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Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Commercial Road Transport

Cooperation is key
The commercial transport sector is facing a major transition. It must accommodate transport demand growth, and yet achieve climate goals. This requires the improvement of transport carbon efficiency – the amount of transport service delivered per unit of CO2 emitted – by a factor of six. No transport company, logistics service provider, vehicle manufacturer, government body, or research institute can realise this complex transition on its own. Therefore, TNO is calling for both public and private stakeholders to join forces and together develop the next steps in decarbonising commercial transport. TNO proposes a systems approach to support stakeholders and accelerate the transition towards sustainable transport fuels, zero-emission vehicles and increased efficiency in logistics and operations.

A systems approach in commercial road transport

In a series of five papers, TNO shows how a systems approach can aid the design and optimisation of sustainable transport systems. The papers focus on commercial road transport, as well as bus services for public transport. The challenges for the transport sector in general are addressed in the first paper. The other four papers focus on specific use cases.

Decarbonisation of Commercial Road Transport

Meeting the climate goals presented in the COP21 Paris agreement requires far-reaching decarbonisation of all economic sectors, including transport, by 2050. This requires a curbing of the growth in vehicle kilometres and the use of highly efficient vehicles that run on sustainable energy. In the shorter term, cities require zero-emission transport to improve air quality. What actions can be taken in the short and long term? Which options are available, and what are their reduction potential and costs in different sub-sector applications? This paper provides a brief, state-of-the-art vision on sustainable energy technologies for commercial road transport. It explains which fuel technologies are considered most sustainable, scalable and promising for different vehicles types and mission profiles. The scale and complexity of the challenge makes the need for a systems approach evident.

Towards zero-emission bus transport

Public transport authorities increasingly demand the use of zero-emission technologies for urban and regional buses. These contribute to solving local air quality problems and accelerate the transition to a sustainable mobility system. The total cost of operation (TCO), energy efficiency and reliability of these vehicles depends on the design, as well as the management of vehicles and the system in which they operate. On both levels, a system perspective allows for optimisation of costs and performance by harvesting synergies and avoiding trade-offs. It takes account of the interaction between the vehicles, their energy infrastructure, the bus lines on which they operate and the traffic on these lines. An increasing amount of data allows for continuous optimisation of energy management and TCO. This paper shows how appropriate tooling and a systems approach can narrow down the current levels of uncertainty, and lead to significant cost reduction and other benefits for public transport operators.

(Source: Heineken)

Towards zero-emission city logistics

There is increasing pressure on city logistics and logistics service providers to develop sustainable concepts for last-mile deliveries in cities. In the Netherlands, the Green Deal ZES supports public and private stakeholders to develop and implement concepts for zero-emission city logistics, with the ambition to enable cities to close off their city centres to conventional vans and trucks by 2030. These concepts include innovations such as plug-in hybrid trucks, zero-emission city distribution vehicles, swapping/decoupling from large long-haul trucks to smaller city distribution vehicles, and decoupling and bundling goods through logistics hubs or urban consolidation centres. This paper shows the key challenges in city logistics, and how these could be addressed in a systems approach to accelerate the transition towards zero-emission city logistics.

Great challenges lie ahead for low-carbon long-haul transport

For heavy-duty vehicles used in long haul transport, the transition to low-carbon and zero-emission transport relies heavily on improving engine, vehicle and fuel efficiency and the increased use of low-carbon fuels. The EU has developed the vehicle certification tool VECTO as a stepping-stone towards some form of CO2-emission regulation for heavy-duty vehicles. For long-haul trucks, a wide range of technical options is available, with significant potential to cost-effectively reduce CO2 emissions. Costs and potential, however, depend on the application and associated vehicle mission profiles. For fleet managers, it is becoming more and more difficult to fully understand the benefits and limitations when considering new technologies or measures. Potential solutions include plug-in hybrid trucks, truck platooning, biofuels, natural gas, battery or fuel-cell hydrogen electric vehicles and in-motion charging. But, as this paper indicates, developments call for a systems approach to identify cost-effective options that are consistent with the transition to zero-emission heavy-duty transport in the long term.

Sustainable logistics: roadmapping and carbon footprinting

All existing and planned low-carbon policies and measures will only be able to compensate the emissions increase resulting from the growth in transport demand. These measures will stabilise emissions at current levels. To achieve net reductions in pursuit of the 2050 goal, additional efforts are needed. These efforts will combine technical innovations in vehicle propulsion, vehicle configurations and energy carriers with innovations in logistics and supply chain. Without a comprehensive master plan or roadmap, however, many stakeholders will still harbour vast uncertainties about innovation risks, market scale-up and payback periods. These uncertainties slow down the required transition. In addition to a roadmap, monitoring is essential. Carbon footprinting is an important tool for identifying opportunities for CO2 emission reduction and monitoring the effect of implemented measures. This paper shows how a systems approach may contribute to defining credible roadmaps that provide motivating action perspective for all involved stakeholders. Moreover, it highlights the importance of roadmapping and monitoring, both for adaptive policy-making and for private stakeholders’ innovation and transition management. (The accompanying paper will be published soon).


Dr. Richard Smokers MSc

  • sustainable mobility
  • vehicle emissions
  • electric vehicles
  • alternative fuels

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