EC Road Freight Seminar

Scaling efforts to reduce emissions from road freight and the role of government

Seminar, 14 February 2018, Brussels

Businesses recognize that more efficient freight goes hand in hand with greater competitiveness and sustainability. They can lead in emissions accounting and reduction efforts but seek clear direction from government. The European Commission’s Directorate for Climate Action and Smart Freight Centre (SFC),  coordinator of the EU project Logistics Emissions Accounting and Reduction Network (LEARN), held a seminar for EC officials to inform on efforts to reduce emissions from road freight and the role of government.

That freight cuts across sector was clearly visible from the six directorates present: climate, environment, transport, energy, industry and research.  The message from four speakers was clear: opportunities to decarbonize the freight sector exist, but it takes visionary governments to make it possible for businesses to deliver.

Sophie Punte, Executive Director at Smart Freight Centre set the scene. Freight constitutes 7-8% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and is a major contributor to air pollution. To keep emissions within the 1.5-2 degrees limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement, emissions must come down 20-65% from today’s levels, and that does not even consider the tripling in freight demand until 2050! In a commercially driven sector the customer is king, and brand-conscious multinationals hold the key to making logistics more sustainable. They can do this by calculating and reporting emissions across the logistics supply chain using the GLEC Framework for Logistics Emissions Methodologies. Data lead to better logistics decisions and consequently greater opportunities to improve efficiency and reduce emissions and costs. SFC and the LEARN project link businesses to initiatives that can help them: business networks, green freight programs and other transport and sustainability initiatives.

Technologies and measures to reduce road freight emissions can be ranked based on their emission reduction impact and ease of at scale implementation, according to David Cebon, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Cambridge University. Some solutions, such as better tires, aerodynamics, high-capacity vehicles for long-distance freight and electric vehicles for urban delivery are no-brainers. Biofuels can reduce emissions but is not available in the quantities to put a dent in emissions. He cast doubt on the use of hydrogen because three-quarters of energy is lost in producing hydrogen, and considers platooning more a labour-saving than a fuel-saving option. A roadmap for companies should therefore combine measures that can be adopted today with research and planning of solutions, such as fleet electrification, that may only be ready for at scale adoption in a decade. A noteworthy point: with electric road systems (ERS) it becomes possible for heavy duty trucks to use smaller and lighter batteries because they only need to run on battery power for short distances off highways!

Stakes are high for the EC to deliver on its target of 24% trucks emissions reduction by 2025 and 35% by 2030 compared to 2015. Solutions are there and an integrated approach where business does the heavy lifting, but government creates an inducive environment is key. Ample policy options exist, ranging from research and innovation to infrastructure and standards and legislation. James Nix, Director of Freight and Climate at Transport and Environment zoomed in on fuel economy standards for heavy duty trucks, arguing that the EU should adopt full vehicle and engine standards similar to US phase I standards. Another required measure is a mandate of truck zero emission vehicles (ZEV) mandates of 5-10% in 2025 and 20-30% by 2030. A stronger push to shift freight from road to rail is needed to increase the current 18% rail share to 23%.

Sergio Barbarino, Research Fellow, Procter & Gamble pointed to the bigger picture. To reduce energy use from washing, P&G created detergents that are effective at low temperatures, and a similar mindset is needed for freight. He gave three examples. First, size matters: a Tesla P100D still generates more GHGs in its lifecycle than a small Mitsubishi Mirage with a combustion engine. Second, look beyond technologies: collaboration between companies to share assets and combine loads can result in 40-60% emissions (and cost) reductions. Obviously, ICT in the form of transport management systems (TMS) can facilitate collaboration. And finally, integrate freight and passenger transport: research shows that if home delivery systems are well designed they can lead to reduced private car use by customers who otherwise would drive to shops.


LEARN Project Summary

Download the LEARN Project Summary for more information