Municipal vehicles: Wales' journey to net zero

Municipal vehicles are essential to the everyday functionality of life across the UK. We rely on them to take out our bins, sweep our streets and keep our sewage systems clean. 

But, while they are necessary to day-to-day life, the carbon emissions of these vehicles must be taken into account. 

A variety of different vehicles are covered by the term ‘municipal’ and include anything from bin lorries to recycling trucks. 

A lot of them are fleets and businesses, which are responsible for over half of new car and van sales in the UK according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). The government said they are committed to making all central government cars and vans fully zero emission by 2027.

Most municipal vehicles, especially the ones running on diesel, spew out emissions such as nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide. 
As well as this, the more fuel a vehicle uses, the more pollution they make. Therefore older vehicles consume more fuel than newer ones.

Government leaders across the UK and Northern Ireland have been investing more time and money into lowering the carbon emissions of these vehicles. One way to do this is to switch to zero emission vehicles (ZEVs), as they generate both cost and emission savings. 

Transport and Environment found that battery EVs emit three times less carbon dioxide than the equivalent petrol or diesel car, after factoring in emissions from electricity generation, car and battery production. 

The Department for Transport said local authorities need to take a variety of steps in order to electrify feets. They must identify which vehicles are suitable for replacement with electric vehicles (EVs). Then they can decide on a procurement strategy based on whole life costs, as well as installing charge points at council depots and reviewing the options for charging. 

Some local authorities are working towards the aim of net zero using different methods. 

For example, Rushcliffe Borough Council in South Nottinghamshire is converting its fleet of bin lorries to run on waste oil provided by supermarkets and other suppliers as part of their Carbon Clever strategy. 

The Welsh government, however, has made an even bigger push to transform their fleet of municipal vehicles.

Back in February, for example, they secured a deal with FleetEV, an electric fleet provider, to reduce carbon emissions. 

The Cardiff-based company signed to supply the Welsh government with 300 vehicles, including cars, vans, and specially adapted vehicles to a variety of regions across Wales. These vehicles are set to be used across the country’s public sector. Rebecca Evans, minister for finance and local government, said when announcing the deal: “It is essential we collaborate and use our existing funding and procurement levers in a more innovative and cooperative way to achieve net zero.”

She added: “This is a really good example of working together to achieve more.”

It is estimated to be the largest ever collaborative procurement of electric vehicles – and is expected to deliver savings of £660,000. 

This is just one example of how the Welsh government is pushing for municipal vehicles to be more eco-friendly and emit less carbon than their diesel counterparts. More specific to bin lorries in Wales, local councils have adopted an adorable way for the public to get involved with the acquisition of more sustainable vehicles. 

In Denbighshire, North Wales, the council introduced a new fleet of recycling trucks with three of them being EVs. However, the Denbighshire Council added an extra bit of competition; they let school children name them. School pupils submitted more than 100 entries to the naming competition.

Around 20 vehicles are still awaiting a name, and the first results are in. Lord of the Bins came out on top (although the Terbinator will forever have a place in our hearts). 

Outside of the capital, the Welsh government is continuing to push for municipal vehicles to cut down or eradicate their carbon emissions. 

In Swansea, the council’s electric fleet includes more than 100 vans, cars, road sweepers and a refuse vehicle last year. 

Andrea Lewis, joint deputy leader cabinet member for service transformation, said: ​​"Residents have always been very supportive of the council's effort to reduce energy costs, contributing to tackling climate change. 

“The electric vehicles we use are a daily reminder of a commitment that will continue for years to come.”

She said the fleet will help to cut pollution in city communities, reduce the council's carbon footprint and ease pressure on fuel costs. As well as this, Carmarthen County Council was awarded over £430,000 of funding from the Welsh government to procure 40 new EVs for front-line services. Wales seems to be on the right track to transforming their municipal vehicles to more sustainable solutions and aims to reach net zero by 2050. 

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