Eco Innovation

UK freight sector plans for battery electric vehicle fleet in 5 years

23rd November 2022
Kiera Sowery

Two in five freight companies are using existing data to improve efficiency, meaning immediate opportunities to decarbonise fleets are being missed, warns industry leaders. A  study, carried out by leading UK business connectivity provider for the transport and logistics sector Neos Networks, has found that over half (55%) of UK companies are actively planning to adopt battery electric vehicles (BEVs) across their fleet in as little as five years to align with net-zero targets.

BEVs were over two times more popular than competing technologies such as hydrogen fuel-cell electric vehicles (FCEVs), favoured by 26% of companies, or other alternative fuels, chosen by 23%. In fact, just 7% of operators don’t plan to adopt decarbonisation measures in this time period.

The 2022 Green Technology in Freight report, carried out by Neos, asked business leaders at 34 of the UK’s top logistics companies for their insight on changes made since the decarbonisation plan, what barriers they experience in meeting green targets and what the future holds for the industry.

42% of freight companies highlighted artificial intelligence (AI) and data learning across operations as key to their decarbonisation plan. One year on from the announcement of the UK government's Decarbonising Transport plan*, industry experts encourage operators to act now and ‘get smart’ to lay foundations for data systems. 

Currently, just two in five companies who collect and report on primary (real-time) data of greenhouse gas and/or carbon emissions are using the data to improve operational efficiency. To truly capitalise on the information available, investment is needed in network systems, employee expertise and connectivity infrastructure.

Does the industry truly believe in net-zero targets?

The industry remains divided as to whether the UK government’s target of net-zero emissions in transport by 2050 can be achieved**. Over half (55%) of respondents were positive about meeting targets, though 45% of operators are still to be convinced.

The greatest barrier to net-zero targets for three in five T&L operators (61%) is high investment costs, followed by concern that some shippers are favouring lower costs over greener practices. 35% of operators stated that low costs being prioritised over sustainability is a significant obstacle to decarbonisation.

Joanne Green, Sales Director for Public Sector and Transport at Neos Networks, stated: “We regularly talk to leaders in the transport sector, and hear about the challenges they face when it comes to decarbonisation. Smart tech, AI and real-time data are already being introduced by many to enable them to become more efficient. These can be important first steps on the road to achieving net-zero. The government has also recognised this, identifying greater use of AI and data tools as key to cutting freight emissions, particularly for smaller operators. And yet, for any of these technologies to be truly beneficial, the sector must ensure they have the right infrastructure and support in place to enable them.

Across all kinds of industries, we’ve seen that digital transformation is more successful when connectivity requirements are properly understood and  budgeted for. Integrating smart technology and AI systems into operations is no different – it needs sufficient investment and upfront planning or it simply won’t work.”

Kerry Fawcett, Digital Director at iCompario, said: “Decarbonisation is an obstacle for logistics and transport, but can also bring about major improvements – recognising that solutions need to be implemented to avoid climate disaster through mismanagement of resources in one of the most pollutive industries. Exploring new technologies will be the key to change.

“There are ways to “go green” in the industry by electrifying fleets, however, this comes at a substantial capital cost to the organisation. A soft route into this will be through the use of technology and insights into operating behaviour of vehicles and drivers to better understand how this can be improved.

“Reducing idling hours, monitoring fuel usage and insights into driver behaviour will give leaders granular detail to make environmentally aware decisions regarding the use of their carbon-emitting assets.“

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