A small boost to the Government’s £950m Rapid Charging Fund (RCF) could deliver enough capacity for on-route HGV charging and hydrogen refuelling at all motorway service areas (MSAs) in England, according to an analysis by National Grid.

The RCF was launched under the government's Project Rapid which aims to deliver six high power, open access charge points at each MSA by 2023, and 6000 in total by 2035.

The National Grid analysis, supported by HGV manufacturers and the freight industry, found 53-78% of on-route charging and hydrogen re-fuelling at MSAs can be provided at no extra cost to the RCF, if transmission connection solutions, for example existing substations, are used.

However, if the RCF was boosted by between 3-16% it could provide the necessary capacity for all the remaining sites across England, the report argues.

The report added that costs could be cut by coordinating with the Zero Emission Road Freight Trial (ZERFT) as it looks to deliver early trials which will also require electricity capacity.

Other sectors using the strategic road network could also then benefit from this additional infrastructure, including long-distance coaches and vans, the report said.

Graeme Cooper, head of future markets at National Grid, said: “The switch to fully decarbonised road transport will only happen if we have the right wires in the right place, at the right time.

“Our analysis shows the importance of digging once and in the right location. Planning future charging infrastructure around connections to the transmission system can bring cost savings and reductions in the amount of infrastructure required.

“We look forward to working with government and the wider industry to continue planning the future charging network and begin delivering the interlinked energy and transport system of the future.”

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The logistics industry also welcomed the analysis. Michelle Gardner, head of public policy at Logistics UK said: “In order for our members to confidently switch to these vehicles, there must be the right infrastructure, in the right places, at the right time.

"Early planning and future-proofing the delivery of additional energy capacity along the strategic road network will help this infrastructure be delivered in the most cost-effective way.”

Chris Ashley, environment and vehicles policy at the Road Haulage Association added:  “We strongly support the aim of decarbonising the HGV sector and welcome National Grid’s commitment to expand Project Rapid. It marks an important step in the investment needed to support a viable transition towards zero tailpipe emission commercial vehicles.”

Truck manufacturers, who also supported the National Grid report, called on the government to ensure the roll out happens rapidly and in a way that works from the outset.

James Venables, eConsultancy manager at Mercedes-Benz Trucks UK said: “We are delighted to have provided our input into this excellent National Grid analysis.

"We’re bringing trucks like the battery-electric Mercedes-Benz eActros Long Haul to market, but the provision of suitable HGV charging infrastructure on the UK’s Strategic Road Network is essential to the success of Daimler Truck’s decarbonisation strategy. Collaboration is key for our customers to meet their zero-emission goals.”

Andrew Scott, head of electric mobility at Renault Trucks, commented: “The work of National Grid indicates that such a charging infrastructure could be facilitated through a modest extension of Project Rapid. We believe this would be a very strategic and worthwhile investment which would significantly increase confidence in and take-up of decarbonised commercial vehicle solutions.”

Tanya Neech, head of sustainability at Scania UK, added: “Scania fully supports the Government’s and National Grid’s ambition to decarbonise heavy duty vehicles, but it’s imperative we get it right. Time is of the essence, and with our science-based targets guiding us, we are ready for the future. However, the infrastructure isn’t.

"We need adequate provisions for these vehicles and long-term subsidies and incentives to create competitive total cost of ownership and operating costs.

“Making the right decisions now and ensuring that Project Rapid considers and includes HDVs is essential, to make it not only possible for us to reach our Net Zero goals but also viable for businesses to make the switch to zero emission vehicles.”