SMMT Reports

2022 UK Automotive Sustainability Report

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The events of the past two years have been anything but business as usual, but the commitment of the automotive sector to be greener, cleaner and better remains undiminished, regardless of the outside factors that have buffeted the world.

Following the profound impact of the pandemic in 2020, 2021 was an opportunity to begin to rebuild – an opportunity seized by the industry, despite various factors holding us back from reaching our full potential. There were many positives: Covid restrictions began to roll back, markets reopened, the UK hosted the world at COP26, electric vehicle uptake skyrocketed. There were also new challenges: the knock-on effects of pandemic lockdowns stymied supply chains, inhibiting production, energy costs began to rise, and evidence suggests that charging infrastructure investment continued to fall behind EV demand.

Nevertheless, the automotive sector continues to improve its sustainability, reducing energy use, sourcing more responsibly and increasing recycling. Indeed, total energy use has declined, by -6.1% on last year, and water use per vehicle fell -6.3%. Waste to landfill also hit a record low, of 0.6%, with 17 report signatories reporting zero waste. However, energy used per vehicle has risen by 4.5% – a direct consequence of 2021’s diminished output arising from semiconductor shortages, and herein lies the challenge and opportunity for UK Automotive to set the standard for others to follow.

The environmental performance of the products continues to break new records. Average new car emissions were again at the lowest level ever recorded, some -11.2% down on 2020 as manufacturers bring an ever-wider choice of lower and zero emission vehicles to market. Last year, around one in six new cars registered could be plugged in, while the battery electric (BEV) share of the van market almost doubled – although at 3.6%, it remained some way behind cars.

Supporting manufacturing in the UK supports jobs and economic growth. Greater output delivers greater efficiency and greater revenue which can be channelled back into efficiency improvements, R&D or essential environmental projects such as those highlighted in this report. Meanwhile, 12 OEMs have committed to science-based targets that will ensure they contribute to efforts to limit global warning to less than less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

Looking ahead, with government action to support UK competitiveness, we can help cut the UK’s carbon emissions, creating new jobs and generating growth. With the world now reopening for business, we must ensure that every opportunity is seized to deliver an effective net zero transition of efficient production and zero emission mobility for all.

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