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German roadmap green transport

German roadmap green transportTransport is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and thus the biggest contributor to climate change. Light battery electric vehicles are widely seen as the fastest and most cost effective route towards decarbonisation.

For heavy duty vehicle it seems to be less easy.

Transport & Environment Germany has been working on a roadmap how Europe could achieve zero GHG road freight and buses by 2050. Let’s have a look at the German recommendations:

1. Fuel efficiency standards for trucks

Fuel efficiency standards for trucks are the single most effective measure towards decarbonisation.
Binding standards for new trucks and buses would deliver the 30 – 50% fuel efficiency improvements and CO2 reductions. This could be achieved with conventional (diesel) technology and would be cost – effective for truck users (lower fuel bills).

2. The share of rail freight in the EU could be increased from today’s 18% to 23%

This would require a significant an expension of the EU-railroad capacity, higher fuel taxes or enhanced road user charges and a modernised, competitive and customer – oriented rail freight sector. In countries without rail infrastructure, waterway freight transport could play this role.

3. Logistics efficiency could be improved

Currently 20% of trucks drive around empty. When loaded, trucks are often partially filled (around 50%). In theory there is potential to remove these inefficiencies i.e. by increasing transport – km costs, the application of green freight programmes and through digitalisation. The real potential is however likely  much smaller.

Combined, the above measures could reduce road freight emissions by 36% compared to the business – as – usual scenario.

How clean electricity can be used as a truck and bus fuel?

Electric vehicle

Battery electric vehicle technology is limited to small and medium trucks with short, urban mission profiles.
Given the rapidly falling battery costs, predictable routes and easy overnight recharging, delivery trucks and urban buses can, and should, become fully electric.


E-highways could power long distances trucks with renewable electricity whilst they drive.
The Siemens e-highway concept connects a hybrid electric truck with overhead lines through a pantograph (like a tram). This troll ey truck concept is being trialled in Sweden, Germany and California in cooperation with Volvo and Scania. By 2050 40 – 60% of highway trucks could be e-highway trucks.
These two options combined would cut emissions an additional 27% compared to the business – as – usual by 2050. Combined with the low – hanging fruit options, it would cut emissions by 63% by 2050.

Hydrogen or fuel cell trucks

Hydrogen or fuel cell trucks could offer an alternative (or – less likely – complementary) pathway to zero – emission trucking though this would require hydrogen to be produced based on renewable electricity.
Currently hydrogen is mostly produced from natural gas. Whilst currently there are no hydrogen trucks on sale , an American startup called Nikola has announced it will start selling hydrogen trucks from 2020.
Power to liquid/Gas
Power to liquid/Gas means using clean electricity to produce a gase ous or liquid fuel. If the electricity is renewable this could result in zero – emission fuel which could be used to power a combustion engine.

Link to the report