How is the trucking decarbonization journey going?


In the early days of 2021, Shell and Deloitte published a 104-page joint study on how to decarbonize the road freight sector called Decarbonizing road freight: getting started. In the study, more than 70% of 158 people polled, leaders in freight, from logistics companies to vehicle manufacturers to regulators, said they see decarbonization as the top priority or one of the most important. three top priorities of their organization.

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The study sets the tone for the 2021 decarbonization relay race, a topic Fleet Equipment has ultimately determined as the biggest trucking trend of the year, and with another year of sustainability improvements at its waist. industry, now is the time to look back to see how the trucking sector has applied what we learned from the report.

The joint report identified three main challenges to decarbonization in the road freight sector:

  • Lack of market and customer demand for low-emission, zero-emission road freight
  • Lack of regulatory incentives
  • Complexity of infrastructure replacement

The internet loves to give notes, so let’s do it. I will assess what I found to be the level of improvement on each of these challenges one by one.

Market and customer demand for low and zero emissions

Improvement Score: SUPER!

We take the ease out first. Is the demand for zero emission trucks on the rise? Just ask Tim Murray, general manager of commercial trucking for Shell – Americas.

“Customers are keenly interested in electric trucks and have a sense of urgency to explore pilot programs so that they can test, learn, adopt and move their business forward,” said Murray. “The speed at which customers want to electrify their heavy truck fleets is exciting. “

[Editor’s Note: Murray certainly isn’t the only executive saying the time to decarbonize is now.]

“We anticipate that the total cost of ownership of an electric truck will soon be comparable to that of a diesel truck, and customers are looking for ways to upgrade their fleets using solutions that can have an impact now,” Murray continues.

Fleets have not shied away from adopting and testing electrified vehicles where it makes sense. (Editor’s note: FE ran a series this year asking some major fleets how their electrification efforts are going. Click the links to see what Manhattan Beer Distributors, QCD, Schneider, and Penske have learned.) Industry leaders backed up the sense of urgency Murray spoke about at this year’s COP26 meeting because, according to a Samsara survey, 78% of operations and fleet managers agreed they have greater responsibility for prioritize sustainable development efforts over other industries. Ninety-one percent of these leaders also felt significant pressure on their organization to set and achieve ambitious sustainable development goals, especially from government (54%), suppliers / partners (44%) and even competitors (44%), because sustainable development is becoming a differentiating factor. .

RELATED: No Doubt About It: Decarbonization Is FE’s 2021 Trend

“Despite the hurdles, the industry faces a tipping point due to increasing regulatory and market pressures and will likely move faster than many realize,” Murray said. “In the coming years, one of the biggest changes we face as a society is the transition to low carbon forms of energy. This is a global change that will take years to be fully realized. With around 3 million companies operating around 217 million vehicles, the transport sector accounts for around 9% of global carbon dioxide emissions and the demand for road freight is expected to double by 2050.


Regulatory incentives

Improvement score: ENOUGH GOOD!

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the largest source of all greenhouse gas emissions in the country is transportation. The main sources of transportation-related carbon emissions come from passenger cars, medium and heavy trucks, and light trucks, including sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks and vans, which account for more than half of transportation emissions. sector.

While I don’t disagree with you that there could be more regulatory incentives, they do exist. President Biden’s Build Back Better law includes a hefty charge of tax credits for electric vehicles. The EPA offers hundreds of pages of green energy incentives on its website, and in California, Oregon, and British Columbia, most businesses can earn Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) credits when they load their vehicles. There are also options like CARB’s Hybrid and Zero Emission Truck and Bus (HVIP) Incentive Project, point-of-sale discounts for those operating in California communities.

Outside of regulatory incentives, here’s a pro tip for fleet managers who want to integrate electric powertrains into their fleets: Find a partner who can help the economy make sense. In Shell’s case, Murray says the company constantly strives to prioritize understanding customer needs so that they can work on specific solutions to help accelerate the industry’s journey to net zero.

