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Highway to reduce freight transport carbon emissions

Updated: Sep 9, 2020

A government-funded report says that if a futuristic system of transportation which has been tested in Germany, Sweden and the US was implemented here, most of the carbon dioxide emissions from UK road freight could be eliminated.

This is the headline conclusion from the white paper published by the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight (CSRF) on July 22nd. It would involve the construction of a network of overhead cables which will “fuel” lorries in the inside lane across more than 4,000 miles of UK roads through the 2030s.

The power transmission is achieved through pantographs similar to the diamond-shaped frames seen on the roof of electric trams or trains. Electricity from the cable would transmit to the lorry’s electric motor allowing the lorry to proceed while also charging the motor in transit enabling the vehicle to continue beyond these “e-highways”. The power transmitted also means lorries can switch lanes to overtake before reconnecting with the cables in the inside lane.

Siemens, the engineering giants, and freight company Scania have conducted successful tests which Department for Transport representatives were due to attend before the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak scuppered plans.

The need for a project like this is evident. Although the statistics show a slight tailing off in recent years, road freight fleets still account for about 5% of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the UK.

The CSRF report evaluates the enhancements required across UK motorways to enable freight transport to utilise electric cables to be in the region of £19.3bn. That pill is sweetened, however, by their projection that the outlay would be recouped within 15 years. The report suggests this will enhance the appeal to private investors whereas taxes on the electricity used could become a source of income for the government.

Funding for the research behind the report has also come from some of the main retail units in the UK. It is clear that all involved have a vested interest in abetting the drive towards the UK pledge of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.


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