The UK Government recently announced their plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel HGVs over 26tn by 2040. In addition, the sale of new petrol and diesel trucks under 26tn will also be banned by 2035 at the latest. The electrification of HGVs is a crucial part of the Government’s ultimate plan to decarbonise all modes of domestic transport by 2050 as it’s estimated that HGVs alone account for 5% of all UK emissions. However, if HGVs will soon be unable to be fuelled by petrol and diesel then what is the alternative?
Hydrogen is a viable substitute for traditional fossil fuels as it has the potential to significantly improve air quality on the roads. Although hydrogen power still needs development, there is evidence that it could be the low-carbon alternative to diesel. as the only tailpipe emission that’s heated is water vapour, making hydrogen power one of the greenest options for vehicles.
Choosing a fuel cell that uses hydrogen to power an electric motor is not only beneficial for the environment but also has some practical advantages. These fuel cells are lighter than electric batteries, therefore have the potential for faster acceleration and more horsepower than the current diesel trucks. Hydrogen also has longer running distances and faster refuelling, making it the perfect choice for HGVs.
Steve Carroll, Head of Transport at Cenex highlights the advantages of hydrogen-powered HGVs further, stating: “The range offered by hydrogen makes it potentially the ideal fuel for HGVs. When generated from green electricity and used via Fuel Cell technologies hydrogen will deliver quiet, clean and low carbon transport for road freight.”
Battery power technology has developed tremendously over recent years, making it an increasingly appealing option for HGVs. Electric trucks are now capable of covering hundreds of miles a day and charging points can easily be installed at depots for greater convenience.
Some manufacturers are already developing battery-electric HGVs, showing that steps are being taken towards zero-emissions vehicles in the haulage industry. As electric HGVs become more commonplace costs will begin to decline, making them an affordable option for HGV drivers. It has also been argued that the investment in battery-electric HGVs by fleets will be returned in five years. Renewable energy is, therefore, more practical and cost-effective than ever before.
Greener alternatives to diesel and petrol need to be developed further to ensure that they are cost-effective and practical enough to fuel HGVs. Currently, just 0.2% of HGVs on the road are alternatively fuelled, showing that vast amounts of progress still needs to be made. However, with the automotive industry now focusing on battery power and hydrogen, the likelihood of an electric future for HGVs is becoming increasingly conceivable.