Commercial vehicle industry calls for decarbonisation plans before phase-out


The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has called for government to work with industry to develop a plan that enables a transition to zero emission HGVs, before committing to a phase-out date for the sale of conventionally fuelled trucks.

On 31 August, the SMMT published a report, Fuelling the Fleet: Delivering Commercial Vehicle Decarbonisation, where it highlighted how commercial, technological and operational barriers associated with the likes of hydrogen and batteries have left HGV alternative fuel use 14 years behind that of cars, with just 0.2% alternatively fuelled in 2020 Battery electric LCV use, meanwhile, is lagging a year behind that of cars, with battery electric van usage found to be 0.3% in 2020. In particular, it identified the proposed creation of two new infrastructure networks – electrical charging and hydrogen refuelling – as among the biggest challenges facing the UK to decarbonise road freight transport.

A significant increase in the provision of hydrogen for refuelling to realise opportunities for it as a zero-emission long-distance heavy transport fuel and beyond, with just 11 hydrogen fuelling points for vehicles of any size in the UK. Furthermore, the hydrogen dispensed from these fuelling points is made from fossil fuels or electrolysis of water, meaning that it will not be carbon neutral unless the electricity used is entirely from renewables.

The UK also needs a dedicated public HGV charging network to be rolled out “urgently” with the SMMT citing forecasts from the ACEA of the requirement for 8,200 public HGV charging points by 2030. This equates to more than two new charge points opening every day from now until the end of the decade.

It is clear, therefore, that decarbonisation of the commercial vehicle sector needs greater support from government and other stakeholders outside of the automotive industry, with the SMMT calling for a supportive policy framework that includes incentives for vehicle purchase and operation, an ubiquitous charging and refuelling infrastructure network, and a strategic drive to attract new technicians and upskill the existing workforce, enabling decarbonisation of commercial vehicles.

It also called for government to account for the range of vehicle weights and operational profiles when determining a timeline for phase-out; to offer significant and long-standing financial incentives to give certainty to operators to make the switch to zero emission vehicles; a clear roadmap on the development of fossil fuel free technologies to be agreed with industry and implemented to support the UK manufacturing and the supply chain; and a clear government strategy and strong financial offering to the logistics sector to ensure low carbon and zero emission vehicles are brought to the UK market as quickly as possible.