Biomethane for heavy-duty vehicles: a viable solution

Feb 22, 2022 | News

In order to reach the objectives of the Green Deal, Climate Law and the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy, the EU Regulation on CO2 emission standards for new heavy-duty vehicles (HDVs) will be essential in regulating CO2 emissions for new trucks and buses in Europe. The European Commission aims to increase the ambition of the current provisions in the Regulation to encourage emission reduction, incentivize investments in zero-emission heavy-duty vehicles and address existing market failures. In doing so, the European Commission now opened a public consultation on the file. The Zürich 5 Coalition is looking forward to engage with the European lawmakers because for heavy-duty vehicles, biomethane can provide an easy solution and help the EU achieve its emission reduction goals.

The 2022 revision to tackle emissions in heavy-duty road transport

Around 70% of EU freight is transported by road. Consisting of over 600,000 mostly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and employing almost 3 million people, the road freight and passenger transport sectors belong to the most important sectors of European road transport[1]. However, the road transport sector is also one of the most polluting sectors, with heavy-duty vehicles being responsible for 27% of CO2 emissions from road transport in the EU, while only accounting for 2% of the vehicles on European roads[2]. On top of that, HDVs are responsible for almost 5% of the total EU greenhouse gas emissions[3]. Therefore, it is key to de-fossilize this segment of the transport sector.

The revision of the Regulation will tackle the CO2 emission targets, the scope of vehicles, the inclusion of a mechanism for investments in more sustainable vehicles, manufacturer compliance targets, and pool practices and the funding of some innovative programs. The European Commission seems to focus its attention on the incentivization and development of low and zero-emission technologies by manufacturers. Currently, the progress of cutting CO2 emissions has been slow in the heavy-duty segment.  All available solutions will therefore be needed to reduce emissions. This is where biomethane comes in.

How biomethane can support CO2 emission reductions in heavy-duty vehicles

The coming decade’s green transition will require an enormous effort by the EU’s transport sector, running on approximately 7 million HDVs[4]. However, zero-emission technology is developing at a much slower pace for HDVs compared to lighter vehicles such as cars. Biomethane, when used as a road transport fuel, provides CO2 savings of up to 97% compared to gasoline vehicles. When bio-LNG comes from biomethane, the CO2 emissions balance for bio-LNG-powered HDVs comes out negative[5].

Hence, for heavy-duty vehicles, biomethane can provide a solution and help the EU achieve its emission reduction goals. Until economically viable options for new sustainable powertrains exist, the EU should focus on significantly increasing the use of alternative fuels such as biomethane in heavy-duty road transport.

Reducing CO2 emissions has been difficult for HDVs. The Zürich 5 Coalition therefore stresses the need for a technology neutral approach when reviewing this legislation. All available solutions will be needed to reduce emissions. Biomethane must play a crucial role in this regard. When the well-to-wheel principle is considered, biomethane powered HDVs are a good alternative to diesel-powered vehicles when aiming for CO2 emission reductions.

The Zürich 5 Coalition is looking forward to further engage with the European institutions on this subject, to participate in stakeholder discussions and expert groups leading up to the publication of the legislative proposal in Q4 2022.

Want to know more?

Read more about the benefits of biomethane here and download our position paper here.

[1] European Parliament (2019). Briefing – CO2 emission standards for heavy-duty vehicles. https://www.europarl.europa.eu/RegData/etudes/BRIE/2018/628268/EPRS_BRI(2018)628268_EN.pdf

[2] ACEA (2022). Report – Vehicles in use, Europe 2022. https://www.acea.auto/files/ACEA-report-vehicles-in-use-europe-2022.pdf

[3] The ICCT (2021). Blog – Transport could burn up the EU’s entire carbon budget. https://theicct.org/transport-could-burn-up-the-eus-entire-carbon-budget/

[4] IRU (2022). The way ahead for a greener Europe. https://www.iru.org/news-resources/newsroom/way-ahead-greener-europe

[5] European Biogas Association (2020). White Paper: BioLNG in Transport: Making Climate Neutrality a Reality. https://www.europeanbiogas.eu/biolng-in-transport-making-climate-neutrality-a-reality/