The greening of transport starts now

London, UK: Despite the hype, the road transport industry has done little to convert to a low-carbon operation. Diesel fuel still remains the principal power source for vehicles and for fridges.

The green agenda has, for most operators, been little more than a box-ticking exercise, to satisfy customers. This is not a criticism: few customers are ever willing to pay for green initiatives and operators, quite rightly, need to concentrate on operating profitably, not necessarily in the most sustainable way. But this is all about the change with government imposing change through legislation.

Radical new climate change commitments will set the UK on course to cut carbon emissions by 78% by 2035. These are not just commitments, but will become law, to bring forward the current target for reducing carbon emissions by 15 years: a world-leading position.

At the moment this low-carbon initiative and policy is all a bit ad hoc, like so much of prime minister Boris Johnson’s policies. The industry needs to know the detail of how we are to meet these targets now. But despite this, the low-carbon agenda will not go away and the transport industry must accept that huge change is on the way as we switch to an electric future.

Much has already been done by suppliers. Greener business practices can only rise in priority. In the case of CO2 emissions, suppliers’ operations account for as much as 95% of a company’s total emissions so businesses will look at their supply chains in order to avoid incurring potentially serious financial and reputational damage further down the line. Businesses will look more closely at their logistics network to identify inefficiencies that could be improved upon. All companies should look at their current fleet size, vehicle makeup and geographic spread, as well as where their distribution centres are located, to determine any areas of inefficiency or wasted resource.

The chassis makers are all set to offer electric vehicles from vans to heavy trucks. Large national and international operators already have strong interest in electric vehicles, driven by their own ambitious climate goals, as well as customer demand for decarbonisation and cleaner transport. Volvo is to begin production of electric models for Europe next year and expects electric trucks to account for at least half of its sales in Europe by 2030.

Looking further ahead, even long-distance heavy transport will be able to be completed with electric vehicles. To meet these challenging demands for both high load capacity and a much longer range, Volvo Trucks plans to use hydrogen fuel cells to generate the electricity. Mercedes-Benz, Iveco, and others are all moving in the same direction. When it comes to fridges, market leaders Thermo King and Carrier Transicold have switched to electric power for their truck refrigeration systems, delivering performance that matches or exceeds that of the traditional diesel-engined fridge.

The equipment is ready: are you?

The picture shows UK’s first fully autonomous, all-electric engineless refrigerated trailer system, the Vector E-Cool, developed by Carrier Transicold and Gray & Adams on trial with Gist. The 13.6 metre electric trailer will deliver fresh and chilled foods to UK supermarkets. Carrier’s new technology uses an under-mounted battery to power the fridge and, when driving, converts kinetic energy generated by the trailer’s axle to replenish the battery pack and in turn power the fridge. Unlike existing systems, this loop creates an autonomous system that produces no direct carbon dioxide or particulate emissions. The fridge is lighter than the standard fridge and associated red diesel fuel tank and also very quiet, making it suitable for overnight urban deliveries. Mick Pethard, head of engineering, Gist, said: “We are always keen to trial new technologies and this is an exciting new product for us to explore.”

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