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  • Dec 20, 2022

  • 8 min read


The importance of sustainability in transport

Transport continues to be one of the biggest culprits for polluting our planet. Globally, it accounts for around a quarter of the world's CO2 emissions. Harmful greenhouse gas emissions from petrol and diesel vehicles are a major contributor to climate change. They're also responsible for poor urban air quality and negatively impact public health. Did you know that in the UK alone, more than 35,000 people die each year from air pollution? Many of us don’t realise that air pollution has such bad implications for public health, and at Octopus EV we’re on a mission to change this.

Although we know that many vehicles pollute, for most of us, giving up our travel isn’t really an option. We need to travel to see friends and family, get to work and take well-earned holidays. So, given we still need to travel, how can transport be made more sustainable? And how can we make greener travel choices in our work and personal lives? Let’s take a look.

What is the environmental impact of transport?

Almost a third of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transport sector and most of that comes from road vehicles. In 2019, this amounted to 122 million metric tons of carbon dioxide (MtCO2e) - more than agriculture and residential carbon emissions combined.

In 2020, the largest fall in emissions was recorded, when they dropped 19%. This was due to the pandemic, when domestic and international travel was significantly reduced. Provisional data suggests that after this dramatic drop, domestic transport CO2 emissions are back on the rise again, with estimates showing an increase of 10% in 2021.

The pollution from traditional combustion engine transportation vehicles has many damaging effects on the environment, including:

  1. Tailpipes on fuel-powered cars emit soot and nasty exhaust gases that cause harmful air pollution, especially in built-up urban areas. This disproportionately affects our children and babies. One in three children grow up in areas where there are unsafe levels of air pollution which can lead to asthma, stunted lungs and even brain development issues.
  2. Non-electric vehicles rely on the extraction of crude oil which can be harmful to the natural environment. Not only can the extraction be harmful, but the transportation of crude oil poses a threat to our oceans as we saw with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (also known as the BP oil spill) in 2010.
  3. Internal combustion engines are noisy. Noise pollution is linked to health problems in humans and wildlife. It can cause stress, high blood pressure and hearing problems. It can also interfere with animals’ breeding cycles which means some of our animal and bird population numbers may go into decline.

What is sustainable transport?

Sustainable transportation  reduces negative impacts on the environment. It’s energy-efficient, low- or zero-emissions and affordable.

Transportation that’s sustainable includes electric vehicles (which don’t emit polluting exhaust fumes and can run on renewable energy sources) and vehicles that run on alternative fuels like hydrogen and biofuel. Greener transportation also includes other modes of active travel like cycling, scootering and walking. If you're able to take public transportation or one of these active travel options wherever possible, you can travel more sustainably.

Why is sustainable transport important?

Making the move to green transportation is a crucial element in the UK government’s decarbonisation pathway for achieving net zero by 2050. It’s only by focusing on cleaner, low- and zero-emission modes of travel that we can hope to vastly cut climate-wrecking emissions and balance the CO2 books in the next 25 years.

By moving to more sustainable transport we'll reap lots of environmental and health benefits, including:

  • Less noise and air pollution.
  • Less reliance on finite fossil fuels.
  • Future-proofed transportation that can run on renewable energy sources.
  • Greater carbon efficiency.
  • Transportation infrastructure that supports low-emissions vehicles and active travel.
  • Improvements in the overall health and wellbeing of people, the planet and wildlife.

What can businesses do to support sustainable transport?

We can all play our part in making the move to more sustainable transportation. As a business, you can show your commitment to net zero and support your employees with green transportation initiatives. Either support them to take public transportation, encourage a cycle-to-work scheme or consider EV salary sacrifice schemes to make it easier to afford a new electric vehicle. As the UK aims to stop selling new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, this is a great way to provide your team with future proofed sustainable transport options.

Electric vehicle salary sacrifice

A cycle-to-work scheme is a great option for supporting your employees who are into active travel, and why not take it a step further? Take a look at our EV salary sacrifice scheme.

With no upfront cost, your team can access an amazing range of cleaner, greener, high-spec electric vehicles. They simply sacrifice a small portion of their salary each month in return for an eco-friendly, carbon emission-cutting car. The Income Tax and National Insurance they’ll save makes an EV more affordable and even up to 40% cheaper.

As an employer, you won’t pay a thing, and you’ll save money with lower National Insurance contributions. At zero cost to you, you can encourage more sustainable travel and help your team feel part of the fight against climate change. Learn more about why companies choose our electric car scheme.

Electric vehicle business lease

Use a company car? We’ve got great green transportation options for that too.

When you hire an electric car on a business EV lease you can make great business tax savings:

  • Claim up to 50% of the VAT on your monthly lease payments and 100% of the VAT for maintenance costs.
  • Enjoy much lower benefit in kind (BIK) contributions (company car benefit tax) at only 2%, compared to up to 37% for some fuel-powered cars.

Got a whole fleet of business cars you want to switch to EVs? We’ve got that covered too!

If you have 20 or more company cars, our flexible fleet agreement is a great option. Make a bigger impact by switching all of your petrol and diesel cars to more sustainable electric ones. You’ll reap greater financial rewards with multiple tax savings and incentives while securing flexible leasing options for your team.

Other sustainable transport tips

Aside from greener transportation incentives, there are other steps as businesses and individuals we can take to support more sustainable travel, like:

  • Walking, scootering or cycling instead of taking the car for short journeys.
  • Car sharing or carpooling with family, friends and workmates.
  • Travelling by train rather than a plane when we can.
  • Driving more efficiently. Excess speeding, harsh braking, driving with deflated tyres and blasting the heating or air con all use more energy and should be avoided if possible.

Making transportation more sustainable won’t be easy and won’t happen overnight, but if all of us take action — in our work and personal lives — we can make a real impact. If we all do our bit and work together, a greener, more sustainable transport future and a net zero 2050 can be achieved.