T&E report focuses on decarbonisation of freight sector

Wed 02 December 2020 View all news

A new study by Brussels-based NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) says that sales of new diesel lorries will need to be phased out during the 2030s if the UK is to reach its net zero-emission target for 2050. It advocates the use of battery electric vehicles for urban and regional deliveries and for long haul, the use of an overhead catenary infrastructure to recharge batteries. It suggests that renewable hydrogen could also be an option for long haul applications.

Modal shift from road to rail, improved logistics and cutting the fuel consumption of diesel lorries, the report says, will only save the UK up to 20% of road freight greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. In order to meet the objective of decarbonising heavy-goods vehicles (HGV) by 2050, it finds that sales of new urban and regional delivery diesel lorries (below 26 tonnes) will need to be phased out by 2035 at the latest - a target that the study says can be met through a new generation of battery electric trucks. For long-haul trucks (above 26 tonnes), sales of new diesel lorries will need to be phased out before 2040.

The report points out that battery electric trucks are becoming available in increasing numbers and will replace diesel for urban and regional deliveries using lorries under 26 tonnes. For long-haul trucks, it suggests the most cost-effective solution could be battery electric lorries charged at high-power chargers or using an electric road system.

The report says that while hydrogen fuel cells lorries may provide an alternative, directly electrifying lorries will be at least twice as energy efficient as using renewable hydrogen - and around three times as efficient as internal combustion engines running on synthetic efuels. Sustainable biomethane, while low carbon, will only be available in small quantities to power a small number of trucks.

Greg Archer, UK director at T&E, said “Achieving the UK’s climate goals will require lorries to be zero emission by 2050. An end to new diesel lorries during the 2030's is both necessary and feasible by electrifying a new generation of vehicles. But this transition needs to start without further delay. There is therefore an urgent need to begin rolling out the charging infrastructure to support urban and regional deliveries.”

The report's findings were informed by an emissions modelling exercise and a cost analysis for total cost of ownership (TCO) of long-haul trucks. 

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