Fleets leading sustainability shift

The 22nd Sustainability Report has found that fleet average carbon emissions reduced by a record-breaking 11.8% in a single year.

The report found that the past two decades have seen the UK automotive sector maintain its position as one of the country’s most important economic assets. Turnover is up 25.7% since 1999, to £60.2bn last year, with a more than three-fold increase in R&D spending over the same period. However, the past year has seen the industry hit hard by the pandemic with automotive sector turnover down by 24.6%.

Despite that, UK production of battery electric (BEV), plug-hybrid (PHEV) and hybrid vehicles (HEV) rose to 18.8% of all cars made, up from 14.8% in 2019, with BEVs increasing to a 4.5% share, up from 3.4%. These vehicles are also being made more sustainably with 14.2% less energy and 36.8% less water used on average per vehicle than at the turn of the millennium, total combined waste to landfill down 98.7% and CO2 equivalents per vehicle produced falling 36.5%.

However due to efficiency losses caused by reduced production throughout the pandemic, year-on-year energy, waste to landfill and water usage increased per vehicle by 11.2%, 19.9% and 8.3% respectively.

Investment in battery vehicles continues though, with the report predicting more than 300 plug-in models available to choose from by 2025. However, it warns that the EV revolution will only take hold if similarly fast progress is made in infrastructure.

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The impact of the pandemic on a sector such as automotive, one which depends on global supply lines, strong consumer demand and a highly skilled workforce, was always going to be severe. As the latest Sustainability Report shows, economic and market growth stalled with many factories shuttered and retail closed.

“Yet the pandemic also proved the importance of the sector as it turned its capabilities to PPE and ventilator manufacture and assured the nation’s mobility through the continued servicing and repair of vehicles. Despite the adversity, the industry’s commitment and investment in zero emission vehicles remained undiminished, delivering the best-ever single year of fleet average carbon reduction.

“Much more needs to be done on this and so many other sustainability indicators, to which the sector looks to the Government to ensure the framework, incentives and infrastructure exist to enhance our competitiveness and deliver the sustainable future society demands.”