“Our expertise across the energy system, combined with our customer relationships, positions us well to help accelerate the decarbonization of the commercial road transport sector in three ways,” he said. “One: By understanding and evaluating the decarbonisation challenges of our customers; Two: By developing tailor-made decarbonisation routes, and; Third: by identifying low carbon products and solutions across Shell or in collaboration with partners.

“Not only do we provide our customers with real-time data solutions and options to increase efficiency, but our portfolio of products and services allows us to increase performance, from fuel cards to fleet mobility solutions, allows us to help increase performance, ”adds Murray. “Helping our customers to decarbonize also means working with them to advocate for the policies, incentives and regulatory environment that can drive system-wide change. “


Replacement of infrastructure

Improvement score: JUST OK!

Here is the grandfather of the challenges of decarbonization. Of the three main decarbonization charges for the transportation industry identified in Shell’s report, Murray calls this infrastructure the “most important of the three – in particular access to BEV and [FCEV] Infrastructure.”

According to the report, more than 70% of study participants consider hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) to be the long-term, zero-emission heavy-truck technologies. more viable. And, in the meantime, Murray says liquefied natural gas (LNG), biomethane (BioLNG), renewable natural gas (RNG) and biodiesel, along with high-quality carbon offsets, will help the sector reduce emissions. of carbon thanks to the transition to FCEV and BEV.

These “pending” fuels are going to be of incredible importance as fleets wait for the BEV / FCEV infrastructure to catch up with demand for trucks with electric powertrains. Even the most passionate decarbonization zeal can only go as fast as the ecosystem allows.

“Electrification and hydrogen are the main zero-emission energy for road transport. Even with aggressive policy measures, slow fleet turnover rates, and the sale of older vehicles to developing countries, this means that nearly half of the sector vehicles in circulation globally will still likely be diesel ICEs by 2050. Murray said. “Natural gas and low-carbon biofuels – produced from biogenic feedstocks and waste – will be needed for decades to decarbonize the legacy diesel fleet, even in regions with the most aggressive decarbonization ambitions,” and especially in areas that depend on the secondary truck. market and are slower to adopt new technologies.

In September, Shell Lubricants announced a new design and technology to design Shell Starship 2.0, which the company is using to demonstrate how currently available technologies can lead to reduced carbon emissions in road transport. Featuring a new chassis and transmission in addition to a host of advanced technologies, Starship 2.0 achieved 254 ton-miles per gallon for cargo ton efficiency, a 3.5-fold improvement per compared to the average North American freight ton efficiency for trucks, which is 72 ton-miles per gallon. Shell Starship 2.0 reached 10.8 MPG in its long distance run, compared to 8.94 reached by Starship 1.0 and the North American fleet average of 6.4 MPG.

“Immediate emission reductions can be achieved for diesel truck fleets by improving truck designs, using digital solutions to optimize fleet management and using higher quality fuels and lubricants,” says Murray. “Shell is investing in digital technologies for route optimization and vehicle efficiency, to help fleets reduce their emissions today. “

Prepare for the tipping point

The challenges that Shell identified in its report are still very real. But the appetite of truck suppliers, fleet operators, logistics companies and end customers to accelerate the decarbonization of road freight activities is palpable. And despite the hurdles, Murray argues the industry faces a tipping point due to increasing regulatory and market pressures and is likely to move faster than many realize.

“We know that we have to help reduce emissions and develop these new technologies. We know that it will take time to solve a very complex set of challenges such as regulatory policy, the development of OEM vehicles, investments in infrastructure, technological advancements and increasing adoption rates ”, a- he declared. “Our main driver is the needs of our customers. As the variables mentioned become clearer, we will ensure that we have the right products to meet customers’ energy needs.

Decarbonization was FE’s 2021 trend. Discover the major advances in sustainable development over the last 365 here:


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