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New report shows Local Authorities still favour fossil fuel vehicles and rarely opt for electric vehicles within their fleets

  • 90% of cars currently operated by LAs, 88% of those bought in the last year and 85% of new orders placed are for diesel or petrol cars

  • Of the 82 LAs with the worst air quality, not a single council has bought, rented or placed an order for an electric vehicle in the last year

  • Results call into question grass-roots political will to widely use electric vehicles and highlights importance of displacing fossil fuel with renewable biofuels such as E10

A newly published report has shown that Local Authorities nationwide are failing to tackle their own transport emissions by continuing to opt for diesel and petrol vehicles, even after being made aware of the damaging impact upon the local population’s health and in some cases despite penalising private motorists for making the same choices.

The report underlines the contradiction between central government’s advocacy for electric vehicles and local government’s concerns about using them for its own workforce. It also reinforces calls for the introduction of biofuels such as a greener petrol known as E10 which help to displace fossil fuels in the short- to medium-term whilst waiting for electric vehicles to reach the critical mass needed to make a large-scale difference to transport emissions.

It shows that 90% of cars currently operated by local authorities are still fossil-fuel based, including a whopping 71% of diesels, and a further 3% of fossil-electric hybrids, whilst only 5% are electric. The study also demonstrates that councils are not changing their ways despite increasing public health concerns around vehicle air pollutants such as NOx and particulate matter, and despite greenhouse gas emissions from transport increasing. 88% of cars purchased by councils over the last year were fossil-fuelled, with 70% still diesel. When analysing cars placed on order by LAs it tells a similar story, with 85% fossil-fuelled and a further 8% fossil-electric hybrids. Only 7% of those on order were electric.

Most concerning of all, amongst those local authorities with the worst air quality according to the Government’s own parameters on particulate matter*, not a single council bought, rented or placed an order for an electric vehicle in the last year. 93% of cars bought in the last year, and 100% of those on order were either petrol, diesel or fossil-electric hybrids. This is despite many of those authorities, including all 32 London Boroughs, having significantly better access to charging points than the rest of the country. This approach is in marked contrast to proposals put forward by many of these same authorities to punitively force motorists out of fossil fuelled cars and into electric vehicles.

The data does show a marginal trend away from diesel and towards petrol and petrol-hybrid vehicles, which is evident in the wider population. Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show around 62% of new vehicle sales to be petrol, whilst only 0.6% are electric*. With the average life of a vehicle around fourteen years, these sales figures are likely to represent the vehicle fleet on UK roads for at least the next decade or more.

Campaigners for a greener petrol known as E10, which is used worldwide and consists of 10% renewable bioethanol blended with regular petrol, say this shows the importance of decarbonising fossil fuels whilst waiting for the popularity and reliability of electric vehicles to increase.

Richard Royal, Head of Government Affairs & Communications at Vivergo Fuels, the UK’s largest bioethanol plant, said:

“There’s no silver bullet when it comes to tackling transport emissions, we need a range of solutions which address the short, medium and long-term and confronts air pollution and climate change jointly. For too long Government’s only answer to transport emissions is to point to electric vehicles, but this study and overall sales figures show a chasm between the political dreams and the grass-roots reality.

“E10 has consistently been shown to be one of the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective methods to lower greenhouse gas emissions and other air pollutants immediately. This could be making a real difference to transport emissions right now, but we have been plagued by political indecision and its time the Government looked at figures like these and realised the need to act.”

Nic Dakin MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Bioethanol, which commissioned the study from bioeconomy consultants National Non-Food Crop Centre (NNFCC), said:

“These figures do call into question the Government’s commitment to cutting transport emissions. Local authorities need support from Government to make the changes necessary to protect public health and tackle the serious threat of climate change. If this Government isn’t serious about reducing CO2, why should they expect the average motorist to be?

“It is clear that despite all the efforts made to incentivise electric vehicles, fossil-fuelled vehicles will remain on our roads for decades to come and we need to be thinking about how to decarbonise and lower their emissions during that time.”


For more information on the APPG for British Bioethanol please visit

(*Assessed by particulate matter including the concentration of airborne particulates with a diameter of 2.5 µm or less (PM2.5). This parameter is typically used in relation to the health burden of air pollution and is widely regarded as a critical indicator of air quality. The UK government reports PM2.5 values per local authority.)



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