DecarboN8 funds five new research projects

Five fantastic new research projects have been awarded funding via our recent EPSRC DecarboN8 Network Plus seedcorn funding call and sandpit. Applicants worked with partners from different sectors to co-design research projects which responded directly to real-world transport decarbonisation challenges in the North of England, building in local knowledge and resources.

We received a large number of very high quality applications, of which we are delighted to be able to fund these five diverse and exceptionally high quality projects. Congratulations to the winning research teams!

VITALISE – Visualising Active Travel with Pakistani Families in Bradford
Dr Zahara Batool and Dr Kate Pangbourne, University of Leeds

The role of societal and behaviour change in meeting the UK’s Net Zero emissions target by 2050 is fundamental. To achieve this, millions more journeys need to be walked or cycled.  However, across the UK, we do not yet walk and cycle enough short trips to make a difference. There are several reasons including: many people find it difficult to get out of the habit of using a car for every journey, there are not enough safe routes for people to use for walking or cycling, and lower participation within some communities. This project aims to encourage critical consciousness of active travel by using the Photovoice method, and consequently facilitate change. The plan is to co-engage with Pakistani origin families in Bradford. Participants will be asked to reflect on everyday journeys by discussing photos they take of what matters to them in the travel environment, good and bad. Hence, allowing them to speak up and voice opinions about the challenges they perceive and identify solutions which they consider can best match their social and cultural needs. The results will be shared with decision-makers by holding a community exhibition of the pictures and inviting them to engage in policy-dialogue with participants.

CarbonFreePorts: Freeports as opportunities, not threats, for place-based decarbonisation of transport
Professor Matthew Cotton, Teesside University and Professor David Tyfield, Lancaster University

Freeports are a flagship initiative to “level-up” (primarily) coastal regions after Brexit and Covid-19. Freeports are designated areas for import, processing, and re-export of goods. Freeport business enjoy lighter taxes, tariffs, and paperwork. In parallel to this, are Government commitments–and planetary urgency–to decarbonise transport, including new commitments towards long-neglected emissions from shipping and aviation. This project aims to bridge these two policy agendas in two key Freeport regions of the North – Teesside and Liverpool. We aim to promote transport decarbonisation for regional freight and shipping within place-based Freeport development strategy by engaging diverse regional stakeholders through qualitative research and facilitated workshops to build localised capacity. Our research will first assess the regional socio-economic, industrial development and environmental qualities of these two places, and the climate impacts of shipping, freight, and commuter traffic. We will then engage stakeholders with the concept of a carbonfreeport – aiming to align the socio-economic benefits of Freeport development with positive, expedited and place-relevant innovation in regional freight and shipping transport decarbonisation; and improved localised environmental quality. The project will thereby build the conditions to forge win-win solutions for both prosperity and net-zero emissions targets as we build back better in the North of England. 

UnCCUT – Understanding Change in Car Use over Time
Dr Malcom Morgan, University of Leeds

For the UK to meet its climate change targets, we need to significantly reduce how much we drive. New technologies, such as electric cars, will not be enough to reduce our carbon footprint without an overall reduction in car use. Reducing car use is also expected to bring many other benefits, such as reducing air pollution and improved public health from more active travel and fewer vehicle collisions. 

Yet almost every year both the number of cars in the UK and how far we drive them increases. Reversing this upwards trend will be very difficult, so we must learn from places that are already succeeding. Car ownership per person varies a lot at a local level, from as low as 0.05 to over one car per person. In many areas, it is rising, but in a few, it is falling.  

Our research proposes identifying the areas where car ownership has declined and then work out what is different about those areas. We will look for possible explanations, such as the construction of a new rail line, which would be expected to reduce car use. We aim to produce a set of case studies that can be replicated across the country to help meet our climate change targets. 

OPTIC – Operation and Performance of Transport Infrastructure Chargepoints
Dr Craig Morton, Loughborough University

Over the next 10 years, Electric Vehicles (EV) will move from being a niche technology to representing every new car registered for use of UK roads. To facilitate this low-carbon transition towards EVs, the UK Government is investing heavily in supporting public infrastructure to allow people to charge their EVs when away from home. Nascent networks of chargepoints have already been installed in UK cities, which provides an opportunity for researchers to consider how existing chargepoint networks are being used, what the implications are for sustainability, and how this information can be assist in designing networks in the future. 

This project will examine the charging event data derived from the operation of the chargepoint network currently installed in Manchester to produce a spatial-temporal appraisal of the infrastructure. This network represents 131 chargepoints, recording a total of 65,000 charging events during 2018. Data processing scripts will be written to transform the raw data into a pliable format. Once transformed, carbon accounting techniques will be applied to calculate the emissions generated and mitigated through the operation of the network. Following this, data visualization techniques will be applied to display the temporal and spatial variation in emissions and power demand.  

The final step will be to develop a modelling framework which provides a deeper examination of the observed spatial-temporal variation in charging to [1] offer a means through which to forecast power demand/emissions into the future and [2] determine how the context in which the chargepoint is located affects its popularity.  

Co-designing the 15-minute city
Dr Alexander Nurse, University of Liverpool

This project will work with communities in Liverpool City Region (LCR) to co-design neighbourhoods that prioritise low-carbon transport in ways that work for the people who live there. 

We will do this by exploring with residents how the ‘15-minute city’ idea can be applied in specific neighbourhoods. The idea of the 15-minute city is that most daily needs (shopping, work, school, recreation etc) can be met through travelling no more than 15 minutes from your home via active travel (e.g. walking or cycling).   

Combining our previous experiences in data-analytics, transport and community planning the project will examine these issues, working with local residents and local authorities in LCR to co-design 15-minute cities which work for them. We will support planning for a case study neighbourhood in LCR, which we will identify through a walking and cycling accessibility model (already created by the team) that has potential as a 15-minute city neighbourhood. 

To support this plan, we will provide a detailed sensor-based analysis of the neighbourhood, focusing on residents’ neighbourhood mobilities. Second, we will undertake a community planning consultation within the neighbourhood to understand how data is understood, mediated and accepted/challenged within local low-carbon transport planning. 

We will share more details about this research as it develops. To keep up with the latest updates on all of our work subscribe to our newsletter. Details on all of the projects we’ve funded can be found on our Projects page.