Road freight is expected to become the most significant energy user from 2030 onwards as the UK economy evolves. Carbon emissions from road freight account for about 17% of the UK’s emissions today are projected to increase in the next 30 years. Other countries like the United States, China, Japan and Canada have already made provisions and set targets to reduce emissions from road freight. The European Commission has recently proposed an interim CO2 reduction target of 15% by 2025 for all large trucks compared to 2019 levels. By 2030 trucks will have to emit at least 30% less CO2 than in 2019. Large trucks account for around 65-70% of all CO2 emissions from heavy-duty vehicles in the EU, which also include smaller trucks, buses and coaches. The expectation is that these targets will save around 54 million tonnes of CO2 from 2020 to 2030, equivalent to the total annual emissions of Sweden.

In this context, our aim is to define a cost-effective pathway to decarbonise road freight across the UK’s transport and energy systems (an outline of the suggested work packages can be seen in the table below). This aim will be achieved collaboratively through a series of workshops that bring new sets of stakeholders together to generate ideas, with discussions informed by insights by the ES Catapult’s ESME model, and a literature survey.

From these varied sources – model, analysis, and discussions – we will explore decarbonisation pathways and the appetite among our stakeholders to undertake actions to promote them. Topics considered will include: R&D, technology challenges, legislation, investment (volume, and direction), and initiatives from firms, government, and other sectors – the aim being to bottom-out the major elements in a collaborative way.

This research will provide additional granularity in terms of both the future propulsion systems that we can expect to see in our road freight vehicles and of the energy systems capability of the ESME model. This will open the door to further research to be carried out on this with respect to mixes of energy solutions that could be used for the propulsion of these technologies which will be vital to support the integration of future transport and energy systems. As well as looking at the broader mix for freight in general, modelling will consider developments in the rail, maritime and aviation sectors where appropriate. This will allow future research to understand more about the impact that our transport (heavy duty) vehicles will have on the total energy system and potentially influence where the investment priorities should lie to ensure that deliver on our current CO2 targets.

By working this way, we believe we will develop a more robust understanding of the influence that the propulsion systems of our heavy duty vehicles will have on the whole energy system.