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The government is to plough over £200 million into an extensive zero emission road freight demonstrator programme in a bid to create the world’s largest fleet of zero emission HGVs. The three-year comparative programme will begin later this year to help decarbonise the UK’s freight industry, with initial competitions for battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell technology launching shortly.

Transport Minister Trudy Harrison said: “Our road freight industry is one of the most efficient in the world and contributes over £13 billion to the UK economy each year.

“But we must accelerate our journey towards our net zero goals, and we’re committed to leading the way globally on non-zero emission road vehicles.

“The demonstrations will help the UK’s freight sector reduce its reliance on fossil fuels by finding which zero emission technologies are best suited to the heaviest road vehicles in the UK.”

An open-call competition will be launched for manufacturers, energy providers and fleet and infrastructure operators to showcase their green technology on UK roads. This will begin with demonstrations of battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell HGVs.

The demonstrations will help gather evidence on the future refuelling and recharging infrastructure needed to drive the smooth transition to a zero-emission freight sector by 2050.

Feasibility trials

The latest announcement expands the Department for Transport’s (DfT) £20 million zero emission road freight trials which ran last year, delivered by Innovate UK.

As part of these trials, commercial vehicle manufacturer Leyland Trucks rolled out 20 DAF battery electric HGVs for use by public sector organisations, including the NHS and local authorities, to support the uptake of battery electric trucks, enabling learning to be gathered from field testing vehicles in a real-world, real-time logistics environment.

This project, along with six successful feasibility studies, helped prepare for the demonstrations, which will take place at scale over the coming years.

The government made ambitious pledges at COP26 last year that all new HGVs sold in the UK will be zero emission from 2040. This puts the UK on course to be the fastest G7 country to decarbonise its fleet of road vehicles.

Michelle Gardner, acting deputy director – public policy, Logistics UK, said: “Logistics businesses are committed to decarbonising their operations, but to ensure a smooth transition they need clarity on the path to zero tailpipe emission HGVs. The trials announced today will play a crucial role in identifying the right technological solutions to help enable this.”

“Given the breadth of the vehicles used across the logistics sector and scale of innovation required to reach net zero Logistics UK is also pleased that government has launched a consultation to identify potential exemptions to the 2035 phase out date.” The call for evidence on exemptions to the 2035 phase-out date for the sale of new non-zero emission HGVs 26 tonnes and under closes on 22 July 2022.

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