Decarbonising Road Freight: The Clean Transport Transition

Published: 6 December 2019

The aim of the Decarbonising Road Freight project was to explore pathways for reducing emissions from the freight sector with a focus on Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs).

A collaboration between Energy Systems Catapult and the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK, who are supporting the transition to clean transport and mobility solutions, the objective of the work was to improve the understanding on the different options for reducing emissions and to collect input data for the modelling activities.

Two workshops were organised with representatives from industry and academia from both the Catapult and APC networks. The workshops provided a qualitative view on the problem of decarbonising HGVs which were converted by the project team into modelling scenarios.

Road Freight: Key points

  • Business models: The shift demand scenario reduced emissions not only from the HGV sector, but the road freight services sector overall by about 10% without the need for additional policies. This shows that new business models could have a role to play in the decarbonisation of the transportation service sector, but the additional infrastructure to support the increased number of medium goods vehicles (MGVs) and light goods vehicles (LGVs) will have to be further explored.
  • Powertrains: The introduction of new powertrains and vehicle categories optimised to operators’ usage and the updated techno-economic data affected the ESME modelling results. Quantification of these impacts will need further investigation.

Electric vehicles are more cost competitive compared to hydrogen powertrains. To support uptake of hydrogen vehicles in the HGV sector efforts should be made to reduce technology costs. Further to cost effective reductions, other factors related to the operation of vehicles should be considered. Diesel (or alternative low carbon or renewable) fuelled vehicles with improved emissions could be used as transition vehicles.

  • Infrastructure: As with the vehicle costs, higher infrastructure costs for hydrogen resulted in higher operator costs. Based on a mix of generation technologies, the commodity price of hydrogen was comparable to the electricity price.

High CAPEX costs for the refuelling stations increased the fuel price the operators will see resulting in lower uptake of hydrogen vehicles. Similarly, catenary vehicles were not cost competitive because of high infrastructure costs.

  • Policy: Enforcing stricter regulations on emissions could facilitate the quickest transition to a zero emission HGV fleet, leading to a zero emission vehicle parc by 2050. The methods by which policy can support operators in the transition to net zero emission powertrains and mechanisms to ensure infrastructure is in place need consideration.

Discover our technical expertise and insights on Transport from a whole energy system perspective.