Air QualityCryoPowerEnvironment & ClimateFossil Fuels

Decarbonising the transport system. How can this affect global emissions?

By April 7, 2020 No Comments

In amongst the widespread a perpetual coverage of the COVID19 pandemic, the UK Government are still releasing policies in line with our Net Zero 2050 targets.

Quietly on March 26th 2020, the Department for Transport released an eighty page document outlining how the UK Government plans to decarbonise the British transport system.

The purpose of the document titled ‘Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge’ is to allow the DFT to gather information & feedback from industry, transport networks & beyond, to enable them to make effective decisions to ensure all areas of the transport system are adequately represented. Through events & workshops, information gathering & data sets; the DFT want to hear from individuals, businesses, trade associations, local authorities, scientists, researchers, innovators, interest groups & environmental groups & take all of their viewpoints as part of their ongoing strategy. (1)

The Governments decarbonisation strategy plans to address six distinct areas:

  • Accelerating modal shift to public and active transport
  • Decarbonisation of road vehicles
  • Decarbonising how we get our goods
  • Place-based solutions
  • UK as a hub for green transport technology and innovation
  • Reducing carbon in a global economy

The report recognises that the UK were the first country to introduce legally binding long-term emissions reduction targets, known as carbon budgets, through the Climate Change Act in 2008. Between 1990 & 2018, the UK has managed to reduce emissions by over 43%2 while growing the economy by 75%3. In June 2019, the UK became the first major economy to pass a net zero law to end its contribution to climate change by 2050 (1)

However, despite these seemingly positive figures, the report also recognises that despite all of the decarbonisation strategies in place through the UK Clean Growth Strategy, transport is now the largest contributor to UK domestic GHG emissions, contributing 28% of UK domestic emissions in 2018. Transport emissions are 4% higher than in 2013 & are only 3% lower than in 1990 (1)

One of our greatest challenges with regards to decarbonising the transport system, is the need for haulage, HGV & marine vehicles to still move our goods & services around the globe & through our cities. We have already seen ULEZ systems appearing in London & Europe, with HGV’s & haulage companies being fined for moving their traditional fuelled vehicles through cities. Despite the developments in cleaner fuels, CNG powered trucks & hydrogen on the increase; there is still some way to go to fully decarbonise the entire haulage, HGV & marine transport system.

The report recognises a need for ‘delivering goods & services’ as an essential part of the UK’s economical support network. However, it also recognises that ‘In 2018, road transport accounted for 91% of UK domestic transport emissions. Heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) accounted for 17% of this, with HGV traffic increasing by 10% between 2012 and 2018. HGV traffic went up from 15.5 billion miles in 2012 to 17.1 billion miles in 2018 (1)

With this in mind, in 2018 the government agreed a voluntary, industry-supported commitment to reduce HGV GHG emissions by 15% by 2025, from 2015 levels. Providing more & better information to road freight operators on the steps that they can take to reduce emissions from their fleets is key to achieving reductions. (1)

Furthermore, in 2018, the Road to Zero strategy set out government strategies for zero emission HGVs & included the following objectives:

  • Taking forward a research project to identify and assess zero emission technologies suitable for HGV traffic on the UK road network;
  • Working with industry to develop an ultra low emission standard for trucks;
  • The £20 million Low Emission Freight and Logistics Trial supporting industry-led R&D projects, trialling of a range of low-emission technologies for freight;
  • Conducting an operational trial of longer semi-trailers, which is authorising longer articulated goods vehicles to run on UK roads; and 40 Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge
  • Additionally, the Government is working to understand the potential for demonstrator projects to overcome some of the hurdles associated with the implementation of novel freight decarbonisation technologies with partners including the Connected Places Catapult. (1)

Last year Dolphin N2 reported extensively on projects from the UK & beyond, which were seeking solutions to the GHG’s released by transportation systems across the globe & in particular whereby the traditional fuels were diesel. Here are three examples of some of the projects striving to reduce GHG’s through the transport system.

City of Liverpool Hydrogen Bus – Dolphin N2, February 2019

The City of Liverpool announced that as of 2020, the Liverpool City Region will be the first place in the North of England to trial 25 hydrogen powered buses. The £6.4 million bid made to the UK Governments Office for Low Emission Vehicles, has enabled this ambitious project to come to fruition.

The bid was put forward by a consortium led by industrial gases company BOC, and including the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and Arcola Energy, working with bus-makers Alexander Dennis, and will be progressed in conjunction with Arriva and Stagecoach, as members of the city region’s Bus Alliance. (1)

Dolphin N2 – CryoPower Technology – Dolphin N2, June 2019

The Dolphin N2 technology, which is already creating a lot of interest from shipping & haulage companies alike, can still rely on liquid fuel & combustion engines. As Professor Morgan of the University of Brighton stated at the APC ‘How low can you go?’ conference 2019 “We can solve the toxic emissions with combustion engines! If you take control of the chemistry, you can take control of the emissions” (2)

The Dolphin N2 split cycle diesel engine patent, is just the kind of ‘science’ which can transform haulage & marine needs & allow our cities to, as per SDG 11, not only provide access to safe, affordable, accessible & sustainable transport systems for all & reduce the adverse per capita environmental impact of cities, including by paying special attention to air quality; but also make a global impact on the Co2 & NOx emissions currently causing global pollutant levels to continually rise. (3)

MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Hybrid battery & spark ignition – Dolphin N2, April 2019

‘The concept involves using a plug-in hybrid engine system, in which the truck would be primarily powered by batteries, but with a small spark ignition range extender engine (instead of a diesel engine). That engine, which would allow the trucks to conveniently travel the same distances as today’s conventional diesel trucks, would be a flex-fuel model that could run on pure gasoline, pure alcohol, or blends of these fuels.’

‘While the ultimate goal would be to power trucks entirely with batteries, the researchers say, this flex-fuel hybrid option could provide a way for such trucks to gain early entry into the marketplace by overcoming concerns about limited range, cost, or the need for excessive battery weight to achieve longer range.’

“We’ve been working for a number of years on ways to make engines for cars and trucks cleaner and more efficient, and we’ve been particularly interested in what you can do with spark ignition [as opposed to the compression ignition used in diesels], because it’s intrinsically much cleaner,” MIT Energy Initiative and Plasma Fusion and Science Center research scientist Daniel Cohn. (4)

The report ‘Decarbonising Transport: Setting the Challenge’ clearly identifies the need for a full net zero transportation system, but equally recognises what a vast undertaking this is; identifying the needs of our economy & the needs of the environment. There is still some way to go to ensure that all sectors are recognised & supported through the transition & the report appreciates the need for diversity & the challenges this poses.

Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.

  3. APC ‘How low can you go?’