Commercial vehicle industry calls on ministers for decarbonisation plans before bans

  • New SMMT report calls on government for a decarbonisation plan
  • Findings show just 0.2 per cent of HGVs on the road are alternatively fuelled – the same proportion as cars in 2007
  • Urgent roadmap needed, says organisation

Time 8:49 am, August 31, 2021

The government is being urged to work with industry to develop a plan that facilitates the transition to zero emission HGVs, before it commits an end of sale date for conventionally fuelled trucks.

The call comes from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) in a new report published today which has found just 0.2 per cent of HGVs on the road are alternatively fuelled – the same proportion as cars in 2007.

All of Europe’s major truck manufacturers have agreed that new HGVs will be fossil fuel-free by 2040, and are investing billions in new powertrains to replace diesel, the most commonly used HGV fuel.

However, at present there is no clear technology that can provide full zero emission operations for all weights and uses of HGVs.

The report, titled ‘Fuelling the Fleet: Delivering Commercial Vehicle Decarbonisation’, also found battery electric van usage reached 0.3 per cent in 2020 – the same proportion as cars in 2019.

Uptake rates for electric vans have continued to grow rapidly, reflecting how battery power can effectively replace fossil fuels in this vehicle class, but just 2.6 per cent of new vans registered between January and July 2021 were battery electric vehicles (BEVs), compared to 8.2 per cent of cars.

The SMMT says that the UK, as a manufacturer, of vans, trucks and other HGVs, must accelerate the transition to fossil fuel free commercial vehicles and their component parts.

To achieve this, it says, the government should develop a roadmap that supports UK manufacturers and the supply chain, creating a strong domestic market and helping companies seize the opportunities that emerge.

The UK needs a dedicated public HGV charging network, as only operators who can afford to invest in expensive depot infrastructure and operate on a back to base model can currently make the switch.

The network also needs to be rolled out urgently.

The body says alternative technological solutions, such as hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, face an even tougher challenge with only 11 refuelling locations across the country.

Decarbonising the commercial vehicle sector will therefore need more support from government and other stakeholders outside the automotive industry.

SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, said: ‘The industry is committed to be fossil fuel-free, but there is not yet a clear technology path for every weight class and every use case.

‘Before it sets a deadline for the sector, the government must support the technological development and market proposition and provide the right framework, so hauliers don’t defer their decarbonising decision to the last minute. Plans before bans is the key.

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‘Vans face fewer obstacles in this decarbonisation journey than HGVs but adoption rates remain low, driven by the lack of charging points and higher operating costs relative to diesel.

‘The new models are there, with many more coming, but without investment in incentives and infrastructure, the commercial vehicle sector will struggle to meet our shared ambition to reach net zero.’

Pictured: Hyundai Xcient fuel cell truck

James Batchelor's avatar

James – or Batch as he’s known – started at Car Dealer in 2010, first as the work experience boy, eventually becoming editor in 2013. He worked for Auto Express as editor-at-large and was the face of Carbuyer’s YouTube reviews. In 2020, he went freelance and now writes for a number of national titles and contributes regularly to Car Dealer. In October 2021 he became Car Dealer's associate editor.

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