UK motorists are set to be paid thousands of pounds to give up their cars in favour of public transport and other low-carbon alternatives as part of a new Government-funded scheme.
The initiative, which is currently unnamed, is due to launch in Coventry this year, with residents set to receive cash grants for pledging to scrap their cars and use alternatives such as electric vehicle (EV) sharing schemes, pedal bicycles and public transport.
Under the scheme, funding from central Government will be transferred to participants’ “smart cards” by the West Midlands Combined Authority. The cards can be used to purchase tickets across the national train and bus network and membership to local car and bike sharing schemes.
Around 100 people living in Coventry city centre will take part in the scheme initially, as part of a six-month trial, with the Government set to scale the initiative up if it proves successful at encouraging behaviour change.
While the amount of money which will be available under the scheme is yet to be confirmed by the Department for Transport (DfT), sources have told The Times that each motorist could receive up to £3,000 per year for taking part. The initial trial is being funded as part of a £20m DfT award.
Documents presented to the West Midlands Combined Authority ahead of the scheme’s approval this week stated that it would serve to test the amount of money needed to” trigger long-term changes” in the British public’s travel habits – a sentiment echoed by Coventry City Council’s head of transport and innovation John Seddon.
“We see it as a variant of scrappage schemes of the past but rather than trading in an old car for a newer one, it is trading in the car for the ability to use other modes of transport,” Seddon said.
“For it to be fully effective we would want people to make the commitment where the car was at least surrendered for a particular time.”
A new mobility future
The unveiling of the scheme comes at a time when transport is the most carbon-intensive sector in the UK. It overtook the power industry as the most emitting sector in 2016, and saw its emissions rise by 2% last year, with the main source of emissions deriving from the use of petrol and diesel.
In response to the issue, carmakers are continually releasing new low-carbon models to help combat the dual challenges of carbon emissions and air pollution and such technology – as well as biogas – now beginning to become a viable alternative for larger vehicles. In tandem, a string of retailers, hospitality and leisure firms, car brands and estate managers have begun to improve their EV infrastructure offerings, while National Grid is bolstering its electricity network to accommodate extra demands from EV charging.
But several key industry bodies have begun to argue that electrification alone is not enough, and that changes to consumer behaviour and new planning mechanisms to prepare for all forms of low-carbon mobility must now be implemented. Among them is the Aldersgate Group, which this month released a report urging policymakers to adopt a “system-wide” approach to cutting emissions across all modes of transport, and Friends of the Earth, which is currently lobbying for the Government to subsidise bus travel in a bid to decrease car ownership.
The good news is that new business models which encourage low-carbon and shared mobility are now emerging and growing at a pace. Volkswagen, for example, recently launched an EV sharing platform in Berlin, after finding that the uptake of on-demand vehicles in Europe is set to rise by 15% annually, with similar offerings being put on the market by the likes of Renault, Rideshare and Zipcar in recent months.