As one of the UK’s leading providers of truck insurance, at Coversure Hull we’re well-aware of the challenges the haulage industry faces. One of the largest is of decarbonisation and how UK trucking can go green.
The transport sector is the largest source of carbon emissions in the UK. While the majority of these emissions come from cars, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) HGVs account for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions and 13% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions. With the Government setting the target last year that all new HGVs should be carbon neutral by 2040, how will the UK’s truck fleet go green?
At Coversure Hull we have a keen interest in supporting the needs of commercial vehicle owners, including the UK truck and haulage industries. We also have a keen interest in Hull’s Green revolution, so in this latest blog we will explore the barriers to truck decarbonisation and look at some of the potential solutions.
Can The UK Haulage Industry Go Green?
The Department of Transport announced in November 2021 that new HGVs in the UK will be zero-emitting by 2040. While petrol and diesel cars and vans are to be phased out by 2030, the timelines for heavy goods vehicles are slightly longer. HGVs weighing 26 tonnes and under are to be phased out by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040. The time extension for the phasing out of fossil-fuelled HGVs demonstrates that while green technologies are increasingly well developed and being adopted for cars, when it comes to trucks the challenge is far greater.
Registrations of electric cars rose by more than 75% in 2021 to 191,000 and in December 2021 electric cars accounted for one in every four cars sold. By comparison in 2020 99.8% of HGVs on the UK’s roads were fossil fuelled. In 2021, new HGV registrations were up to 37,163 but, according, to Vehicle Licensing Statistics only 0.3% of new HGV registrations in Q2 2021 were for ULEVs (Ultra Low Electric Vehicles).
So, with less than 1% of new HGVs being ultra-low and not yet necessarily zero emitting what are the main barriers to greener trucking?
1. Research and Technological Development
While electric battery power is the dominant technology for green cars, battery weight and range requirements make this a less attractive proposition for HGVs. In December 2021 we saw Tesco announce that it will cut an estimated 87.4 tonnes of carbon emissions a year by introducing two DAF fully electric HGVs to its fleet in Wales. However, the lorries will only be used for transporting goods from a rail freight terminal to the company’s depot 30 miles away. In recognition that more research and development is needed for HGVs the UK Government announced in July last year a £20m funding package to help accelerate technological advancements.
2. Costs and Supply Of Trucks
We’ve seen the likes of DAF, Volvo, Mercedes and Tesla producing or at least working on bringing electric lorries to market, supply is not plentiful and those that are available are not cheap. Of course, as with electric cars, whilst the initial purchase price is higher than traditionally fuelled counterparts, the longer-term argument is that with increasing fossil fuel prices and lower maintenance costs, over the course of its lifetime the vehicles should be more economical.
3. Charging and Re-Fuelling Infrastructure
Another barrier to trucks going green is, in common with all alternatively fuelled vehicles, the charging and re-fuelling infrastructure. While electric charging points are becoming more commonplace, not all are suitable for heavy duty trucks due to the higher power demands and often just the physical space required to park up. Also, it’s less certain just yet that electric will be the most efficient alternative for HGVs, so while the technology is still in flux the re-fuelling infrastructure will be too.
4. Long-term Certainty
According to Statista, in 2020 the majority of registered HGVs were between 6 and 13 years old, followed closely by vehicles over 13 years of age. So, while fleet cars, which are commonly traded in before their first MOT, fleet managers know they won’t be tied to a particular technology for the long term that’s not the case for HGVs. So longer term certainties are also a consideration.
Alternatives To Fossil-Fuelled HGVs
Whilst electric batteries look like the alternative of choice when it comes to cars, the solution may not be so simple for heavy duty vehicles. As we’ve seen electric batteries are one solution so long as your journeys are relatively short and depots have charging facilities. One other fuel alternative that’s been prominently spoken about in the HGV sector is hydrogen.
There are two ways hydrogen could be used to power HGVs; i) as fuel used to drive a combustion engine, similarly to diesel or ii) as fuel cells that produce electricity to drive an electric motor, these fuel cells being lighter than electric batteries. Another alternative that has seen demand rise 1000% in the last 5 years is bio-methane. Whilst not strictly speaking zero emitting, reducing tailpipe emissions by 95% it’s arguably a great step forward. The re-fuelling network is also already in place and expanding, just last week (March 2022) the world’s largest low-carbon refuelling station for HGVs was opened near Bristol.
18 years though is a long time and as we’ve seen with the car industry, huge technological developments can take place in that timespan, so only time will tell if electric, hydrogen or some other e-fuel will prove to be most suitable. What’s perhaps more likely is that there’ll be a range of solutions to satisfy the range of demands.
For now, it’s likely that low-carbon solutions such as bio-methane and modifying designs of HGVs themselves will bring the most environmental benefits in the short term. With changes to legislation allowing for aerodynamic features to be fitted on the back of HGVs which studies suggest could result in fuel savings of 7-15% and cut emissions, it looks like small incremental steps will lead the way to greener trucking. There’s plenty of challenges still to tackle, but with Hull being the second biggest flood risk area in the UK, we’ve definitely got a vested interest in seeing the Haulage industry rising to the climate warming challenge.
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Whatever the size of your fleet or size of your vehicles Coversure Hull are the fleet insurance specialists with many years experience in helping fleet owners of all sizes get the affordable cover they need. If you’d like some help reducing your fleet insurance costs, then please give us a call on 0800 977 6037 or get a fleet insurance quote here.
UK confirms pledge for zero-emission HGVs by 2040 and unveils new chargepoint design – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
Electric car sales soar, but chip shortage hits market – BBC News
HGV market accelerates 12.9% in 2021 to defy supply challenge – Politics.co.uk
Tesco to begin UK’s first commercial use of fully electric HGVs | Tesco | The Guardian
Road freight goes green with £20 million funding boost – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)
World’s largest low-carbon refuelling HGV station opens in UK (cityam.com)
HGV operators can now use aerodynamic features and longer cabs to reduce fuel consumption and emissions – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)