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Breaking down barriers to fossil-free transport

14 MAY 2019

Scania and Pathways Coalition drive debate over achieving sustainable transport. 


The technology is available, much of the industry is willing to change, but a systematic approach to achieving sufficient sustainable fuels and infrastructure is needed.


These are the main themes that have emerged from recent meetings between the Pathways Coalition and members of the transport industry, public sector and academia.


The four members of the coalition—E.ON, H&M, Siemens and Scania—came together in 2018 to accelerate the transition to a fossil-free transport system. According to a study underwritten by the coalition, fossil fuels in heavy transport must be phased out by 2040 to reach the Paris Agreement carbon emissions target.

Call for coordinated renewable fuel strategy

However, reaching the Paris target will require an unprecedented pace of change in the transport industry. Renewable fuels will make a significant contribution to achieving decarbonised transport, but, as things stand at present, there is simply not enough quantity for them to be a lasting solution.


It’s a point that has been raised separately by two of the transport ecosystem’s most active voices, multinational clothing H&M and international logistics provider HAVI. Both have been working closely with Scania and others to help drive a shift in attitudes and practice towards favouring cleaner and more sustainable transport.


Massimo D’Alessandro, Director of Sustainability and Innovation for international logistics provider HAVI, says, “The truck manufacturers are doing their job and the technology is available,” says D’Alessandro. With Scania’s help, HAVI is working to make 70 percent of its fleet of trucks in Europe run on diesel-free fuel by 2021.


“But countries have differing approaches,” he adds. “In Sweden, biofuels are plentiful, but that is not the case in all countries. Rather than random availability, we need a systematic European approach with common support. Clearly politicians need to do more.”


The H&M Group has targeted a climate positive value chain by 2040, and Lina Ödeen, Sustainability Manager at H&M Global Logistics, agrees that the lack of coherent alternatives is impeding developments in transport.


“One renewable fuel differs from another and that makes it difficult for us to invest globally,” says Ödeen. “Another challenge is finding transport providers that offer services with renewable fuels.”

The role of electrification in fossil-free transport

It’s clear that renewable fuels can be a vital stepping stone to fossil-free transport, but the difficulties in obtaining sufficient supplies mean that full electrification of the transport system will be the cornerstone of the change process. Electrification technology is scalable, and when fully implemented, will actually be cheaper than fossil fuels. Åsa Pettersson, Head of Public Affairs and Sustainability at Scania, sounds a positive note:

“Needless to say, major investments in infrastructure will be required, but these will come, since the fuel used for battery-electric propulsion is cheaper. Once we start making that transition, no-one will drive on fossil fuels, simply because it will be more expensive to do so.”

Decarbonisation of energy systems

However, the prerequisite for achieving the desired CO2 savings is the parallel decarbonisation of energy systems, as one of the climate change experts pointed out at a recent meeting with the Pathways Coalition.


“Carbon pricing is essential, and I don’t believe that enough is being done to fully decarbonise the energy sector,” says Professor Ottmar Edenhofer, Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.


“We are still investing in coal in the world. We have to cease using coal. We can’t succeed with electrical vehicles if we fail in the power sector. We need inspiration, incentives and infrastructure and it is absolutely essential that we decarbonise energy.”