Originally published on Transport & Environment.
The sales of new diesel lorries will need to be phased out during the 2030s if the UK is to reach its net zero-emission climate target by 2050, a new study by NGO Transport & Environment (T&E) finds.
Growing demand for freight transport will make measures to improve lorry efficiency insufficient to achieve the climate targets. Reducing the fuel consumption of diesel lorries, the number of empty vehicles, and shifting road freight to rail, will only save the UK up to 20% of road freight greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.
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.”
In order to meet the objective of decarbonising heavy-goods vehicles (HGV) by 2050, the report 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 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.
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, battery electric lorries charged at high-power chargers or using an electric road system are likely to be the most cost-effective solutions, the study shows.
While hydrogen fuel cells lorries may provide an alternative, directly electrifying lorries will be at least twice as energy efficient as renewable hydrogen, the research shows – 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 added:
“The recent announcement to consult on the phase-out of new diesel trucks is world leading. But unless the UK begins to invest in zero-emission lorries now it will not be able to achieve a diesel-free truck fleet by 2050. The clock is ticking, there is no more time to waste.”
In 2019 there were around 526,000 trucks on UK roads, causing 12% of the greenhouse gases emitted by the transport sector in the UK.
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