Industry reacts to UK diesel phase-out announcement

All new heavy goods vehicles in the UK will be zero-emission by 2040, the UK government confirmed on 11 November. The UK will phase out new, non-zero emission heavy goods vehicles weighing 26 tonnes and under by 2035, with all new HGVs sold in the UK to be zero emission by 2040. In addition, the UK plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars and vans in 2030.

British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) chief executive, Gerry Keaney, said: “Use cases of HGVs vary significantly, so we welcome the government’s intention to consult on derogations that will enable a fair and achievable transition. The BVRLA looks forward to working with the government on the delivery plan that will be essential in ensuring the UK road transport network can be decarbonised successfully.” Trade organisation RHA, the Road Haulage Association, said: “The industry will play its part in decarbonising freight, and the Government’s announcement starts the process of creating the certainty hauliers need to start planning their vehicle replacement programmes.

But firms need proper phasing in of new technology with realistic timescales that will meet the needs of all users. We urge ministers to ensure that new diesel trucks are given a minimum use period of 15 years. We also call on the government to accelerate investment in the electric vehicle and hydrogen infrastructure needed to realise net zero objectives in transport.”

RHA managing director of policy and public affairs, Rod McKenzie, said: “We support the government’s aim to decarbonise but the pace may be impossibly fast.

Care is needed to ensure that all markets are served and future disruption to the supply chains are avoided. We would like the deadline extended for lorries over 18 tonnes by five years with support for hauliers in making the transition. Proven alternatives to diesel for all uses, locations, ranges and the heaviest trucks don’t yet exist.

It will require continuous review of the timeline over coming years to ensure a sustainable and successful transition to zero tailpipe lorries.” After the announcement, industry R&D body the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) has published its views on the issues, which it submitted to government.

It said: “In the 44t articulated lorry segment (most difficult to decarbonise), APC’s research shows against a diesel benchmark, both battery electric and fuel cell vehicles can achieve a cost parity by 2035 under favourable conditions – so a ban on diesel sales by 2040 is plausible and achievable.

However, importantly, a charging and refuelling network will need to be established to support this transition. “A key point for the BEV cost curve is the weight of batteries onboard the vehicle. This affects its payload capacity and raises concerns for fleet operators.

APC’s calculations, based on ‘best in class’ technology today, show battery mass for a 44t will halve by 2035 (almost 6t in 2021, dropping to 3t by 2035). This has a significant effect on the costs of goods, profitability, and hence viability of adoption. “From its work within industry, APC is seeing a role for a third propulsion technology: hydrogen combustion systems using known, cost-effective technologies for heavy duty HGV applications.

It’s worth not losing sight of this, as the UK manufactures 2.5m engines a year” according to 2019 figures from SMMT. It continues: “As a lot of HGV fleet is owned by companies working across Europe, it’s important to look at a Europe-wide perspective. APC expects the sale of new diesel HGV and LDV vehicles to drop to 62% by 2030, with battery technologies making large inroads primarily in the less than 18t medium duty sector.

“By 2040, APC forecasts a larger transition to ZEV technologies, with battery and fuel cell technology becoming the dominant choice of propulsion systems across Europe (40% BEV and significantly, 30% fuel cell).

APC forecasts this to be 70% of total new sales. By this point, APC expects that charging networking and hydrogen fuelling stations provision will have matured. Hydrogen combustion, or similar net-zero propulsion, can provide a good route for 41t-44t heavy duty application and share in the same hydrogen refuelling network required for fuel cell vehicles.”

Transport Engineer

Related Companies
British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association
Road Haulage Association Ltd

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