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Fresh air thinking: using electric vehicles to improve air quality

10 Nov 2019

We asked Dan Saunders, the zero and ultra-low emissions specialist for Octopus Energy Investments, to explain how Octopus is helping to bring about the much-needed shift to cleaner transportation, in the nation’s capital and beyond.

Air pollution: the toxic truth

In the UK, we’re facing shocking realities as a result of poor air quality. A report by King’s College London estimates that between 28,000 and 36,000 people die as a result of air pollution every year.

In the capital, around half of emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) come from transport. And it’s a similar story across the UK.

Whether we’re walking to work, taking the bus to school, or even driving a low-emission car, we’re all at risk of high levels of air pollution. Shockingly, scientists believe that pollution levels can be up to twelve times worse inside cars than out, as they’re essentially sealed boxes collecting toxic gases from surrounding vehicles.

Children are most vulnerable: air pollution can stunt lung growth and is a contributing factor to asthma and other respiratory conditions.

The bigger picture

It’s clear there’s an urgent need to reduce the dangerous levels of emissions we’re exposed to daily.

Positive change is already in motion.

Cities around the UK are implementing Clean Air Zones, and transport authorities are committing to roll out clean public transportation. This includes the Ultra Low Emission Zone in Central London – vehicles will need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel within the area.

And in last October’s Budget, the Chancellor announced the appointment of a manager for the £400 million fund for EV charging infrastructure.

These are all encouraging signs of a gear change in corporate and governmental leadership on cleaner transport.

At Octopus, we’re committed to accelerating the shift to zero or ultra-low emission transport. And we know this is about much more than replacing every polluting vehicle on the road with an electric one.

It takes a holistic approach. That’s why we’re investing in clean transport solutions that cover not only zero and ultra-low emission vehicles but charging and clean fuel infrastructure and energy grid upgrades, too.

Maximising our impact

Our focus at the moment is on companies that are dependent on highly utilised vehicles, such as public transport providers, logistics companies and retailers.

Recently, we worked with We Know Group and Heathrow to help deliver the airport’s emissions strategy and action plan. As part of this, we funded a new fleet of zero-emission Jaguar I-PACE cars to service Heathrow, where taxis and minicabs make up almost 30% of carbon emissions from ground passenger transport.

We invest in projects like this using a pay-per-mile mechanism, so utilisation risk is shared with vehicle operators.

Better for the air, better for your pocket

Whether you manage a fleet of vehicles, drive for work or simply own a car, vehicles run on cleaner alternative fuels can be cheaper to operate in the long term. While these vehicles can cost more upfront, the investment is paid off in lower running costs.

Demand for EVs among domestic car owners is rising year on year. And Octopus is helping people make the switch. With the right attitude – and the right investments – cleaner transport will soon become the new normal.


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