Looking to a green freight future
A GOVERNMENT-FUNDED STUDY THAT EXPLORED transitioning New Zealand’s road freight to alternative green fuels, acknowledges that there’s a lot more work to do before green freight is viable, according to Road Transport Forum chief executive Nick Leggett.
He welcomed the opportunity for the Forum to have some involvement with the Ministry of Transport’s 2020 Green Freight Working Paper as it gathered information.
“It is always good to plan for the future and we can’t put our head in the sand and pretend we can run on diesel forever,” Leggett reasons.
“It’s not just the Government calling for greener solutions across all aspects of our lives: Many road freight transport operators will be finding customers wanting to deep dive into how they are running and measuring sustainable business practices.
“Alternative green fuels are a growing area of interest and investment globally, but the passenger vehicle market has developed more than truck manufacturing.
“So, choices that can be made in NZ will be constrained by what is available. There also has to be the appropriate infrastructure to support any alternative fuel options. Freight companies are unlikely to invest in vehicles that cannot be easily recharged/refuelled throughout the country.
“We are all aware of the current limitations, but we also need to look at the opportunities. Another thing COVID-19 has taught us is you simply don’t know what’s ahead and global shocks have a way of changing things.”
He believes that NZ’s COVID-19 lockdown brought “a greater understanding by Government of both the necessity and the many interconnected parts of moving freight.”
Adds Leggett: “Road freight transport presents a conundrum for this Government. They don’t like fossil-fuelled trucks on roads, but they need them.
“We have an economy based on exports and imports and 93% of the total tonnes of freight moved in NZ goes by road. This has possibly never been more important to the economy than it is now.
“To the uninitiated, trucks don’t fit with the climate change narrative. But the Government can’t tax and regulate trucks off the road until there is some viable alternative to fuelling them – and the infrastructure to support that.
The MoT working paper “takes a first look at the fuels, vehicles and infrastructure challenges and opportunities.”
It looks at “the three existing options as alternative fuels – electricity, green hydrogen and biofuels – but acknowledges a lot more work needs to be done for any of these to be viable at scale. It also notes that there is no one-size-fits-all solution and other options could emerge.
“We’re pleased to see it notes there are sustainability concerns with batteries for electric vehicles – in particular their production and disposal. We feel (that) in the rush to endorse electric vehicles, this has been somewhat overlooked.
“Transitioning road freight in NZ to alternative green fuels has to happen, but it isn’t going to be overnight. That means there is time to thoroughly analyse the options.
“The working paper says: ‘The Government should consider options that provide the freight industry with flexibility to transition to the alternative green fuels that are best suited to their organisations.’ We think that is sound advice.
“If the Government really wants to go big on green freight, the opportunity is there to back ourselves as a smart, clean, green country and come up with the solutions ourselves.”
NZ’s first heavy-duty all-electric highway truck was launched last December by linen, uniform, first-aid and hygiene supplies specialist Alsco. But its range is a problematic 200 kilometres