Northern universities to tackle transport emissions

Researchers at the University of Sheffield will be part of a new research network of northern universities aiming to find new ways to rapidly decarbonise UK transport.

The DecarboN8 network will focus on tackling surface transport emissions, which form 26% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. These include emissions from transport vehicles such as cars, vans, buses, heavy goods vehicles and trains. They will also examine emissions from the construction and maintenance of these vehicles and infrastructure.

The network, led by the University of Leeds, is worth £1.25m and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will be comprised of experts from the N8 Research Partnership, a collaboration of the eight most research intensive universities in the North of England; as well as experts from Government and industry.

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Tackling the decarbonisation of transport is complex, partly because different places – from rural environments to stand-alone towns to dense urban areas – require different approaches. The North is an ideal area for this research as it has a wide range of locales, socio-economic circumstances and travel patterns.

The project will look specifically at how different places could be rapidly switched to electromobility for personal travel, and how different decarbonisation strategies needed for cars and heavy vehicles can interact with each other.

Dr Danielle Densley Tingley from the Department of Civil and Structural Engineering at Sheffield is a Co-Investigator on the grant is leading the theme ‘Digitisation, Demand and Infrastructure’ which focuses on understanding the embodied carbon trade offs with transitioning to new transport systems, and considers how digitisation and intelligent transport management systems could be used to optimise transport networks.

She said: “The network is a really exciting opportunity to bring together academia and industry to tackle the challenge of decarbonising transport. Key to our approach will be considering the whole life impact of different solutions – which will include emissions from the material and maintenance demands of different infrastructure solutions as well as the direct emissions from operation.”

It will also link into the work of the Urban Flows Observatory, of which Dr Densley Tingley is also Co-Director, using the data produced to explore and test different transport decarbonisation solutions for Sheffield.

Other Sheffield Network members include researchers from the departments of Materials Science and Engineering, Mechanical Engineering and Automatic Control and Systems Engineering.

Professor Greg Marsden from the Institute for Transport Studies at Leeds will be leading the project. He said: “The challenge of reaching zero carbon emissions by 2050 as outlined in the latest report from the Committee on Climate Change represents a huge technological, engineering, policy and societal challenge for the next 30 years.

“A key element of the work of DecarboN8 will be to demonstrate how 'place' is important to researching the decarbonisation challenge. This will open up a new branch of decarbonisation science across the transport and energy sector that will be of real significance to other regions in the UK and globally.”

Dr Nick Goldspink, Research Partnership Manager at the N8 Research Partnership, said “This is a fantastic opportunity to bring the critical mass of research excellence that exists in the N8 universities together with a developing devolved policy landscape to deliver real benefits for the region and more widely.”

The project will also include research into societal acceptance and societal readiness, ensuring that is considered from the start of the research.

Connected Places Catapult is a key partner in the research network and will lead events to bring together industrial stakeholders, local and national government partners engaged in decarbonisation in the North of England.

The N8 Research Partnership is a collaboration of the eight most research-intensive Universities in the North of England: Durham, Lancaster, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and York.