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Renewable fuels can make immediate cuts to road transport emissions says study

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A new study has been produced by the Zemo Partnership, providing further evidence that renewable fuels can make a cost effective, immediate and significant contribution to cutting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the pathway to Net Zero.

The UK needs to cut GHG emissions from surface transport by almost 100 million tonnes by 2035, extending to around 136 million tonnes by 2050. A portfolio of approaches will be needed to replace fossil fuels and deliver emissions reductions at the scale necessary within this timeframe.

Renewable fuels are already reducing GHG emissions from all existing petrol and diesel vehicles. Such vehicles will continue to form a significant part of the UK vehicle parc for many years. Using renewable fuels in hybrid vehicles can also help to decarbonise applications for which a pure electric vehicle is currently unaffordable or unavailable, due to the power demand, vehicle range or recharging considerations.

The study looks at vehicle life cycle GHG emissions across a range of vehicles, powertrains and fuel/energy pathways to help inform future policy direction. Analysis shows that in all vehicle segments modelled, renewable fuels offer significant GHG emissions savings when compared with conventional, predominantly fossil-content fuels. Some renewable fuels applications show greater life cycle GHG emissions savings than current battery electric vehicles using grid electricity, though rapid decarbonisation of UK power supplies will continue to shift the balance in favour of electrification over time.

Furthermore, the analysis shows that a one-size-fits-all approach to road vehicle applications is unlikely to be the optimal solution to road transport decarbonisation, at least in the short to medium-term.

The study authors recommend that transport policy and legislation should be more directly informed by vehicle life cycle GHG emissions data, and not focused solely on mitigating tailpipe emissions.

Report co-author and Zemo’s Head of Sustainability, Gloria Esposito, said:

“Zemo’s study elegantly demonstrates the importance of life cycle GHG emission analysis in fairly comparing different powertrain technologies and renewable fuels against today’s fossil fuel counterparts. Our work shows the significant contribution renewable fuels can continue to make towards reducing road transport GHG emissions. In particular, quick wins are available to the UK HGV fleet sector today.

Transport policy has to rapidly evolve to embrace life cycle GHG emissions metrics. This is imperative to safeguard against unintended consequences and to enable a broader range of technology options to be recognised as viable candidates for decarbonising transport.”

Join Zemo’s online webinar on 21st February 2024 at 14:00 to hear more about the study and the contribution that renewable, low carbon fuels can make to cutting emissions, if implemented soon and at scale.

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