Freight in the City, in partnership with Volvo Trucks, hosted the 'Fleet Decarbonisation Online Roadshow: Birmingham' webinar on the UK’s Clean Air Day (17 June), bringing together a panel of industry experts to help operators on their journey to acheive a zero-carbon fleet.

Councillor Waseem Zaffar, Birmingham City Council cabinet member for transport and environment, spoke about the city's plans to become net zero carbon by 2030.

Key strategies include the city’s Clean Air Zone, the roll out of around 400 residential and commercial electric vehicle (EV) rapid charge points across the city by September 2022, a trial of 20 hydrogen fuelled buses, and plans for regional low- and zero-emission refuelling hubs.

Next up was Gloria Esposito, sustainability head at Zemo Partnership, who said road transport poses a particular challenge with 98% of the UK’s commercial vehicle f

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leet still powered by diesel.

“That needs to change significantly if we are to meet net zero targets,” she said, pointing to government plans this year to consult on a date for phasing out the sale of new diesel HGVs.

Developing a charging infrastructure at both commercial depots and via public networks will be crucial to meeting government targets, Esposito added.

She called for greater support for fleet operators. “The total cost of ownership is also going to be critically important as some of these technologies are quite expensive. Therefore, policy interventions are required to make those more affordable.”


Tyseley Energy Park (TEP) in Birmingham is the UK’s first multi-fuel, open access, low and zero carbon refuelling station, director David Horsfall told delegates.

Launched last year, TEP offers a 24/7 hydrogen, CNG, biodiesel and diesel refuelling service to commercial fleets, public transport fleets and private vehicles as well as EV charging options

The company is looking to open more stations, Horsfall said, pointing to a recent study by think tank Midlands Connect which estimates the region will need a maximum of 65 hydrogen refuelling stations and 11 CNG and LNG refuelling sites by 2040.

“We now need to start developing strong baseload demand and long term contracts. We're probably around 30% capacity, we want to get to 100% utilisation, at which point we'll have confidence to build more of these stations,” he explained.

“Now more than ever, we need to keep building relationships with fleet operators, industry, SMEs and OEMs. We've got to break this vicious cycle around lack of refuelling infrastructure resulting in limited vehicle take up.”

John Co

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mer, Volvo Trucks UK head of product management, said OEMs face tough EU targets requiring a 30% cut in emissions by 2030. However Volvo is going further, setting itself the goal of delivering a 50% cut in its trucks’ CO2 emissions by 2030.

Whilst Volvo has already cut CO2 emissions on its baseline diesel trucks by 18.9%, its focus is on delivering a range of alternatively fuelled vehicles, including the 26-tonne FE City Truck for urban deliveries, which Comer said can replace 11 vans on the road.

Other alternatives include HVO and LNG-powered Volvo trucks for long haul routes and the recently launched Volvo FM, FH and FMX electric vehicles. The OEM also plans to bring a hydrogen fuelled truck to market by 2025.

Handy tool

Energy Saving Trust programme manager Colin Smith introduced the trust’s revamped Freight Portal, an online information hub to help road freight operators cut fuel use.

Due to relaunch on 30 June, it offers information on how to reduce emissions, case studies and links to fleet support schemes.

“If you have a good story to tell we want your case study so we can spread the word,” he added.

The portal also offers a Fuel Cost Cutter service allowing operators to estimate savings made per vehicle, per year through measures such as addressing driver behaviour, tyre and route optimisation and aerodynamics.

Catherine Bowen, BVLRA senior policy advisor raised concerns about the lack of co-ordination between Clean Air Zone (CAZ) schemes, pointing to the range of different charges, lack of a uniform payment mechanism and the failure of local schemes to recognise that fleets operate nationally.

She called for CAZ schemes to be integrated into the wider decarbonisation agenda rather than existing in isolation and said measures should be taken to promote rental and leasing as one way to help businesses transition to compliant vehicles.

“We urge local authorities to look at rental and leasing as an option when giving that financial support to small businesses,” she added.

Leading the charge

As part of its aim to be the UK’s leader in sustainable delivery DPD now has over 850 electric vehicles on the road, said Olly Craughan, CSR head at DPD UK. This is set to rise to over 1,700 EVs by 2022, raising the number of DPD’s EV-delivered parcels from 6.5 million to over 20 million by the end of this year.


DPD’s Vision 25 programme is also aiming to deliver all final mile parcel deliveries by EV in 25 UK cities by 2025. “We will deliver 25% of our volume in 2025 by EV in those cities. That's over 100 million parcels,” Craughan said.

However the lack of a charging infrastructure for commercial EVs presents a “huge challenge”, he warned. DPD has installed home chargers for 41% of EV drivers at a cost of over £140,000 but Craughan warned that with only 16,000 publicly accessible EV chargers across the country, this could hamper progress to net zero.

“Perhaps we need charging hubs for fleets, because it's not just DPD – our competitors and numerous other businesses are also making this transition - they need to be supported to make that transition,” he said.

Questions came thick and fast after the sessions, ranging from the impact of rapid charging on battery life, EV residual values, managing CAZ charges, HGV grant schemes and the use of green hydrogen.

You can watch the webinar free of charge online and hear the answers to all these questions and many more.