatives and challenges

28 July 2021

Recently we released an episode of Conversations in the Park, where our hosts and guests discussed the future of mobility in the UK. An interesting conversation that highlighted some great projects and collaborations that are bringing UK mobility forward. The mobility ecosystem in the UK is quite large. It has an amazing entrepreneurial mindset, it’s one of the best software and AI thinkers in the world and the automotive history and engineering achievements of the country are second to none. Even if the ecosystems are there and we have great organisations promoting and cultivating them, there are still areas where the UK needs to improve in order to compete with other economies. So how well is it actually positioned to reach its net zero goal?

Overall

Our guests and their organisations are working on several great initiatives. All three of them agreed that collaboration is the way forward, which we can see plenty of in the UK. An example of this is the APC‘s are technology and product roadmaps, and opportunities in passenger car electrification. As well as AESIN‘s initiatives to accelerate electronic systems innovation.

However, many would argue there is still a lot of work to be done. A report by Transport and Environment (T&E) claims the UK could be left behind in the electric car race. It states that ‘as recently as 2018, the UK produced roughly half of all electric cars built in Europe (…) But a lack of investment by UK manufacturers means that by the end of the decade that figure will have fallen to just 4%’. So while there will be more EVs on the road, the UK economy will not be the one to benefit. But there’s still room for hope. Our guest Steven Lambert argued that the UK may not be well positioned for mass production, but is very strong in innovation and developing new technologies. An area which is growing rapidly as world economies re-think their mobility.

On a more detailed scale, there are other factors to consider.

Chargers and energy

Wherever they come from, all those cars will need to be charged. This will inevitably change the way we move and what we need from our infrastructure. For example, Petrol stations will not be needed anymore. So what happens with all that land and equipment? Moreover, do we have the infrastructure to replace it and can we set it up on time? The debate on that is ongoing.

On a positive note, there have been significant steps towards making our electricity cleaner and more renewable; The ENA has set out a plan to ‘supercharge’ decarbonisation and the UK’s first standalone 5G network launched in Milton Keynes to power-up robots and driverless cars. So our network is getting stronger and more carbon neutral. Also, EVs can act as energy storage to balance the grid.

So in terms of fueling the vehicles, we seem to be on track. That being said, electrification is not the only part of mobility.

Other transport means

When talking about reducing carbon emissions, electric cars are dominating the conversation. Electric buses are occasionally mentioned, and other means of transportation barely are. But if we want a sustainable mobility future, we can’t just make our vehicles sustainable – we need to change the way we move around. An IPPR think tank report outlines the dangers of relying so heavily on private vehicles, such as congestion, less urban spaces, inequality. It outlines that we need to shift more towards cycling, walking and shared mobility models. Our guest, Stephen Lake mentioned that cities need strategic planning tailored to their unique needs, and Philippa Oldham adds that we need to think about mobility more holistically.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps seems to agree, as he stated in March that car use must decrease. A spokesman for the Department of Transport has said ‘8 out of 10 people (78%) support measures to reduce road traffic in their neighbourhood’ and claims that the government has put in several plans to make the network greener and there is an upcoming Transport Decarbonisation Plan.

Conclusion

There is clearly a lot of initiatives in motion to improve future mobility in the UK and create a better more sustainable world. The 2030 legally binding goal is a good sign on its own. Whether the UK is going to successfully reach that is another question, but we can stay hopeful.

 

Listen to what our expert guests think on the subject on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Y-Mobility’s purpose is to make sure the future of mobility in the UK and globally happens sustainably. Get in touch with us if your business has the same goal or connect on LinkedInTwitter and Facebook.

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