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How can the UK improve fuel efficiency for off-road HDVs to support 2050 decarbonisation targets?

7 October 2019

Chris Thorne
Chris Thorne Chief Technical Officer

HDVs are the backbone of our modern economy. However, they represent a significant challenge for the UK to reach its 2050 decarbonisation target. This challenge is due to the large quantities of both energy and power needed for the commercial operation of HDV fleets. Such demands often exceed the capability or cost effectiveness of currently known zero tailpipe carbon technologies such as battery electric power. That’s why we often refer to HDVs being a ‘hard to abate’ sector.

Whilst 8% of the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions appears a relatively small proportion, the ETI’s energy system modelling showed that this contribution could grow relatively as other sectors decarbonise. In some scenarios HDV emissions could represent as much as 30% of the permissible GHG emissions in 2050.

To tackle this issue, we started with the off-road sector (as a subset of HDVs), and we began work with an off-road heavy-duty vehicle that would be capable of delivering significant fuel efficiency. This would then be able to contribute towards the valuable first steps to decarbonising the sector.

Understanding key innovation barriers within the market ensured the ETI could design the programme for maximum impact and relevancy for the wider industry. Barriers include high engineering costs compounded by relatively small quantities of HDV fleet production. This means that platform technologies, where the technology can be efficiently implemented into a wide range of vehicles, has been identified as a cost-effective investment route.

ETI investigated various combinations of technologies, and incorporated different powertrain technologies, while ensuring that all technologies complemented each other, to successfully achieve a compound increase in fuel efficiency. Through modelling and testing a 28% improvement in fuel efficiency for a demonstration Caterpillar AT725 articulated truck was achieved. Using a demonstration CAT® 725 Articulated Truck fitted with an optimal selection of technologies at the Caterpillar Articulated Truck facility at Peterlee, meant both commercial and practical viability of this technology could be shown. The success of this research should prove valuable to the wider HDV market, policy stakeholders and also to Caterpillar.

Insights from the full range of vehicle and machines included in the ETI’s £40 million HDV Land Vehicle Systems Integration Demonstration project will be published later this year.