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Reports highlight importance of tackling truck emissions to meet carbon targets

Mon 17 July 2017 | Back to news list

A new report from the International Energy Agency says that improving the efficiency of road freight transport is critical to reducing the growth in oil demand, carbon emissions and air pollution over the next decades. Meanwhile, a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) assesses various fuel saving technologies for trucks.

According to the International Energy Agency’s latest report, The Future of Trucks: Implications for energy and the environment, trucks are a major contributor to the growth in transport-fuel consumption, as well as rising carbon dioxide and air pollutant emissions. But the sector gets far less attention and policy focus than passenger vehicles. Only four countries have energy-efficiency standards for heavy trucks, compared with about 40 countries with passenger-vehicle standards.

The IEA report highlights three major areas of improvement:

  • improve logistics and systems operations. This includes near-term opportunities like using Global Positioning System to optimise truck routing, as well as real-time feedback devices that monitor the on-road fuel economy of trucks.
  • energy-efficiency improvements for the existing fleet should include aerodynamic retrofits to reduce drag as well as low-rolling resistance tires. New trucks can use additional technologies that cut idling, use lightweight materials and take advantage of improvements to truck engines, transmissions and drivetrains. Achieving stronger cuts in fuel use, carbon dioxide and pollutant emissions requires the use of hybrids and zero emission trucks.
  • using alternative fuels such as natural gas, biofuels, electricity and hydrogen can diversify fuel supply away from oil and also help reduce carbon emissions, especially if produced from low-carbon pathways.

Meanwhile, a report from The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) assesses the baseline fuel efficiency of heavy duty transport and the potential of various fuel saving technologies in a 2020–2030 timeframe. The analysis focuses on two freight haulage vehicle segments: long-haul tractor-trailers and urban rigid delivery trucks.

The ICCT says that heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) produce about a quarter of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from road transport in the European Union (EU), and some 5% of the EU’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Their share is also growing as emissions from cars and vans decline in response to increasingly stringent CO2 standards for those vehicles.

In related news, a newly-published study by Norwegian research group SINTEF suggests that hydrogen can be an important energy carrier to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in a range of sectors, particularly heavy transport. According to the group, making and storing hydrogen from surplus renewable energy that can then be used as fuel for vehicles is good economic sense. Eco-business reports that the light weight of the fuel cells and the propulsion allowed with hydrogen fuel provide good potential for all sorts of freight and passenger transport. 

Note: Recognising the growing importance of the heavy duty vehicle sector to road transport emissions, the LowCVP has revived its Commercial Vehicles Working Group and is developing a retrofit accreditation scheme for HGVs, a methane strategy and other promotional activities.

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