Monday 15 July 2019

DfT unveils ‘Road to Zero’ emissions plans for HGV

The Department for Transport (DfT) has unveiled its new Road to Zero Strategy, which outlines its ambitions to slash vehicle emissions over the coming decades, including from HGVs.

In a detailed, 143-page industrial stategy dossier, the government pledged to introduce a new “voluntary, industry-supported commitment” to reduce HGV greenhouse gas emissions by 15 per cent against 2015 levels by 2025.

This commitment would “help the industry achieve significant emissions reductions while realising concrete commercial benefits through improved fuel and logistical efficiency,” said the department.

It has been backed by both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Freight Transport Association (FTA), which the DfT said would be important for engaging the sector, especially smaller operators.

To aid in this, the FTA has relaunched its existing Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme as the Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme (LERS).

The new scheme will be provided free to all haulage operators, and will incorporate the 15 per cent target to help individual companies to meet it, and track their performance against it. LERS also features an interim target of  five per cent greenhouse gas emissions reduction by 2020.

DfT said it would also launch a joint research project with Highways England, which would “identify and assess
zero emission technologies suitable for HGV traffic on the UK road network”.

Large long-haul HGVs were “the most challenging segment” in terms of zero emission options, said the department. The research project would aim to “identify and jointly assess the full range of zero emission technologies… with a focus on large, long-haul HGVs operating on the strategic road network.”

“This research will evaluate the potential costs, benefits and opportunities associated with the various technologies as well as their suitability for different types of HGVs and duty cycles across different parts of the network.
“This research will be conducted with a view to ultimately performing full-scale demonstrator trials on the UK road network if appropriate technologies are identified. The research will be valuable in identifying the most promising solutions for the UK network and how best to develop them.”

The DfT would also work with industry to develop an Ultra-Low Emission Truck (ULET) standard, which it said would “provide clarity on expected emission standards and therefore promote increased research, development and  testing of suitable technologies” as well as potentially facilitating future incentives for the use of alternatively-fuelled HGVs.

In addition, the department promised to undertake further emissions testing of the latest natural gas-powered HGVs, “to gather evidence that will inform decisions on future government policy and support for natural gas as a potential near-term, lower emission fuel for HGVs.”

Diesel, said DfT, would “continue to dominate the market” while lower and zero emission options were in development.

“Low carbon fuels, which can be used in existing diesel HGVs, have the potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the current HGV fleet,” said the document.

“The vast majority of today’s low carbon liquid fuels are delivered in low blends with ordinary petrol and diesel, but higher blends can be used too (for instance 20 per cent or greater biodiesel in HGVs) – with potentially substantial greenhouse gas savings.

“There remain barriers to their widespread use; for example, issues such as vehicle warranties can reduce adoption of these fuels by operators. We will work with industry to better understand these issues and identify potential solutions.”

There was growing interest in the use of natural gas in HGVs, the government added, because of its potential to
reduce both greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions compared to diesel-powered vehicles.

“Natural gas vehicles can also provide other benefits, such as quieter operation, that may make them more suitable for certain tasks such as night operation,” it said.

“Government is working with industry, through the Office for Low Emission Vehicles’ Low Emissions Freight and Logistics Trial (LEFT), to test the latest gas trucks to assess their emissions compared to diesel alternatives.

“Where data is available in time, it will also inform the government’s review of duty rates for alternative fuels, ahead of Budget 2018.”

Zero emission technologies did exist for HGVs and were technically proven, said DfT.

“For example, electrification of large and long-haul HGVs is possible. Manufacturers have produced large electric HGVs and there has been several successful trials of dynamic charging technologies for HGVs internationally.

“Hydrogen is also a feasible zero emission solution for large, long-haul HGVs.”

Said the DfT: “Technologies for zero emission HGVs are less developed than for cars and vans. More innovation and investment is needed so that ultra low emission vehicles are ready for mass  adoption across all vehicle types in a sustainable and affordable way.

“We welcome the billions of pounds industry is investing and look forward to seeing a greater range and number of ultra low emission options for sale in the UK in the coming years.”

DfT also pledged to look at the impact of transport refrigeration units (TRU), some of which are powered by secondary diesel engines.

” There is potentially scope for including emissions from TRUs in the development of ULET standards,” said the department.

“We also want to understand whether the lower taxation of red diesel (which is used in TRUs) is preventing uptake of lower emission TRU technologies.”

It is following up a 2017 consultation with a more detailed call for evidence on the impact of red diesel use in non-road mobile machinery, which includes TRUs, in urban areas.

DfT added that it was providing funding to the Energy Saving Trust “to develop a freight portal that will ensure HGV operators have access to reliable information on cost-effective measures to improve fuel efficiency and reduce their emissions in the short-term.”

Also among the government’s plans was a major upgrade of the electric vehicle charging infrastructure, which was welcomed conditionally by the RHA.

“Of course we want clean air and we welcome this boost to encourage greener motoring,” said chief executive Richard Burnett.

“But for the operators of the UK’s 493,600 HGVs, the idea of switching to electric vehicles remains a very long way off.

“The research, development and production of electric trucks is still prohibitive. Until they become financially accessible, hauliers (particularly those operating Euro 6 engine vehicles) will continue to drive the cleanest trucks on UK roads.”

He added that the sector faced “massive cost pressure” as a result of “misguided government clean air policy”.

“It is unacceptable to ask the industry to invest in carbon-saving measures when, in 18 months’ time, over 60 per cent of today’s lorry fleet will be subject to clean air zone charges,” he opined.

“Government needs to wake up and understand that lorries have an average working life of 12 years and that handing responsibility over to local authorities, each with their own charging agendas, undermines the ability of the sector to invest.

“This industry is responsible for the movement of 98% goods consumed in the UK, yet once again, it is being penalised for doing a good job… It’s all very well to come up with plans for clean air Utopia, but everyone needs to work together to make it happen.“

Rebecca Kite, environment policy manager at the FTA and the manager of the LERS scheme, said: “We’re pleased to be able to align with the government’s ambition to reduce carbon emissions derived from HGVs.

“While it’s a challenging target, our members are dedicated to protecting the environment and will continue to lead the way in emission reduction. This year has been an exciting time for LERS – particularly with our relaunch – and we are thrilled to once again be at the forefront of environmental innovation.”

The transport secretary Chris Grayling said: “The coming decades are going to be transformative for our motor industry, our national infrastructure and the way we travel.

“We expect to see more change in the transport sector over the next 10 years than we have in the previous century.

“We are expecting our economy and society to experience profound change, which is why we have marked the Future of mobility as one of the four grand challenges as part of our modern Industrial Strategy.

“The Road to Zero Strategy sets out a clear path for Britain to be a world leader in the zero emission revolution – ensuring that the UK has cleaner air, a better environment and a stronger economy.”

The full Road to Zero strategy document, which also covers the government’s plans for vans, buses and cars, can be accessed here.

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