Institute of Transport Administration

Educating Transport Management since 1944


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Future fuels – The HGV conundrum

24 Aug 2021

Prior to the recent publication of the Government’s long awaited Transport Decarbonisation Plan my view was that ministers had left the issue of what to do with commercial traffic, particularly long-distance HGVs, on the ‘too difficult to handle’ pile. As a result many in the haulage industry had complained about a lack of direction and policy from central government. Not surprising in a way because currently there doesn’t seem to be a definitive plan for how long-distance haulage firms can be weaned off highly polluting fossil fuels. Yes many of the large operators have been trialling a wide variety of alternative fuels, including super market chains like Asda and Waitrose with trials of gas and other biofuels.

The government’s ‘Greenprint’ as it’s been called makes it clear that the transition to zero emissions is already underway for small commercial vehicles. But what’s the plan for heavy goods vehicles? 

Even if the charging infrastructure were built, current technology would mean that charging times when out on the road would clearly be too long and certainly much longer than drivers’ breaktimes.  Scania has launched a range of EV trucks that can charge in 40 minutes, but they would require a super-fast charger and the range is restricted to 250km. The big question is how much further can EV technology go both in terms of weight and distance? And what about refrigerated lorries? They would use even more of the energy from battery packs, further restricting the range. For many it would seem that EV technology just isn’t up to the job and that hydrogen is probably the best bet for future long-haul HGVs. Indeed, the government’s Transport Decarbonisation Plan mentions that £20 million is being invested to support industry to develop cost-effective, zero emission HGVs and refuelling infrastructure across the UK. And it includes cash for various hydrogen fuel cell trials.

Read the article by Peter Plisner here: