CARS - Connecting Administrative vehicle data for Research on Sustainable Transport

Passenger cars and vans make a significant and stubborn contribution to air pollution and climate change as well as vital agendas relating to social inclusion, road safety, health and well-being, congestion, place-making and the expansion of the energy system to accommodate electrification of the transport sector.

This project will unlock access to an annually updated data resource that tracks make/model, mileage, emissions and registered location of all registered cars and vans in England and Wales (and Scotland) throughout their lifetime. In doing so, it will provide capacity for scientific and public policy analysis, diagnosis and monitoring of this wide range of vital societal challenges that stem from the adoption and use of light duty motor vehicles.

The data will allow issues and trends to be examined at the national ‘macro’ level as well as provide local and regional authorities with a transformative resource to track the evolution and use of their vehicle fleets to design and evaluate place-based interventions.

This project will provide an annually updatable longitudinal dataset (dating back to ~2006/7) of the characteristics, location, annual mileage and associated emissions of every light-duty vehicle (cars and vans < 3.5 tonnes) in GB, which can be used at national and local levels to support sustainable transport policy design and implementation. It will do this by linking and opening up two data-sets related to the registration and usage patterns of these vehicles:

1. "Registration data": the DVLA's vehicle licensing procedures generate vehicle stock tables, compiled for about 40 million vehicles each quarter, which record the location of the registered keeper through the vehicle's lifetime as well as numerous vehicle attributes. The Department for Transport (DfT) receives this data quarterly and publishes aggregated vehicle licencing statistics with a very limited number of vehicle characteristics.

2. "MOT data": since 2006, the DVSA has digitally recorded the make, model, age, engine type and odometer reading of every vehicle taking an annual road worthiness ('MOT') test in GB. Approximately 30 million tests and 50 million associated items are added each year. This data has been on public release since late 2010 but the database only includes a vehicle once it has its first test (usually after three years) and so it is only a partial record of all vehicles. The data on public release also does not include the location of the registered keeper. The creation of annual mileages for each vehicle from the odometer reading supplied in the MOT data is computationally complex and forms a core part of our work to date.


The goal is that these two sets of data generated by the motoring public will be routinely combined, mileage calculations standardised and automated and an anonymised single set of data is made available. We expect to produce multiple research-ready datasets from this project. Our core 'minimum viable product' (MVP) will consist of:

1. 'Vehicle-level Data' which is the most disclosive and stored inside a Trusted Research Environment (TRE) (The ONS Secure Research Environment)

2. 'Aggregated Vehicle Data' which is aggregated to an appropriate geography, such as LSOA and also stored within the TRE for wider release

The fusing of the two datasets has the potential to provide an ongoing resource to inform urgent local and national transport, environmental and social objectives including:

Climate change:

• Understanding the spatial variations in car and van ownership and use and the relationship with local socio-demographic, infrastructure and policy characteristics

• Analysing and tracking the uptake of electric vehicles over space and time to inform the design of national or local policies to accelerate their uptake

• Comparing the mileage profiles of electric vehicles over their lifetime to their fossil-fuelled counterparts to inform traffic predictions and carbon pathways

• Analysing and predicting the location and usage patterns of electric vehicles in order to better target investment in charging infrastructure and reinforcements to the electricity grid

• Tracking changes in the distances travelled by different parts of the vehicle fleet in different places in response to local or national policies or fuel price rises.

Air Quality and health outcomes:

• Using information on the local vehicle fleet to design the most efficient and fair geographical boundaries of location-based vehicle charging regimes (e.g. in low emission or clean air zones)

• Identifying the most polluting components of the local vehicle fleet and targeting policies accordingly • Monitoring the progress of policy interventions over time. The dataset will provide valuable benchmarking data against which to evaluate progress and share best practice Road safety

• Analysis of the relationship between the composition and usage profiles of different segments of the vehicle market and road collisions.

Efficient and fair taxation:

• The design of effective and efficient vehicle and motoring taxation and the forecasting of revenue and social and distributional impacts of this.

Publications and outputs

This project follows on from EPSRC grant: “Motoring and vehicle Ownership Trends in the UK” (EP/K000438/1; PI: Anable;