New technology can cut big trucks’ emissions by a third

This is the second in a series of eight snippets about how to decarbonise land freight by 2050. Based on a new T&E study, the series will culminate in a public debate in Brussels in September.

Improved fuel efficiency could deliver emissions savings of 28% by 2050 compared to a business-as-usual scenario (see graph below). For trucks above 16 tonnes this improvement goes up to 32%. T&E has used its new European Union Transport Roadmap Model (EUTRM) tool to calculate the emissions reduction potential of fuel efficiency technologies for trucks.

Under the business-as-usual-scenario (solid line), we assumed that without targeted policy measures the vehicle efficiency of long haul and regional delivery trucks would only gradually improve by 10% in the 2010-2030 period, given that truck fuel efficiency of the average fleet has stagnated in the last 20 years. Smaller trucks would only improve by 6%. On the other hand, in the scenario where fuel efficiency is untapped (dashed line), we estimated a 40% fuel efficiency improvement. Many of these technologies are state-of-the-art technologies, with a short payback period of 2-3 years. For smaller trucks, the potential was estimated at 25% improvement by 2030 compared to 2010, with technologies on the market being combined with others soon to reach market maturity. For buses we assumed a 25% improvement in the same time frame.

The graph above shows that improving fuel efficiency of heavy-duty vehicles is key to start decarbonising freight transport. The most efficient way to do so is by introducing fuel efficiency standards at EU level, considering the market failures observed in recent decades. The Commission is planning to introduce Europe’s first CO2 standard for some truck categories in early 2018. This will most likely be a 2025 standard. However, it will need to be complemented by more aggressive standards for all trucks and trailers for 2030. Standards should exhaust the cost-effective potential. It also provides manufacturers and suppliers with long-term planning and investment certainty.

However, in order to reach the goals of the Paris agreement, transport needs to reach zero emissions by 2050, including land freight. T&E has done an in-house study on how that could be done, in order to spark debate at EU level on the measures necessary to reach that challenging goal. From the graph above, it is clear that, beyond the implementation of fuel efficiency standards for heavy-duty vehicles, the EU needs a long-term decarbonisation strategy for land freight if it is to take the Paris agreement seriously.
For more details, have a look at section 3.1.1 of our new study.

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Carlos Calvo Ambel's picture

Manager, Analysis and Climate

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