Evaluating New Modes of Mobility
One key mechanism in accelerating the transition to a ‘greener future’ is the development of demonstrator and pilot projects that showcase emerging technological solutions, new business models, and mobility systems. One such pilot project currently active is the Mobility Credits scheme in Coventry. Reminiscent of the Car Scrappage Scheme, Coventry City Council’s mobility initiative envisages swapping older, polluting vehicles for mobility credits. Supported by the regional transport authority, Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), the scheme is a national first for Coventry and has been established with the primary goal of combating air pollution within the city’s environs. The £1m project will see up to 250 old petrol and diesel cars taken off the road and in exchange participants will receive £1,500 and £3,000 worth of mobility credits. These credits are loaded onto a pre-paid debit card and can be used for a range of modal solutions across the West Midlands, including all forms of public transport such as bus, rail and taxi, and other transport services such as car clubs, bikeshare, and on-demand bus services.
The scheme is currently limited to specific areas of Coventry where air quality concerns are significant. To address the issue of air pollution the scheme will target taking private vehicles which produce the most Nitrogen Dioxide emissions off the road; diesel vehicles that are not Euro 6 compliant (mostly manufactured before 2016), and petrol vehicles that are not Euro 4 compliant (mostly manufactured before 2006). This mirrors the wider move by national government to stop petrol and diesel new vehicle sales from 2030. According to Coventry City Council cabinet member Jim O’Boyle the aim of the scheme is about “encouraging change without imposing it” (West Midlands Combined Authority, 2020).
The Consumer Perspective
For consumers with plentiful access to public transport or shared mobility services this initiative may provide an effective solution to their travel needs. Rather than retaining an older vehicle, with limited resale value, they can receive a sum in credits that will almost certainly exceed the market price of their car. Exchanging their vehicle for credits also means that they do not have to worry about additional costs related to owning a car and ensuring that it passes its yearly MOT. However, there are possible issues surrounding eligibility as just under 50% of those who applied to join the scheme are currently working with TfWM (BBC, 2021). Therefore, a number of interested participants may be excluded from the scheme due to the value of their vehicle, or they may feel that the ‘menu’ of alternative transport modes is not sufficient for them to abandon their car currently.
Impacts and Challenges
As part of the outcomes from the initiative there are a range of ancillary spillover effects to consider in addition to that of pollution reduction. For example, the Mobility Credits scheme will also combat emissions reduction, promote health and well-being, address issues of traffic congestion and improve parking opportunities, as well as encouraging modal shifts away from car dependent travel amongst commuters and transport users more generally. The effectiveness of the project will depend on its ability to address the core issue of air pollution, but also these supplementary factors that are so closely bound to the success of green, sustainable transport. From this perspective there are several issues worth reflecting on.
The first, and most pressing, issue, is that of continuity. Will the scheme promote permanent change from passenger car usage towards public transport solutions? The scale of the scheme would suggest not. While the scheme has many benefits, the number of motorists utilising it remains low, and the reach of the initiative remains highly localised. To replicate this project at a greater scale is likely to be extremely prohibitive due to the costs involved. Equally this current scheme is geared towards individuals with particular mobility circumstances. Whilst this scheme undoubtedly supports the exploration of alternative transport systems and is being developed in parallel with national guidelines surrounding the greening of the UK economy, it is an adhoc response rather than be a component of an integrated series of policy initiatives geared towards a grander ambition of green growth. Still, there are positives associated with the scheme, such as contributing to improving the air quality of inner-city Coventry, and such an initiative is also welcome in areas which had a social deprivation challenge. Additionally, it will also alleviate pressures on congestion and parking in these same inner-city areas. It is critical that this type of project is part of a wider shift towards the greening of the economy in a sustainable and inclusive manner.
BBC (2021). Hundreds apply to change cars for mobility credits. Online at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-coventry-warwickshire-58966844
West Midlands Combined
Authority (February 2020) £1 million project to get drivers to ditch their cars
to be trialled in Coventry. WMCA. Online at: https://www.wmca.org.uk/news/1-million-project-to-get-drivers-to-ditch-their-cars-to-be-trialled-in-coventry/
 The UK’s Car scrappage scheme, first trialled nationally in 2009, is used to encourage vehicle-owners to scrap older, high emission vehicles, in exchange for a guaranteed discount, between £1,000 and £5,000, on newer Low Carbon Vehicle, with a view to reducing environmentally hazardous emissions.
 The wards of Earlsdon; Foleshill; Holbrook; Radford; Sherbourne; St Michael’s; Upper Stoke; and Whoberley.