Powering The Future Of HGVS

Some operators of light commercial vehicles in Northern Ireland have started transitioning to electric vehicles, in line with UK government’s aim to achieve a net-zero emissions economy by 2050.

Although many more models are coming to market, there are not yet commercially viable solutions for all vehicle types.

For Heavy Goods Vehicles in particular, there is still significant uncertainty over the potential of hydrogen fuel cell, battery electric and electric road systems to enable zero emission alternatives.

In this month’s column, I will provide an overview of why biomethane – as a renewable natural gas – is becoming an increasingly popular choice for those operating heavier vehicles as the sector looks to reduce its carbon emissions on the pathway to zero.

A Logistics UK survey found that there is still a significant gap in the market for alternatives to diesel HGVs, with many operators frustrated at the lack of model availability – especially those over 3.5 tonnes – and this where biomethane, along with advanced biofuels, can step in.

Renewable biomethane is a low-carbon, cost-effective alternative to diesel for HGVs. Compatible for use in natural gas vehicles, is estimated to be 35-40% cheaper and its use can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 85%.

Warburtons has become the latest member of Logistics UK to announce it is adopting biomethane, following in the footsteps of other household names including Hermes, John Lewis, Waitrose and Asda.

Biomethane vehicles operate on a mileage range of around 300 – 500 miles depending on the vehicle. One issue that I raise with local government here is the availability of refuelling stations, as to spend the money on bunkering the fuel onsite will be financially prohibitive for many operators. Many operators will be unable to make the switch until they are confident their vehicles can adequately refuel when out and about.

Logistics UK is calling on the government to continue supporting its adoption and include gas vehicles and biomethane within its Transport Decarbonisation Plan, set to be released this spring.

The Low Emission Freight and Logistics Trial (LEFT) is currently underway to enable operators to trial and assess new and emerging technologies, both in-service and through a laboratory-based emissions testing programme. It has been crucial in demonstrating that dedicated gas vehicles are reliable, have no methane slips and offer a viable alternative to diesel. However, while Logistics UK welcomes the funding that has been allocated to the trial, this funding is only available for limited periods and to select operators.

Logistics UK is urging government to introduce long-term grants and believes that more needs to be done to support all operators who are looking to purchase low carbon vehicles and fuels.

While trials are still taking place and developments continue to be made, use of biomethane and advanced biofuels must persist to help reduce emissions of heavy vehicles as the sector works towards net-zero emissions by 2050.

The future of HGVs will be explored in more depth at a session at Logistics UK’s Future Logistics Conference at Innovation and Technology in Transport (ITT) Hub, to be held at the Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre on 30 June 2021 and 1 July 2021.  Titled HGVs – Future Vehicles and Future Fuels, the practical session will explore the options available in terms of new vehicles and alternative fuels, while explaining the key considerations businesses must keep in mind before they procure their next set of vehicles.

For more information, and to sign up for the free event, please visit www.itthub.co.uk/conference/programme