New plug-in hybrid vehicles to help Highways England cut emissions

Highways England is super-charging its drive to cut carbon emissions with 72 plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) joining its traffic officer rapid response fleet. The new vehicles – Volvo XC90 Recharge T8 PHEVs and BMW X5 xDrive45e AC PHEV – are set to cut around 250 tonnes of CO2 emissions a year and were officially launched on 17 June, coinciding with Clean Air Day.

The new vehicles modernise Highways England’s fleet, providing 4×4 capability and supporting a target to clear 86 percent of motorway incidents within one hour, while reducing the company’s carbon footprint from patrolling England’s motorways and major A-roads to help keep motorists safe.

Duncan Smith, Operations Director for Highways England, said, “We are delighted to be modernising our fleet with the 72 state-of-the-art vehicles that will not only reduce our emissions but also ensure that we are there when people need us most.

“Our traffic officers provide a 24/7, 365 days a year service and play an integral part of our operation and these vehicles will not only withstand the rigours of the role but are also cost effective, versatile, reliable and greener.

“This is just the first step in modernising our fleet, and we will continue to invest in green and electric vehicles as the technology becomes available, meeting the government’s Road to Zero strategy.”

To help keep roads clear from obstructions and helping people on their journeys, Highways England has 270 traffic officer vehicles available – a key element of the company’s operations, supporting numerous activities to ensure the Strategic Road Network is safe for road users.

Following trials, in which traffic officers have put a PHEV through its paces, Highways England found that the vehicles perform as well as the traditional 4x4s currently used 24/7 365 days a year. 

Eighty-two PHEVs – such as inspection vehicles and pool cars – have already been introduced across the Asset Delivery Fleet, with the new vehicles helping to shift the fleet in a greener direction and ensuring 25 percent of the car fleet is ultra-low emission by 2022.

The 72 vehicles will be rolled out across the network, including: nine in Yorkshire, Humber and North East; nine in the North West; nine in the East Midlands; 14 in the West Midlands; 11 in the East; 12 in the South East; and eight in the South West. The vehicles have all been kitted out specifically for traffic officers, with enhanced storage capability, lighting and distinctive livery, and will utilise an ancillary battery pack allowing the vehicles to run purely on electric or alongside the traditional combustion engine.

The vehicles, which can be plugged in or charged on the move, will allow Highways England to manage its emissions more efficiently; day to day, shorter journeys that require less power can be completed purely on the electric battery, resulting in zero emissions.