Wales faces a real challenge to reach low-carbon goals, but the potential rewards are huge, delegates at a South Wales conference were told yesterday.
Speakers at the Low Carbon Intelligent Mobility Wales conference in Hensol Castle, Miskin, near Llantrisant, included a Welsh Government minister, local government representatives, automotive and component manufacturers as well as transport specialists.
Wales’ cabinet secretary for economy and transport, Ken Skates AM, made the keynote speech and said the automotive sector had a big role to play in moving towards a low carbon future.
“This has put them in the spotlight with new opportunities and technologies,” said Mr Skates, adding, “The Welsh sector is strong, resilient and innovative.”
He added, “Welsh Government has committed to reducing carbon emissions by 80% by 2050 and the automotive sector has a role to play in our new economic plan.
“It will chart a new course for the Welsh economy to drive our growth footprint and invest in businesses of tomorrow as we seek greater social and economic long term benefits.”
EU and UK Government announcements will be challenging and precisely what benefits will come from transition are unknown but at least there is a clear target set for 2040 and Wales has to plan for that, he said.
Environmental specialist in Welsh Government Jonathan Oates told delegates there will be significant changes in Welsh transport infrastructure over the next decade with an improvement and expansion of public transport services but it needs massive investment which has to be carefully considered.
Future trends towards electric vehicles mean more charging points will be needed, alternative fuels will be required including hydrogen stations, while society will change and probably use autonomous cars or travel less in some cases.
The Welsh automotive industry is very large and spread out and different parts of Wales will face different challenges, he said, but ended on a warning, “As an industry in Wales it cannot just hope things will change because there is a danger organisations are sleep walking into the revolution.”
In March, Welsh Government will publish its low carbon plan for the future and better explain measures to reach the ambitious targets which have been set across the board.
This will mean a lot more electrical charging points will be required, said Dafydd Munroe, of Welsh Government transport department, which is looking into provision and not-spots to plug gaps in the network.
There are currently about 316 charging points in Wales and 2,900 registered electric vehicles and both will increase in future. The UK Government has said new build homes must have charging points and probably they will have to get smart meters which not only draw electricity when cheapest but can be used to enable a car owner to “sell” power to the grid when required, so preventing peak demand collapse of the grid.
Swansea City Council has a long tradition of using alternative fuelled vehicles, the authority’s fleet manager Mark Barrow, told the conference and they have trialled electric vans for various duties and found sufficient cost savings.
Now it will develop the ev-fleet to 40 cars and vans in future, bringing savings in running and maintenance costs as well as saving 5,000 tonnes of CO2 annually and are considering testing a hydrogen vehicle, he added.
Other speakers at the conference outlined the health advantages of electric vehicles, the challenges and opportunities to the automotive supply chain and the tempting new lucrative business opportunities created by niche models such as the Aston Martin Lagonda EV going into production in St Athan in a few years.