This publication looks beyond 2019's Future Vision Report and 2020's Transition, Transformation and Innovation Report and considers the role of the downstream sector in fuelling the transport of the future.

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The Future of Mobility in the UK report analyses transport decarbonisation – identifying important issues, challenges and possible solutions to how the UK can help its biggest emitting sector meet net zero by 2050. 

UK downstream has a central role to play in partnership with governments to decarbonise the transport sector – with a vast majority of all transport currently fuelled by our products.

Today’s transport sector – which emits over a third of the UK’s GHG emissions –  is considered first. The report shows the many different ways that transport is used: from electric scooters making local deliveries to planes flying thousands of miles. Development of new, and deployment of existing technologies can replace fossil fuel use over time, but given how transport is used, each technology will have challenges to overcome and certain technologies will be better suited for certain transport uses.

Secondly, the transition to net zero itself is considered. The Energy Vector Transition looks at the importance of accounting for all GHG emissions in transport – starting from the manufacture of vehicles and their energy vectors, and even the recycling of some materials used, to highlight the importance of a systems-based approach to decarbonisation.

While new propulsion technologies will be absolutely vital to decarbonising the transport sector, other technologies and usage trends can also play an important role. Blockchain, the rise of mobility-as-a-service, changes in where we work from, and autonomous vehicles may all contribute to reduced overall demand for energy for transport and make the enormous task of decarbonisation more manageable, while improving economic performance and consumer experience.

Drawing together the themes explored before, later chapters present snapshots of how each transport sector – road, rail, aviation, and shipping – might evolve as the UK strives to reach its Net-Zero by 2050 target.


Case Study – the Future Vehicle Supply Chain


Petrochemical-derived materials play an essential role throughout a car – fire retardants, fittings, comfort, and more are all provided by plastics and will continue to be in electric vehicles.


Lubricants and greases also provide an essential role in mobility by protecting, cooling, sealing, and reducing friction in mechanical systems. 

Battery Materials

Increased demand for EVs will increase demand for graphite for lithium-ion battery anodes and the UK is well-placed to support regional demand as the largest producer of high purity graphite in Europe. 

Re-using Plastics

Reusing and repurposing plastics an important part of a circular economy.  Some vehicles already use many recycled plastics - moving forward, harder to reuse plastics may be most suitably repurposed via a refinery.

Downstream Ev

The report concludes by bringing together the technical and practical findings from across the paper. While the findings are focussed, the overarching theme of this paper is the sheer scale of change needed, and indeed expected, in the future of mobility in the UK. We can draw the following overall views:

  1. To meet net zero, all stakeholders must work together in pursuing all technology options with low carbon fuels and hydrogen (both blue and green), along with battery electrification, having important roles to play across the UK’s transport modes.  
  2. A systems approach, lifecycle analysis of transport GHG emissions, and frank assessment of transport mode energy provision, storage, and conversion demands should be essential ingredients in a transport decarbonisation strategy to ensure significant, achievable GHG emissions reductions at the lowest societal cost.
  3. mobility paradigm shift is required with new technologies and models disrupting existing mobility offers and improving transport energy efficiency. 

The UK’s downstream sector is already at the very heart of transport, both as a key part of product delivery but also in ensuring the mass delivery of energy vectors to the consumer. As this paper shows, it will continue to be important to the future of transport in the UK during the journey to net zero and beyond.

Click link to read the briefing note

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