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Electric car charging Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images Auditors says the government has contributed towards more than 140,000 car charge points. Photograph: Nathan Stirk/Getty Images Last modified on Thu 25 Feb 2021 23.37 EST Carbon emissions from passenger cars across Britain have fallen by just 1% since 2011, despite a steep rise in the sale of electric and hybrid vehicles, Whitehall’s spending watchdog has said. The National Audit Office said the popularity of sports utility vehicles (SUVs) and an increase in road traffic were among factors that have cancelled out expected reductions from low-emission car sales. Its report concludes that the government has a long way to go to achieve its target for almost all cars to emit no carbon by 2050. Ministers have announced plans to restrict the sale of new cars that are powered solely by petrol or diesel by 2030 in an effort to cut emissions from the 67.9m tonnes of CO2 equivalent emitted by cars in 2018 – nearly a fifth of the UK’s total emissions. From 2035, only zero-emission cars will be sold. In a 2013 strategy paper, the Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) forecast that carbon emissions from cars would fall by 10 million tonnes between 2010 and 2020. Auditors examined data from the Department for Transport and found that average emissions from new cars fell by 13% between 2011 and 2016 but increased by 6% between 2016 and 2019. “The recent increase has been ascribed to several factors, which have cancelled out the reductions from ultra-low-emission cars. These include a rise in the sale of sports utility vehicles, increased road traffic and travel by car, and revised methods for estimating carbon emissions,” the report says. OZEV provides grants and subsidies to fund the installation of charge points, and spent £1bn on the plug-in car grant, which reduces the upfront purchase cost of qualifying cars. Auditors said the government had contributed towards more than 140,000 car charge points, but most of them were on private driveways. “OZEV informed the NAO that it initially focused on supporting people with off-street parking or with an ability to charge at work. It has not yet focused sufficiently on charge point availability for people who do not have a driveway,” the report says. Meg Hillier, the chair of the public accounts committee, expressed concern at the findings and said the government must help to make electric cars an affordable and practical option for most people. “The vast majority of charging points are for private off-street parking. Not everyone has a driveway to charge their car. And reducing emissions shouldn’t be a luxury reserved for the middle classes,” she said. “This can’t be a pie in the sky ambition – government must urgently develop a real plan.” Gareth Davies, the head of the NAO, said: “Meeting the government’s ambitious targets to phase out new petrol and diesel cars in less than a decade still requires a major transition for consumers, carmakers and those responsible for charging infrastructure. “Government now has the opportunity to reflect on what has gone well and better target its interventions and spending to secure this fundamental change and deliver the carbon reduction required.” A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “This government is going further and faster to decarbonise transport by phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2030. “Ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs) now represent nearly 11% of the new car market.


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This has fueled the long-running trend of increased integration. But not everything is as easy to integrate as digital electronics. Optics has been an area that has presented extreme difficulties because silicon has an indirect bandgap and does not normally emit light. But researchers at MIT have fabricated a silicon chip with fully integrated LEDs , bright enough to enable state-of-the-art sensor and communication technologies. The advance could lead to not only streamlined manufacturing, but also better performance for nanoscale electronics. Optical components are usually fabricated using III-V semiconductors. Jin Xue, a PhD student in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE), led the research that came up with a silicon-based LED with specially engineered junctions that enhance brightness. This created enough light to transmit a signal through 5 meters of fiber optic cable. GlobalFoundries manufactured the LEDs right alongside other silicon microelectronic components, including transistors and photon detectors. While the LED is not yet as efficient as those manufactured using a III-V material, Professor Rajeev Ram, who leads the Physical Optics and Electronics Group in RLE, is hopeful for the future. According to Ram, III-V semiconductors have nonideal surfaces, riddled with “dangling bonds” that allow energy to be lost as heat rather than as light. In contrast, silicon forms a cleaner crystal surface, and it is this what they hope to make use of in the future. Researchers at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Technische Universität Darmstadt are working on ways to make wireless communications more feasible for industrial manufacturing plants. The group aims to make wireless technologies that have power and reliability comparable to fiber optics and that could replace cabled connections. The team created a parameterization of a millimeter-band signal propagation model, a wireless technology capable of transmitting a huge amount of data per second, in an industrial environment. “This study is aimed at making communication less expensive and more flexible by incorporating mobile devices into the manufacturing process, something that could be very useful in moving towards Industry 4.0, since it allows, for example, connecting freely movable robotic arms to the production process or establishing communications for data reporting, and click now controlling or stopping the different components of the process in an emergency. But it could also allow the worker to be a part of the process,” said Cristina Cano, a researcher from the Wireless Networks (WiNe) group at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute (IN3) at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. But industrial settings have unique environments that change the way wireless signals propagate, Cano added. “There are several models for millimeter bands in office and urban settings, but there are hardly any in industrial settings. These sorts of facilities differ in many ways which could interfere with the behavior of the wireless signal, such as the height of the ceiling, the material of the walls and floors, or the type of machinery they contain. Our research has allowed us, for the first time, to establish the parameters for an industrial environment.” The researchers were able to measure the behavior of this type of signal at the ALBA synchrotron, an electron accelerator located in Barcelona that has characteristics that resemble different industrial environments in large production plants.

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