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04 November 2021

COP26 – A Business View: What About Hard-To-Decarbonise Fleet and Assets?

As operators of a vehicle fleet in excess of 1500 vehicles and hundreds of large heavy working machines, idverde and its clients face significant challenges in the race to zero emissions. If our industry is to play its part in halving emissions by 2030 and keeping the Paris Accord targets alive we will need to pursue more than one line of hope beyond today’s focus on electric-powered vehicles and machinery.

Our Group Head of Asset + Fleet Management, Angus Lindsay discusses the role that alternative fuels might play in helping idverde and the wider industry to decarbonise their activities while the world waits for technology advances that will meet the needs of hard-to-decarbonise fleet and machinery.

“The very nature of the services we provide to our clients require large, heavy-duty machinery and vehicles in order to undertake the work involved. This includes everything from tractors, diggers, dumper trucks, powerful grass cutting machinery and flatbed tipping vehicles, many of which are expected to operate for long durations over significant distances whilst towing trailers loaded with additional heavy machinery and materials. To date there are very few options to electrify this type of asset and where there are options, they remain significantly more expensive (often multiple times the cost of conventional models) and rarely match the performance or capability of their fossil fuel-powered predecessors in terms of power, mileage and/or runtime.

Although electric-powered options are continually diversifying and improving in terms of their capability and performance, it still seems that businesses like idverde will need to look elsewhere for alternative solutions for decarbonising the services we offer if we are to assist our clients with their rapidly approaching net zero targets, many of which centre around 2030. 

There are numerous long-term options shaping up to play a role in the decarbonisation of heavy working fleet including liquid petroleum gas (LPG), compressed natural gas (CNG) and hydrogen, which at the moment are only really viable for heavier vehicles such as trucks, buses and earth moving equipment. JCB has recently signed a deal with an Australian hydrogen producer, Fortescue Future Industries (FFI), which will see it become one of the UKs largest suppliers of clean fuel. JCB plan to release a range of hydrogen-powered earthmovers next year, therefore it won’t be long before this technology moves into smaller power units, although it could be cost-prohibitive and the supply chain will need establishing.

One emerging short-term option that idverde are exploring is the use of alternative fuels such as biofuel that can be used as a direct replacement for mineral-based fuels. Some biofuels are considered to be carbon neutral since the fuel source itself absorbs an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide during the growth phase as the amount of carbon dioxide released through combustion. This means that after taking processing and transportation impacts into account, substantial emission reductions can be achieved in comparison to regular mineral fuel blends.

Some fleet operators have already begun to transition their fleets to alternative fuel but there are limitations as to which vehicle makes and models are approved for such use, with the majority of engines in operation today not being approved by their manufacturers. That said, many new generations of engines are being designed and prepared for biofuel compatibility whereby vehicle or machinery warranties will still be upheld if the fleet operator chooses to use alternative fuel from day one or switch further down the line.

idverde is planning a number of alternative fuel trials for 2022 as a means of reducing carbon emissions between now and 2030 beyond purely battery-powered technology. As is the case with any other global environmental crisis, we need to explore a suite of solutions if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change in the coming decades and alternative low-carbon fuels will certainly have a role to play.”

If decarbonisation is not a flick the switch scenario, what other responsible actions should companies be taking to mitigate the impacts of our business activities from yesterday, today or tomorrow? idverde has joined the UN’s Climate Neutral Now Initiative – Read more about it here.

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