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The future of transport – it's exciting

An electric car is recharged
We need solutions that will help more people benefit from EVs and increase consumer adoption.Tufan Erginbilgic,chief executive, Downstream

London's transport system has always led by example and in launching its Ultra Low Emission Zone it is doing so once again. 

Most vehicles travelling through the city centre will now need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a fee. 

As a resident of the city, I believe it is important that we improve the quality of the air we breathe. 

A large part of the business I run includes BP's service stations, many of which are in London, and I see hugely exciting opportunities.

Electric vehicles (EVs) are definitely going to play a major role. Today around 12,000 EVs are registered in London, more than ten times as many as in 2012. But they are still just a fraction of the capital's total 2.5 million cars. Globally EVs make up less than 1% of the cars on the road today and based on BP's Energy Outlook predictions they would make up around 15% of cars by 2040. 

But even with this growth in EVs, it would still leave most cars with conventional engines. Currently 60 per cent of Londoners don't have a garage or driveway to enable at home charging, so we need solutions that will help more people benefit from EVs and increase consumer adoption.

I believe that we must create an experience that is as convenient for the customer as today's internal combustion engine vehicle. For example, we need to enable ultra-fast charging in convenient locations that almost replicates the current fuelling experience. That's why in July last year BP purchased Chargemaster, the UK's largest EV charging network and will be rolling out ultra-fast charging on BP forecourts from this summer. It is also why we are investing in a number of other companies that are all trying to improve battery and charging technology to support even faster charging times. And it's why we recently hosted an event that brought together leading companies from across the electrification ecosystem to discuss the challenges and opportunities that we all see. 

Nearly all speakers at our Powering the Charge Conference agreed that EVs are only one part of the answer. We also need to encourage further investment in improving the efficiency of traditional engines, including developing new low carbon alternatives for fuelling them, improving fuel efficiency and reducing carbon emissions. 

On the internal combustion engine side, even small vehicle efficiency gains can result in material CO2 emission reductions. Engine technology and advanced fuels and lubricants are accelerating this. For example, a 5% improvement in the average efficiency of new internal combustion engine vehicles registered in the EU would lead to an annual reduction in CO2 emissions of 1.8 million tonnes, equivalent to replacing 1 million new car sales with battery operated EVs. 

Beyond passenger cars, other modes of transport, such as air travel, heavy transport and marine, may not benefit from electrification because of the nature of the vehicles and voyages involved. Instead, they need to look to reduce emissions in other ways. Biofuels, liquefied natural gas or even hydrogen are all options. 

So if we are serious about bringing down transport emissions, we have to continue to pursue multiple avenues. I strongly believe this is the only way we will make a difference. The global transport system, and the fuels that it relies on, are changing. As a business, we support that change and are committed to being the transport energy provider of choice, however our customers choose to get around.

London's new ULEZ marks another step in the city's journey towards a lower carbon transport system. I hope this helps make the capital's air cleaner, improves the transport network, and continues to spur innovation in how people get around. 

That would be good news for the environment, for businesses and for all Londoners. 

BP purchased Chargemaster in July 2018 and BP Chargemaster will begin rolling out ultra-fast chargers on BP forecourts in the summer of 2019.

Published in Prospect magazine – 13 June 2019