Choose your language

No silver bullet: leader in alternative fuels network talks decarbonisation
Germany | Ratingen

No silver bullet: leader in alternative fuels network talks decarbonisation

22 Feb 2023 · Environment

IRU member DKV Mobility boasts one of the largest networks of alternative energy solutions in Europe. We sat down with Marc Erkens, DKV Mobility’s Head of Sustainability and New Mobility, to discuss how the company is helping its customers decarbonise, and the challenges that lie ahead.

DKV Mobility is a leading business-to-business platform for on-the-road payments and solutions. Its energy network includes both traditional and alternative fuel service stations as well as public and semi-public electric recharging points.

“We have a history of almost 90 years. Today, our 1,900 employees serve around 301,000 active customers in over 50 countries. I think our secret is to constantly adapt our products and business model to meet evolving customer needs,” Marc Erkens told us.

“Our purpose is to drive the transition towards an efficient and sustainable future of mobility. Our ambition is to 'lead in green' and help our customers switch to alternative energies," he added.

Marc Erkens highlighted that the transport sector is increasingly shifting from conventional fuels towards a variety of energy sources. This means that traditional fuel stations are expected to transform into multi-energy stations, and that operators will gradually move to a mixed or hybrid fleet.

By 2030, DKV Mobility aims to reduce the carbon intensity of its customers’ fleets by 30% compared to 2019.

“It is our role to support our customers in this transition by offering service card solutions and invoicing and digital tools that accommodate multiple types of fuelling and charging. We strongly believe that our products and services are necessary to make this transition faster, more efficient, and more successful,” explained Marc Erkens.

Alternative fuels infrastructure still evolving

With about 413,000 electric recharging points, 20,000 alternative fuel stations, as well as digital CO₂ tracking services and carbon offsetting solutions, DKV Mobility is looking to help the transport industry become more sustainable.

“It is essential to meet the European Union’s decarbonisation targets for the transport industry. There is progress but some challenges exist, while myths still need to be debunked. All signs are pointing towards the adoption of battery-electric mobility, but the share of electric vehicles in total new registrations varies considerably within the EU,” highlighted Marc Erkens.

The same applies to electric recharging infrastructure: nearly 50% of Europe’s electric public recharging stations are concentrated in just two countries: Germany and the Netherlands. It is crucial to expand the recharging infrastructure to drive the adoption of e-mobility.

The challenge facing heavy-duty vehicles

When it comes to heavy-duty vehicles, the gap is even wider. Currently, publicly accessible infrastructure for battery-electric and hydrogen-fuelled trucks is very limited. On the passenger transport side, there are currently no concrete solutions for long-distance buses and coaches.

“The existing EU infrastructure is mainly geared for alternative fuels like compressed and liquefied natural gas. Again, to promote e-mobility, electric recharging stations need to reach the necessary megawatt level to simultaneously recharge multiple large heavy-duty vehicles on long-haul routes,” emphasised Marc Erkens.

“To reach net zero by 2050, zero-emission commercial vehicles (medium and heavy) need to make up about 95% of sales in 2040. However, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts they will only account for about 35%,” he added.

Marc Erkens also pointed out that the public debate is focused on battery-electric vehicles and hydrogen. But it is important to consider all green options based on well-to-wheel emissions, regardless of the technology used.

“For example, existing transport, distribution and fuel/gas infrastructure can be used with other technologies like e-fuels (synthetic fuels). They should not be excluded from the discussion. Put simply, there is no ‘silver bullet’. We need to genuinely be open to different solutions.”

‘Open technology’ approach

DKV Mobility is in favour of an “open technology” approach. Different technological solutions, some of which may be less mature than others, will be required for different use cases and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the road transport sector.

The company firmly believes that battery-electric, hydrogen as well as other technologies will all co-exist and contribute to a healthy energy mix which will enable the sector to achieve ambitious climate goals and successfully advance the clean energy transition.

“However, it is also clear that this transition will not happen overnight. Fully fledged transition of fleets to low carbon or zero-emission vehicles will probably not happen unless total cost of ownership parity is achieved between alternative and conventional diesel powertrains,” said Marc Erkens.

“According to estimates by Roland Berger, [an international management consultancy], this is likely to happen by around 2030 for fuel-cell vehicles based on a combination of cost reductions for fuel-cell stacks and hydrogen fuel. The 2030s will most likely also be the decade we will learn more about the viability of synthetic fuels for commercial transport,” he added.

One of Europe’s largest alternative energy solution networks

DKV Mobility has been investing in e-mobility and alternative fuel networks for many years, offering its customers access to one of the largest alternative energy networks in Europe.

In 2021, DKV Mobility acquired GreenFlux, an innovative European software platform provider for electric-vehicle recharging. It has allowed them to scale up their existing electric vehicle recharging services and offer new recharging solutions across Europe. “This shows our commitment to supporting fleet managers on their journey towards zero-emission vehicles,” said Marc Erkens.

DKV Mobility is now also working with H2 MOBILITY Germany, the leading provider for the development, construction, and operation of hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany. Based on this cooperation, DKV Mobility customers have access to several hydrogen refuelling stations in Germany that are suitable for passenger cars.

“Ultimately, our mission is to offer access to Europe’s largest network of charging and alternative fuels facilities for the best possible charging and fuelling experience,” concluded Marc Erkens.

This story is part of IRU’s ongoing series of interviews with operators and industry leaders on alternative fuels infrastructure.

In the first story of the series, we spoke with Peter Harris, Vice President for International Sustainability at UPS. He highlighted the importance of maintaining renewable biofuels as an option, the need for investment to establish reliable and smart electric recharging grids, and the steps UPS is taking to reach its goal of fuelling 40% of its ground operations with alternative fuels by 2025.

For the second article, we interviewed Georges Hilbert, the CEO of Sales-Lentz, a Luxembourgish operator with a wealth of experience running alternatively fuelled buses. He told us that the lack of alternative fuels infrastructure is challenging, especially as coach travel remains without proper alternatives to diesel.

In the third article, we spoke with Miguel Angel Alonso, ALSA’s Director of Engineering and European Funds. ALSA is investing heavily in different fuel technologies to meet its objective of operating only zero-emission urban buses by 2035, and long-distance coaches by 2040, in Spain.