Environment: RHA highlight power sources for operators

Environment: RHA highlight power sources for operators

12 Aug 2022 Posted By James Evison

What are the options today - and in the near future? We take a look at the various power options for members and the commercial vehicle sector, as road freight begins its decarbonisation journey.

RHA Environment: Find out more about the campaign here

The options

Diesel: this is the current base case for HGV’s.

HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil): this is a near zero CO2 fuel that can be used in any modern diesel lorry

Gas to Liquid / blended diesel: gas to liquid diesel can be used as a B7 replacement (GTL can also be blended with diesel)

Gas: an alternative engine type. Can use Compressed Natural Gas or Bio Gas

Hydrogen Fuel Cell: uses hydrogen gas to power an fuel cell/battery hybrid electric lorry

Hydrogen ICE: uses hydrogen to power a gas engine (as alternative to CNG/BioGas)

Battery Electric – Battery lorry with full electric drive train

Battery / Electric Road hybrid – A Battery Electric lorry that can be operated / charged from overhead catenary.

Status of each of these options today


The base case for HGVs. Current using B7 fuel. The vehicle type all others need to be compared to in respect of usage, environmental performance and cost. All new diesel lorries are supplied at Euro VI emission standards. Future emission standards some years away.

The blend B7 mixes 7% [biofuel] in with the oil based diesel to reduce the carbon emission of the fuel.

HVO (Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil)

This is a 100% biofuel made from vegetable oil. It is available now but costs more than standard B7 diesel. There are a range of suppliers that can provide this fuel. Stepping up supply will be an issue if it was to be widely adopted.

Environmental concerns do exist regarding the feedstock needed to make the HVO. Widely claimed that HVO reduces greenhouse emissions by “up to 90%”.

The CO2 associated with HVO comes from the production and distribution of the fuel.

Gas to Liquid / blended diesel

Gas to liquid diesel can be used as a B7 replacement (GTL can also be blended with diesel). GHL (made from natural gas) is a clean burning replacement for traditional diesel.

As it is a fossil fuel there is no claimed CO2 advantage.


An alternative engine type to diesel. Can use Compressed Natural Gas or Bio Gas. If Bio Gas is used the carbon reductions can very significant. Like HVO, bio gas is more expensive than standard natural gas.

Gas requires the operator to carefully prepare for its use, not just the fuel, but also the maintenance needs to be considered as there are considerable differences between diesel and gas lorries. The vehicles and support should be available. Performance can be lower.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

These lorries are not available for commercial use now. There are virtually no fueling stations that can be used, although bunkering options for onsite supply may be possible. In short, other than very narrow trial conditions these vehicles are not currently an option.

Hydrogen ICE

Similar to the fuel cell option, the vehicles do not exist for commercial use now. Other than for trials, Hydrogen ICE is not an option. Current hydrogen production is not zero carbon. It will not be zero carbon for many years.

Battery Electric Lorries

Battery lorries with full electric drive train are coming on the market today. Ranges are being expanded quickly to address many market needs. The issues for anyone considering a battery lorry are well known. Use, range, charging facilities, charging time, payload limits, ability to support ancillary equipment, vehicle maintenance and repair availability and overall cost need to be considered.

So, they are an option that can be considered today, but anyone doing so must carefully consider how the vehicle can be used. In some cases changes to operating practices could allow them, but in many others they will not be a practical option.

Many more battery electric lorries need to get into the hands of operators to be able to learn how these lorries can be used day to day in a wide range of conditions. On-road charging is a major barrier for many operations at this time. Cost is significantly higher too.

Current electricity production in the UK is not zero carbon. Over time, the grid is de-carbonising but it will not hit zero carbon in the operational lifetime (around 12 years on average) of any lorry put on the road today.

Battery / Electric Road hybrid

A Battery Electric lorry that can be operated / charged from overhead catenary. The equipment needed for this does not exist except in trial form. As an option for an operator it does not exist today.

Todays options to reduce CO2 from new lorries

Carbon reduction objectives would lead many towards HVO as the drop in fuel for today.

The cost of gas is a key factor in respect of gas lorries. Right now that is not attractive, but over the life cycle of the lorry it may be attractive to some.

Bio gas is a drop in fuel for those considering gas lorries – with a very attractive reduction in CO2 emissions when using bio gas.

Battery lorries will have a role for a growing number of operators who have the right business model to use them productively.

To discuss your environmental issues, contact our policy lead, Chris Ashley.

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