Try as we might to live in tandem with nature, our dependency on machines has led us to somewhat of a quagmire. Even the most environmentally friendly companies once they reach a certain size have no option but to turn to the wheels of industry, to get their goods where they need to be. You could plant a 1000 trees to take in carbon dioxide, but just how much was emitted by those vehicles that transported the flora to where it needed to be? Often, it can seem that like there’s no way out, and that potentially debilitating levels of carbon emissions have become the new normal state of our planet.
Thankfully, truck manufactures share the sentiment that the existing situation cannot continue unrestricted. From the providers of individual parts all the way up the supply chain, there has been a shift of opinion towards embracing technology that can make for more eco-friendly models. Mercedes for example have teamed up with Krone in a partnership that they estimate will not only benefit the environment, but will allow for fuel efficiency savings of 14%. For those willing to invest £2000 in the ‘Profi Liner Efficiency’ package, improvements in aerodynamism will make for trucks capable of reaching their destination faster, and therefore spending less time emitting pollutants on the go.
But such improvements are minimal when compared to the possibilities enabled by smart AI technology. Currently in the experimental phase, ‘HGV Platoons’ of driverless lorries have been touted as a huge step towards reducing congestion and improving fuel economy. As trucking within just the USA alone is responsible for 16% of corporate gas emissions, the sooner such technology can go global, the better.
Following this line of thought, the Government has not been idle in promoting such developments. Combining policy with support for innovation, various initiatives look to discourage emission heavy vehicles in favour of cleaner alternatives. For instance, London Mayor Sadiq Khan plans to expand the capital’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone to levy a further fee on archaic models that emit overt levels of carbon. Within the European Parliament, MEP’s are calling for truck fuel to have specific emission standards, similar to those that exist for cars and vans.
In conjunction with private corporations, state funding is also aiding in the development of sustainable trucking. The partly Government run Energy Technologies Institute has set aside £200,000 for the Japanese firm Horiba Mira, who have been commissioned for research into tyres on heavy goods vehicles. Estimates are that they may be able to reduce emissions by 8%, with each marginal gain contributing to the overall goal of eco-friendly transport. Such a shared goal between nations has led to contracts between governments and corporations from across the world, and Asian innovators in particular have been recognised for the senior role they are playing in researching sustainable growth.
Looking even further down the line, the hope is that trucks can be run completely off renewable energy or at least from a hybrid which minimalises the presence of fossil fuels. Hybrid cars already exist whose battery can be charged at designated stations, so why not roll this out for trucks as well? Already, some designs can reach 110km on 80% battery power alone, but there would have to be a reliable supply of clean energy for this to be a long-term solution.
The main thing to take away from this debate, is that radical change will not occur overnight. Truck users, manufactures and designers must think about the financial viability of these improvements as altruism alone will not be capable of meeting consumers demands. That is not to say they aren’t taking the matter seriously, as can be seen with over 7000 pre-orders for the ‘Nikola One’ electric truck 5 months before it was even unveiled.
Indeed, perhaps the bigger issue is removing the presence of diesel power from the roads? Playing a significant part in about 40,000 premature deaths a year, the backlash against vehicles that continue to run off diesel has come to the point that some consider it to be a public health emergency. Regardless, so long as progress is made towards weaning ourselves off of diesel as well as producing more fuel efficient designs, the trucking industry can’t go wrong with such environmental considerations.