Networks to prepare UK transport for a low carbon future

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Five new networks will help to tackle climate change by removing barriers to low carbon transport in the UK, ranging from commercial flights using electric airplanes to decarbonised freight transport and hydrogen-fuelled cars.

Supported with £5 million of funding, the five Decarbonising Transport Networks+ will bring together expertise from across academia and industry to lay the groundwork for the use of low carbon technologies across the road, rail, marine and air networks.

Energy and Clean Growth Minister Kwasi Kwarteng said: “A modern, advanced transport system is one that connects people to jobs while boosting economic growth and productivity. But with transport representing almost a quarter of Europe’s greenhouse gases, the industry also needs to evolve to become more sustainable.

“Bringing together some of the brightest minds from all corners of the UK, these transport networks will boost the development of technologies that have the potential to clean up our transport systems – so we can cycle, drive and even fly into a greener future.”

Transport Minister George Freeman said: “A 21st century society needs a clean, green, integrated transport network, and we are stepping up the pace to deliver this.

“These pioneering projects will drive forward new technologies across roads, rail, shipping and aviation, laying the groundwork for a truly low carbon future, to the benefit of everyone.”

The networks have each been awarded up to £1 million of funding by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). They will identify challenges to the decarbonisation of transport networks across the UK and test new solutions, focusing on key technologies including future charging infrastructure for electric vehicles, alternative fuels and the shift to autonomous vehicles.

A wide range of partners across academia, industry and the public sector are involved in the networks. Partners include the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, the Department for Transport, Hyundai-Kia, Aston Martin, Transport for London, Transport for Wales, the Welsh Government and the National Grid.

UK Research and Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Transport is the biggest contributor to carbon dioxide emissions in the UK, and the fastest growing contributor to climate emissions globally.

“Adapting our transport systems to low carbon technologies is vital for the future health of the planet, and the networks announced today will undertake important work in preparing the UK for this transition.”

Professor Greg Marsden, who leads the DecarboN8 network, has been appointed as the Decarbonising Transport Champion and will co-ordinate between each Network+ and act as a champion of the decarbonising transport challenge to the government, policy and industry.

Professor Marsden said: “The scale of the challenge in transport is huge and varied as the different networks show. We need innovation in all of these areas so this is a welcome and critical investment.”

Summaries of the Decarbonising Transport Networks+

Network-H2: A Network for Hydrogen-Fuelled Transportation

Led by: Professor Tony Roskilly, Durham University  

Academic partners: Newcastle University, University of Southampton

Partners: Advanced Propulsion Centre UK Ltd, Consortium on Turbulent Reacting Flows, Department for Transport, Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Energy Systems Catapult, Transport Systems Catapult, UK Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association

The use of hydrogen could deliver significant environmental benefits for transport and the wider energy system, for instance in hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. Network-H2 brings together leading experts across aviation, rail, road and marine transportation modes to support the decarbonisation of all aspects of transport network through the utilisation of hydrogen. The network will cut across technology, socio-economics, behavioural science and policy to facilitate engagement and knowledge transfer.

Decarbonising the UK’s Freight Transport

Led by: Dr Tristan Smith, UCL

Academic partners: Newcastle University, University of Strathclyde, University of Oxford, University of Edinburgh, University of Westminster, University of Cambridge, University of Plymouth, The University of Manchester, Heriot-Watt University, University of Southampton

Partners: Argent Energy (UK) Ltd, BMT Group Ltd (UK), British Ports Association, Cargill Inc, Chalmers University of Technology, Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, Copenhagen Business School, Department for Transport, Environmental Defense Fund Europe, Fraunhofer Institute, Freight Transport Association Ltd, Future Proof Shipping, Global Maritime Forum, IMarEST, International Windship Association, Lloyd’s Register EMEA, Maritime Strategies International, Norsepower Oy Ltd, Norwegian School of Economics, Optrak Distribution Ltd, Shell, Smart Green Shipping Alliance, Stockholm Environment Institute, Sustainable Shipping Initiative, UK Chamber of Shipping, University of Antwerp, University of the South Pacific, WEGEMT

The network aims to unleash significant investment for freight decarbonisation, which will benefit the environment as heavy goods vehicles, ships and other freight increasingly move to use clean technologies. The network will look to prepare the wider industry for decarbonisation, commissioning projects that will look at aspects ranging from the use of data to enable investment, to the pathways for moving freight transport’s energy and propulsion technology away from dependence on fossil fuel. 

Decarbonising Transport through Electrification (DTE), a Whole System Approach

Led by: Professor Liana Cipcigan, Cardiff University

Academic partners: Cranfield University, University of Bristol, University of Birmingham, University of Southampton

Partners: Aston Martin, Safran Power UK Ltd, Ricardo Group, National Grid, SP Energy Networks, EA Technology, Transport for London, Transport for Wales, Turbo Power Systems, ABB, FTI Consulting , NR Electric UK Ltd, WSP Group plc UK, Scorpion Power System Ltd., JingGe Electromagnetics Ltd., QUERCUS Investment Partners, Welsh Government, COST, Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering

The network will bring together expertise from across industry, academia and the public sector to transform current practices and research in the decarbonisation of transport, looking at the electricity networks, electric vehicle charging infrastructure, electric and hybrid aircraft and the electrification of the rail network, exploring drivers for change and technology innovation.

NewJet Network+

Led by: Dr Simon Blakey, University of Birmingham

Academic partners: Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Sheffield, Aston University, Cardiff University, Heriot-Watt University

Partners: BP International Ltd, Department for Transport, Renovare Fuels Ltd

Aviation and aerospace is a vital sector in the UK, contributing more than £22bn a year to the economy. Low carbon technologies are crucial to the future of the industry and benefiting the environment for short haul flights. Medium to long haul flights account for 97 per cent of the UK’s aviation emissions and require a low carbon liquid fuel to decarbonise. The network will explore the barriers that face the adoption of low carbon, synthetic fuel and the benefits that its adoption enables for commercial aviation beyond a reduction in CO2, including a modified conventional fuel production beyond the existing fuel specification.

DecarboN8 – An Integrated Network to Decarbonise Transport

Led by: Professor Greg Marsden, University of Leeds

Academic partners: University of Durham, University of Sheffield, The University of Manchester, Lancaster University, Newcastle University, University of York, University of Liverpool

Industry partners: Accents, Arup Group Ltd, Centrica PLC, Department for Transport, Durham County Council, Electricity North West, First Group, Fore Consulting Ltd, Hyundai-Kia Motors, Lancaster City Council, Leeds City Council, Liverpool City Region LEP, Nexus Ltd, Northern Gas Networks, Sheffield City Council, Siemens, Sustrans, The Committee on Climate Change, Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport for the North, Transport Systems Catapult, Urban Transport Group, Zero Carbon Futures

A new network of researchers, working closely with industry and government, will look to design solutions that can help to decarbonise the transport industry. Looking to answer questions on how different types of places can be rapidly switched to low carbon transport systems and how this transformation can be managed, it will facilitate new collaborations and test solutions.