The top quarter of high mileage UK drivers produce more than half of the country’s car emissions – and could dramatically speed up reaching net zero by going electric.

If those who drive the furthest ditched fossil fuels, the UK could save all of the oil – 13.6 million tonnes – expected to be extracted from the North Sea by the 2040s. 

The 25% group also accounts for more than half of all miles driven and more than half of costs spent on motoring, a report by transport research organisation New AutoMotive found.  

The hard core top 10% of highest mileage drivers accounts for more than a quarter (28%) of miles, costs and emissions.

If that 10% were to switch to an electric vehicle (EV), they could save annually all the oil that the UK expects to extract from new licences. 

In 2019, the last year for which comprehensive data is available, petrol and diesel cars consumed 26.6 million tonnes of oil – corresponding to an annual pump value of more than £40bn, more than £28bn of which was wasted as heat.  

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In contrast, switching to more efficient, greener and cheaper electrified travel would cut those costs by more than 80%, saving an average high mileage driver £1000 per year.

Initiatives to support high mileage drivers going electric include a ‘feebate’ scheme, where those who buy the most polluting cars pay a fee and those who buy the least polluting get a rebate. 

Other suggested policies include information campaigns, social leasing and scrappage schemes – to ensure that the electric car is replacing the miles of the petrol or diesel car for which it has been traded. 

Ben Nelmes, CEO of New AutoMotive, said: “High mileage cars are the low hanging fruit of the UK’s transition to net zero. The cars that pollute the most are those that spend the most time on the road, and they need to be switched for electric cars if we want to see quick results of the EV transition. These drivers are bearing the brunt of fluctuating fuel prices and they produce the most emissions. 

“Supporting the switch to electric amongst higher mileage drivers would put money back into the hands of those most affected by high fuel prices and help free the UK from expensive imported oil.”

The report was published in collaboration with a study by US environmental group Coltura, who discovered similar trends for US drivers. Here, the driving patterns are even more concentrated, with the top 10% of drivers responsible for 35% of vehicle emissions. 

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