Energy Conversation 2: Reflections from the Centre for Energy Policy

On Thursday 16 November the Centre for Energy Policy held "No more petrol and diesel powered cars by 2032. Credible scenario or green fantasy?", the second in the Autumn 2017 series of Energy Conversations.

The next Energy Conversation, "Do the Scottish people care enough about climate change to 'do their bit' in meeting our ambitions?" takes place on Thursday 14 December. This event is free, and registration is essential.

Here are the Centre for Energy Policy's reflections on November's event. 

Dr Christian Calvillo, Research Associate, CEP

Dr Christian Calvillo
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

The recent discussion on the feasibility of phasing out the need of petrol and diesel vehicles, has moved from “is it possible to do it?” to “how are we going to do it?” New drivetrains and storage technologies with increasingly longer ranges and lower costs, make this a feasible future.

However, experts are taking advantage of this time of change to transform transport as we know it. Mobility as a service, shared ownership, autonomous vehicles, and personalised public transport are, among others, some of the trends that will make mobility not only cleaner, but safer and more efficient as well.

Dr Gioele Figus, Research Associate, CEP  Dr Gioele Figus
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

In 1982, Ridley Scott imagined a 2017 where people drive flying cars. In 2017, Governments around the world plan a future where diesel and petrol cars are no longer an option and (wheeled) cars are powered by low emission energy sources. Predicting the future is extremely complicated.

However, given the recent evolution in technology, a phase out of the need for fossil fuel in private transport seems a realistic scenario. Also, it creates an opportunity to rethink mobility in a more inclusive and equal way.

Dr Antonios Katris, Research Associate, CEP Dr Antonios Katris
Research Associate, Centre for Energy Policy

Following the announcements of the UK and the Scottish Governments, there has been an ongoing assumption amongst the wider public that the focus will be on Battery Powered Vehicles (BPVs). This means a great need for batteries, which in turn require large volumes of rare earth minerals such as lithium.

Unfortunately, extraction of those minerals creates a new source of pollution, essentially leading to a movement from one type of pollution to another. However, the increase in demand for batteries has led to the expansion of the market for battery recycling.

Moreover, there are ongoing and increased efforts to create energy storage solutions that are less dependent on rare minerals. Both developments will assist in mitigating the increased demand for rare minerals and hopefully over time lead to means of storage, and therefore vehicles that will have a limited ecological footprint. 


Professor Gang Li Professor Gang Li
Visiting Scholar, Centre for Energy Policy

I think that a “petrol and diesel ban” will improve the air quality of cities, but it is hard to imagine it will be beneficial to reduce air pollutant emission in a bigger scale region. From the current situation, a major alternative case is to use electric power instead of petrol and diesel.

Electric power is clean, but it is not a primary energy. In many countries, the majority of electric power come from the coal, so burning coal will create a lot of greenhouse gases.

Based on a perspective of sustainable development, I still think it’s a good start, as it serves as an example to other countries. For instance, China is looking into an eventual ban of petrol and diesel cars. China has the world’s largest automobile manufacturing base. So we need innovation and action to against air pollution and global warming.

Professor Ros Taplin, Visiting Scholar, CEP Professor Ros Taplin
Visiting Scholar, Centre for Energy Policy

In last Thursday night’s Energy Conversation event, divergent perspectives on the phase out of fossil fuelled vehicles in Scotland by 2032 were expressed. Expert panel members and a very keen audience made up of members of industry, government, researchers and the public conducted a spirited discussion overseen by Visiting Professor Alf Young.

Change over the next 15 years and the potential for an automotive revolution with electric and hydrogen fuelled vehicle ownership replacing diesel and petrol, and widespread use of autonomous vehicles were explored. Positive impacts raised included reduction of pollution from vehicle emissions in urban areas but concerns were raised about the implications for those living in rural and remote regions of Scotland.

Tags: Energy