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As we know, the government plans to end the sale of petrol and diesel powered cars and vans by 2030. Provided the industry can produce enough electric vehicles by then, there seem to be few barriers to ensuring the date is met. It’s a different story where heavy trucks are concerned though and diesel powered vehicles are likely to still be keeping us supplied after 2030.

Even so, under the EU VECTO plan (Vehicle Energy Consumption Calculation Tool), carbon dioxide emissions from trucks must be cut by 2030. Since our trucks and buses are mostly sourced from EU countries and VECTO is applied to the manufacturer, the fact that the UK has left the EU is barely relevant as the vehicles produced would be designed to conform to the VECTO rules.

This means that by 2025, vehicle manufacturers must cut the CO2 emissions of their vehicles listed in the regulations by 15% by 2025, when compared with emissions in July 2019. The cut will then be increased to 30% by 2030, this time compared with emissions from June 2020. VECTO will apply to all vehicles exceeding 7.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW). A review next year could also include trailers under the regulations too.

This is likely to mean that measures to improve engine thermal efficiency discussed in recent years could find favour, since such developments would reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. These developments include exhaust energy recovery systems and we may well see more turbo-compound engines too.

Manufacturers may also consider hybrid diesel/electric powertrains. These measures are unlikely to provide a large enough improvement on their own and manufacturers will also have to consider other measures including improved aerodynamics and lower rolling resistance tyres.

VECTO is effectively the first simulation tool that can be applied to every single truck available to provide a useful measure of its individual CO2 emissions. VECTO will need data regarding vehicle category, axle configuration, weight, tyres, engine characteristics, transmission and auxiliary equipment such as air compressor, steering pump, air conditioning and their respective power consumptions. You might be surprised by how much power these systems consume. Then usage factors could also be factored in, including driver behaviour, payload, and vehicle configuration – what truck and trailer combinations it can be used with.

Since CO2 emissions and fuel consumption are linked, this could be good news for hauliers since a 15%t reduction in CO2 emissions translates roughly into a 15% reduction in fuel used, which could represent a significant cost saving.

Tyres undoubtedly have an important part to play. Low rolling resistance tyres can reduce fuel consumption and to meet the VECTO regulations, manufacturers are likely to be more specific about using low rolling resistance tyres on their vehicles. To obtain the optimum percentage reduction in emissions, you can guarantee that manufacturers will assume that tyres are inflated to the correct pressures, are in good condition and axles are properly aligned. To optimise the benefits on your own trucks it will be necessary to follow the same steps, i.e. using low rolling resistance tyres where possible, checking tyre pressures and tyre condition regularly and also ensuring that axles are correctly aligned.

VECTO will also make it easier for vehicle buyers to make comparisons of vehicle combinations using different manufacturers’ vehicles, because the VECTO data will be available at dealers. So if you want to compare how your operations are likely to perform using a range of trucks from different manufacturers, the data will help you to choose the vehicle combination that offers the lowest CO2 emissions, which will be the one that uses the least fuel.

On the downside, trucks with more advanced powertrains are likely to cost more and systems such as exhaust energy recovery systems and hybrid drivelines are likely to carry a weight penalty too. Since all manufacturers will be similarly affected, these things will be hard to escape.

From the regulator’s perspective, this is a matter of squaring the circle. This is the first time that CO2 emissions reductions targets have been set for trucks. Similar targets have been set for cars and vans, while electrification is likely to accelerate reductions in direct emissions from light vehicles. The European Commission has suggested that if nothing is done, the share of CO2 emissions from heavy vehicles could rise by around 9% between 2010 and 2030. Since the EU would like to reduce CO2 emissions overall by 60%t from 1990 levels by 2050, any increase would be off the table.