Whilst by 2013, official fleet average emissions from cars and taxis had fallen 9.8 MtCO2e from 1990 levels and are on trend to continue this, emissions from LGVs have increased by 6.3 MtCO2e over the same period, from 9% of total emissions to 15%. Latest British transport statistics reveal record highs both in terms of the rate of growth in new LGV registrations and in travel distances. This is the fastest growing source of road traffic (5.6% growth in 2014 compared with 2% for HGVs and 1% for cars) with vans being the component of road traffic to recover most quickly after the recent recession.

National Road Traffic Forecasts are for further growth of 50 to 70% by 2040. The recent reduction in average gCO2/km for vans to about 177 gCO2/km comes despite a continued shift in sales towards heavier, higher-emitting vans, which offer greater flexibility of use and increased payload efficiency. In any case, this performance still requires a 3.7% per annum rate of improvement to get to the147g/km target in 2020.

LGV traffic is forecast to continue to grow strongly as a result of:

  • growing and changing demand for new ways of buying goods and fulfilling deliveries including online shopping,
  • expanding urban populations through greater levels of urbanisation and significant migration,
  • urban de-industrialisation and the rise of the service-based economy,
  • increasing demand for outsourced servicing functions such as in the provision of utilities and in construction, and
  • logistics sprawl, with warehouses relocated to urban peripheries resulting in longer journeys.

These constitute a wide-ranging and diverse set of influences calling for holistic analysis based around a whole system perspective both within the transport system (freight and passenger), the wider economy (structure of jobs and trade) and the wider energy system (low carbon energy vectors).


In this project we will identify opportunities to accelerate emission reductions by addressing key knowledge gaps in technology adoption, demand growth and interactions with existing policy initiatives. In doing so we take a wider systems approach to understanding the problem and its connections to emission reduction options through the following 4 objectives:

  1. Understand the diverse composition of LGV traffic, sources of recent growth and important structural changes likely to act as forces for potential future trends in LGV energy demand;
  2. Explore the opportunities to reduce the carbon intensity of LGV private and commercial transport demand through policies, organisational and logistical changes and new technologies which act on both the generators of this growth and targeted ways of mitigating their impacts;
  3. Use a case study approach to allow focused investigation of specific: (i) systems of provision (e.g. for food); and (ii) area-based policies (e.g. Low Emission Zones);
  4. Pull together the various insights provided by these approaches in such a way that we can better estimate the potential impacts (UK-wide and area-wide) of a sample of interventions through the application of transport and carbon systems modelling, through the use of more informed insights and data inputs into such models about the van sector than has hitherto been possible.