Domestic and freight vehicles in the UK are the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions. While there are now more than 195,000 electric vehicles (EVs) on the road, they are still only around 4% of the vehicles registered each year. In Scotland, sales of new diesel and petrol cars will be banned in 2032. For the UK as a whole, the aim is for all new cars and vans to produce zero emissions by 2040. So using gas to power vehicles, or to create electricity for EVs, is another potential alternative to petrol or diesel.

Hydrogen cars

Toyota introduced the first hydrogen car in 2014, but there are currently only three hydrogen car models on the roads. These are the Toyota Mirai, the Hyundai ix35 and the Honda FCV Clarity. They have fuel cells which use a combination of hydrogen and water to create electricity. The only waste product is water, which means that hydrogen is a zero-emissions fuel. There are around 13 hydrogen filling stations across the UK, but the government is investing in hydrogen technology and hopes to have 65 available by the end of 2020.[1]

Renewable gas for HGVs

In the UK, figures from 2016 say that around 76% of all goods moved travelled by road, with the almost half a million registered HGVs covering an astonishing 19.2 billion vehicle kilometres. HGVs contribute a huge amount to the UK economy, but they also produce about 30% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, this was 19.6 billion tonnes, and 98% of that was carbon dioxide emissions.

So the government’s Office for Low Emissions Vehicles (OLEV) is investing £20 million in the Low Emissions Freight and Logistics Trial.[2]  Twenty companies who sent in proposals for ways to use low emission and zero emission fuels were chosen to receive some of the funding. This includes big name brands like Tesco, Asda, John Lewis and Waitrose, partnering with technology providers. They will test electricity, hydrogen, gas and hydrogen dual-fuel as possible replacements for petrol or diesel. The first vehicles hit the roads in 2017, with all tests expected to be live by 2018. The project will finish in 2020. It will put forward recommendations as to which fuels represent viable options to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Tests for HGVs running on compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG) are expected to reduce carbon emissions by 8%. Meanwhile, vehicles trialling biomethane are expected to reduce emissions by 70%. The trials will also gather data about fuel efficiency, cost, reliability and performance.

The trials will help contribute to the next round of reductions in carbon emissions, as part of the UK’s activity to achieve the targets set in the current carbon budget.

[1] ‘Hydrogen cars: What are they and should I buy one?’. https://www.rac.co.uk/drive/advice/buying-and-selling-guides/hydrogen-cars/. Accessed 4 March 2019.

[2] https://left.trl.co.uk. Accessed 4 March 2019.

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