Fuel strategy: What delivers results on the road?

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Fuel strategy: What delivers results on the road?

19 Dec 2018 Muscat

Roundtable session wrap-up

Part of the “Future Proofing Your Business” hub at the World Congress, this roundtable shared best practices on reducing fuel consumption and explored the use of new sources of energy for road transport.

The road freight sector relies heavily on fossil fuels. In order to comply with future environmental standards and potential oil shortages, trucks will have to be more fuel efficient. However, transport operators want to understand future energy trends and the opportunities emission reduction technologies will offer. How can fleets improve their fuel efficiency? Will fossil fuels keep a primacy in the future energy mix? What will be the role of alternative fuels?

Panelists comprised independent journalist and moderator Jennifer Baker, Yeonju Jeong from UN Environment’s Air Quality and Mobility Unit, Ajit Kumar from First Vehicles, Philippe Diviné from Renault Group, Benny Smets from Ninatrans, Peter Kleppan from Lithium Werks. 

Following dynamic opening presentations, the debate got started with the simple question, 

“what will be the road industry’s fuel source in 10 to 20 years?”

Fuel strategy: What delivers results on the road IRU World Congress roundtable session

Ajit Kumar explained that for public transport, it must be city governments which take the lead on defining the fuel of the future. “If you want an immediate transition to renewables in public transport it has to be backed up by legislation otherwise operators will only look at the cheapest vehicles.” He continued,

“You need to give incentives to the business community to spend money on changing their fleets.”

Benny Smets reminded participants that road transport is a low profit margin business. “If road transport operators choose alternative fuel vehicles that eventually prove unviable, their whole business could be affected negatively. This is why things change slowly in the industry.” 

He offered his company’s experience as an example of being an “early adopter of new technology.” He explained that it is the manufacturers who are the innovators when it comes to building trucks that run on renewable fuel sources; but as an operator he can take calculated risks in purchasing vehicles that run on alternative fuels. 

“It is about assessing how much risk you can take.”

“Renault made a bet on electric and now the business case is paying off,” said Philippe Diviné. “Electric vehicles have existed for more than a century. What has changed now is the evolution of the battery which started with smartphones. We are following closely developments with battery technology for use with different fuel sources.” 

He went on to make that point that “there is already one sector of transport that runs solely on electric which is garbage collection – a very predictable transport. In contrast, long haul transport will not be the first segment of the transport industry which will benefit from electric vehicles,” he declared.  

Peter Kleppan stressed that there is a widespread misunderstanding about electric as having zero emission. “It is very important that we all realise that this is not the case.”

Producing electricity requires energy as well. There is a need to make sure this energy source is also from renewables.

Yeonju Jeong explained the UN’s role in bringing together the industry players with governments to promote the use of renewable energy sources in transport.

 “By using existing technologies combined with ultralow-sulfur diesel or alternative fuels, we are capable of a 99% reduction in diesel carbon emissions.” 

The discussion concluded with the warning to remember that producing electricity requires energy as well. There is a need to make sure this energy source is also from renewables.