At the recent Motor Transport Decarbonisation Summit held in Birmingham, sponsored by Scania, BP and Optimize many of the complexities and challenges of achieving the target of Net Zero CO2 emissions by 2050 were highlighted and discussed in detail.

Des Evans with MAN TGL portrait CGE12094-114

To some this is a challenge that could be considered impossible to achieve in the timeframe that has been set.

The industry will need to make significant progress in the next 120 months in a transport sector that has been powered by fossil based fuel for the last 120 years.

Dismantling this proven business model, with as yet unproven and expensive alternatives, is not for the faint hearted.

There is, however, hope that the industry can find a way through the many hurdles and challenges but first every organisation must establish the size and scale of their current operation and set in motion individual plans to effectively reduce their emissions in a planned and cost effective manner.

First, what is the scale of the CO2 emissions currently in the UK?

The UK currently emits 381 million tonnes of CO2 annually. This represents just 1% of the world’s total.

UK road transport in 2022 was responsible for around 112 million tonnes of CO2 or 29% of the UK total.

It is therefore very important for everyone involved in the transport sector to understand what level of emissions each person and vehicle type actually emits.

Every litre of diesel emits 2.68 kg of CO2.

The average car travelling 8,000 miles a year will consume around 750 litres of fuel and emit 2 tonnes of CO2.

The average van travelling 40,000 miles will consume 7,500 litres of fuel and emit 20 tonnes of CO2

The average 44 tonne artic will travel 100,000 miles and consume 45,000 litres of fuel and emit 120 tonnes of CO2.

Understanding these calculations will help organisations calculate their current CO2 footprint and enable them to start the process of emission reduction.

For example a transport fleet comprising of 10 cars, 10 vans and 10 artics , using the average figures shown above will emit annually 1,400 tonnes of CO2.

Purchasing electric vehicles will at some stage provide a solution with regard to significantly reducing your CO2 emissions BUT before that decision is made it is important to examine other options.

At the Decarbonisation Summit, optimisation of the fleet was discussed and this examined how the current fleet is managed, how well trained are the drivers, how well maintained are the vehicles and how well is fleet data collected and collated.

This higher level of fleet management has shown significant levels of CO2 reduction and needs to be part of the mix of solutions before any decision is made to invest in expensive electric equipment.

Alternative fuels, especially HVO and biomethane, can provide fuel for existing Euro-6 engines and as there are still 16 years of future Euro-6 internal combustion engine production available before the regulation stops this then it may be a more viable solution to continue with that option for the next five to eight years.

The government might also like to consider a scrappage scheme for the 20,000 HGV units that are 10 years of age or older.

During the next 10 years electric vehicles will become more affordable, the infrastructure will be more developed and the residual value and secondary markets for batteries will be more established.

For the 5% of fleets who operate 50% of the UK vehicles, some of which will participate in the recently announced £200m demonstration programme, electric vehicles will be on their shopping list.

For passenger car , light commercial van operations and some local authorities, municipal and bus operations battery electric vehicles can also provide affordable solutions.

Long distance logistics operations, however, provide the biggest challenge to the transport operator due to range anxiety, weight restriction, charging infrastructure and it may be some time before we see universal adoption of BEVs for long distance transport.

The good news, however, is that there is now a much more collaborative engagement between government, industry and academia. It is now up to media companies like Motor Transport to continue to provide the platforms for further discussion and education of what is the most challenging issue facing the UK economy and society.

Des Evans OBE, retired senior executive and co-author ’The road to zero emissions: The future of trucks, transport and automotive industry supply chains’