Isaac Occhipinti, head of external affairs at the Gas Vehicle Network (GVN), advocates increased emphasis on biomethane as a key sustainable fuel for road transport
In the absence of a viable all-electric alternative for HGVs, it is clear that, to reduce emissions from freight transport and haulage, the Department for Transport’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan should recommend a role for gas HGVs as a key method for decarbonising heavy goods transport.
This will unlock the investment needed for building the required refuelling infrastructure, in turn creating jobs and building back better.
HGVs are the most challenging road vehicles to transition to electric or hydrogen power, a practical and affordable solution is twenty to thirty years away.
This is why major logistics companies across the UK are today switching away from diesel to biomethane gas as a transport fuel, which can be supplied as both gaseous and liquefied fuels. The trucks are being produced by truck manufacturers and the refuelling infrastructure is developed.
Biomethane gas offers enormous potential to transform not only our gas grid, but also the transport sector.
There are around 35 million vehicles operating on UK roads. Over 40 per cent of our road transport CO2 emissions, along with nearly half the NOx and a substantial amount of PM, is produced by just 11 per cent of these vehicles, comprising light commercial vehicles (LCVs), heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), buses and coaches; a staggering 20 per cent of all transport sector GHG emissions come from the UK’s 208,000 HGVs.
If just one per cent of vehicles in the four classes above were replaced by natural gas-powered equivalents, the UK would benefit from a CO2 saving of over 64,000 tonnes per annum and a reduction in NOX emissions of some 13 tonnes.
Unsurprisingly, the impact on emissions for each of these vehicle classes is disproportionately higher the heavier the vehicle.
Gas HGVs are already a commercial success story, having been adopted by many of the UK’s largest retailers, including Ocado, Waitrose, John Lewis, Argos, and DHL, who recognise their emissions reduction credentials combined with excellent driving cycle performance and lower running costs.
DHL has committed to go 100 per cent gas by 2028. Logistics companies and parcel carriers such as Howard Tenens and Hermes have also committed to expanding their use of the fuel going forward.
Biomethane is today’s ultra-low carbon fuel of choice for fuelling HGVs and in particular for trucks travelling long distances. When sourced from certain feed stocks, biomethane is not only an ultra-low greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions fuel but is a negative GHG fuel.
Wastes that would otherwise lead to significant methane emissions are used to produce a renewable and sustainable road fuel. No other green technology is currently available to fuel heavy, long-distance, logistics operations.
It’s an obvious choice for our climate obligations, with biomethane, net CO2 emissions could be cut by over 84 per cent. In addition, by switching from diesel to renewable biomethane gas, fleet operators could see savings of up to £29,000 per year, approximately 52 per cent.
The Gas Vehicle Network’s report, entitled A Green Recovery- Delivering a rapid & cost-effective CO₂ reduction for HGVs, showcases gas as a transport fuel. The report provides government and industry with all of the information they need to understand the key benefits.
It is becoming increasingly clear that gas (biomethane) can, and will deliver substantial financial and carbon savings for fleet managers and government to 2030.