Extinction Rebellion protests

A ban on the sale of new diesel-powered HGVs by 2040 in order to “decarbonise freight” is practicable if the government and industry work together on alternatives, a new report claims.

The National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) said “a new conversation” was needed between haulage operators and the government and that by adopting new technologies, such as batteries and hydrogen, it would be possible to achieve zero emissions from freight by 2050.

The government has already announced an end to the sale of new conventionally-powered petrol and diesel cars by 2040, and the NIC told motortransport.co.uk that its report “effectively widens the sphere of vehicles which we think need to be decarbonised by 2040 to meet climate change targets to include HGVs”.

According to the NIC, transport accounted for 27% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2017, the largest single sector.

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“Without action, emissions from road and rail freight could make up around 20% of the UK’s allowed emissions in 2050,” it said.

According to the report, while there are a range of zero emission options being promoted, the finite supply of biofuels, financial cost and energy intensity of producing synthetic fuels means the most viable alternative fuels emerging are battery electric and hydrogen.

The NIC acknowledged that the expenditure required for hauliers was likely to be significant, although it could be outweighed by cheaper costs of electricity as a fuel.

The report said: “The decision about whether HGVs transition to battery electric, hydrogen, dual fuel (or another zero emission option) will be market led, but the speed of uptake will be determined by government policy, cost and developments in the wider European commercial vehicle market.”


The RHA and the Confederation of British Industry (CBI) described the findings as simplistic and counterproductive.

“New technology is welcome but it needs to be practical and affordable,” said Richard Burnett, chief executive at the RHA.

“A premature switch to zero-emissions lorries would disproportionately impact small freight operators,” he added.

The CBI’s energy and infrastructure director Tom Thackray said: “Banning particular technologies, without taking the positive steps needed to support the transition to a low-carbon future and to widen the availability of alternative fuels and technologies will be counterproductive.”

However, the FTA said 2040 was a feasible target, if the appropriate support was provided to freight carriers.

“The logistics sector is more than willing to make the permanent switch away from carbon-based fuels, but the government must first ensure the infrastructure and funding is in place to support this,” said Christopher Snelling, head of UK policy at the FTA.

“The FTA is calling for the government to make the necessary investments into alternatively-fuelled vehicles before acting upon the NIC’s recommendation to ban the sale of new diesel HGVs by 2040,” Snelling said.

Photo: PA ImagesExtinction Rebellion demonstrators on Waterloo Bridge, London (18 April), as more than 200 people have been arrested as police deal with ongoing climate change protests.