Motorway speed limits could be increased to 80mph as motorists switch to electric vehicles, according to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Shapps said increased pollution from the higher speed limit will be offset by an increase in EVs on the roads.

“On 80mph speed limits: I’ve been thinking about this issue and maybe even sought advice on the subject of late. I think there is an argument for looking at our speed limits, both in terms of higher speed limits and actually lower limits – 20mph outside of schools. When it was last looked at in 2011, reviewing the last submission to ministers on the subject, it was thought the carbon emission addition would be too great,” several national newspapers are reporting him as saying at the Conservative conference in Manchester. “But since I am a driver of an electric car myself I got to thinking about whether that would still be the case. I think there is an argument that once you have increased the level of electrification and therefore decreased or entirely removed carbon, that you might look at those things again.”

Motorway

Should an increase occur it would bring the UK more in line with the rest of Europe with several countries employing 130kph (80mph) speed limits on motorways.

“The Transport Secretary raises a valid point in relation to the possibility that overall emissions could be lower if a move to an 80mph limit was accompanied by a large increase in the numbers of electric vehicles using these roads,” said RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes.”However, any move to raise speed limits on motorways to 80mph is fundamentally an issue of safety. Part of the problem is that at present, there is a high proportion of drivers that break the 70mph limit, and drive nearer to 80mph. If the speed limit were to be changed to 80mph, there is a risk that the new default becomes even higher.”

Lyes added: “Our motorways are currently the safest roads on the entire network, and we wouldn’t want to see anything happen that changes this. So unless there is compelling evidence that a change in the limit on some stretches of road would not adversely affect safety, the current limit should be retained.”