It’s amazing what you stumble upon when trawling the internet. I consider myself quite adept at keeping up to speed with the latest happenings in the transport field and of course the debate if what the fuels of the future might be. Government edicts haven’t really put any meat on the bone on what the future might look like for HGVs and aside of setting a 2040 date for the phase out of diesel haulage and various COP26 commitments, many of which were re-branded and re-announced as part of the event. A cynic might say that was to grab additional headlines and because there wasn’t really anything new to say. A few days ago, I noticed a headline about National Highways (formally Highways England) investing in Energy Storage Systems (ESS) to support the roll-out of rapid EV chargers. The press release claimed that “the challenge of finding somewhere to rapidly charge electric vehicles on a long journey could become a thing of the past.” A multi million pound investment, the press release went on, would help provide power for charging at service stations where current connections to the national grid can’t provide enough energy to make rapid charging of vehicles work. Able to store energy in quiet periods, ESSs then provide rapid high-power charging at busy times, until those motorway services can obtain increased power directly from the grid for rapid charging themselves.
It’s a great idea and something that others are thinking of doing elsewhere, including on the railways. But what about the ongoing debate about HGVs I thought. These ESS facilities, while welcome, are only really for cars and vans. Where are we heading for HGVS and what are the possible timescales. As I’ve already said the Government hasn’t been particularly forthcoming with detailed information, despite a plethora of recent documents. So, I went digging and discovered a document that didn’t get a great deal of coverage when it was published earlier in the year (2021). National Highways “Net zero – our 2030 /2040 /2050 plan” makes interesting reading, not least because it’s clear that major thinking is going on. The organisation maintains that there are now four options for HGV decarbonisation, Batteries, Hydrogen, Above ground electric systems and Inductive electric road systems. A table talks about the various pros and cons of the different options, but most interesting to me were the dates and actions attached to our path to net zero HGVs. The document said National Highways will use a well-established network and relationship with national strategic road authorities to share the lessons and insights from global HGV charging trials in Spring 2022. It will annually report on global progress and lessons from global trials and roll-out of zero emissions trucks and it will recommend a first tranche of zero carbon HGV trials to DfT that meet the requirements of freight operators, safety standards and build on existing trials already taking place across the world by the end of 2022. By 2023 National Highways has committed to report to Government on how it can help to reduce empty lorry movements. It will also continue to support government’s zero emissions HGV trials and developing policy on zero carbon HGVs during this road period (2025) It will recommend a preferred solution for HGVs and investment plan for implementation during the fourth road period (2030-40). And finally incentivise the HGV supply chain to be early adopters of zero carbon HGV technologies by only supplying our construction sites with zero carbon vehicles from 2040. Although not yet Government commitments these dates do help map where we are heading when it comes to HGVs and following what many see as a lack of action – it’s clearly is very welcome.