By Brian Worrall, director of corporate affairs, Certas Energy
As a sector that remains heavily reliant on conventional fuels, the transport industry is under intense pressure to reduce emissions of local air pollutants.
However, with an increasing number of different fuels to explore, and no clear direction set out in the Government’s Clean Air Strategy for 2019, knowing which way to turn is more challenging than ever.
New research suggests that a large proportion of fleet and haulage businesses have yet to find a fuel type that they believe confidently addresses their required criteria for an alternative energy solution.
While almost three in four representatives remain reliant on diesel, the majority are hungry for alternatives - with 74% considering sourcing alternative fuels in the next 12 months.
Finding alternative fuels that can reduce emissions, cut odours and are biodegradable - as well as deliver cost savings - are key priorities for fleet and haulage representatives.
But with 26% still believing diesel to be the most sustainable fuel type, there remains widespread confusion over what constitutes a viable alternative from an environmental perspective - let alone one that addresses the wider challenges.
The truth is there is no single solution to overcome the UK’s air quality crisis. The outlook for an emission neutral transport industry is bright - but today’s focus should be on the immediately deployable solutions that can kick-start the transition to this future.
Alternative fuels are already widely available and deliver a number of significant sustainability benefits.
Created to limit health and the environmental impacts, key characteristics of alternative fuels may include lower emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM), methane, carbon monoxide (CO) and carbon dioxide (CO2), as well as renewability and biodegradability.
There are a number of liquid alternative fuel compositions available to market, including hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO), biofuels, compressed natural gas (CNG), liquefied natural gas (LNG) and gas-to-liquid (GTL).
Yet knowledge of these alternatives - and their benefits - is low, and could be preventing wider uptake - holding back transport businesses from making immediate improvements to local air quality.
While there is relatively high awareness of solutions such as LNG (56%), CNG (47%), biodiesel (58%), electric (57%) and HVO (51%), other equally viable alternatives are lesser known.
For example, only 21% of fleet and haulage representatives are aware of GTL, yet this solution is equally worthy of consideration in the alternative fuels mix.
Tests show it is capable of immediately cutting NOx, PM, CO and hydrocarbon levels, while producing less noise, smoke and odour.
The widespread use of diesel in the transport industry is at odds with ambitions to reduce levels of pollutants and address health and safety concerns surrounding the use of conventional fuels.
Alternative fuels can help transport businesses make immediate and lasting improvements to air quality, the environment and the wellbeing of our communities as part of the transition to a low emission future.