Bringing alternative fuels to European road freight shipping

Bringing alternative fuels to European road freight shipping

96.6% of current road transport relies on fossil diesel to run. This accounts for almost 20% of the total emissions in Europe. Despite the various solutions available, there is a lack of alternative fuels infrastructure in Europe and commercial freight vehicles still need testing and optimising to support the implementation of alternative fuel blends.

Still, there is a lack of attractiveness of fuel and powertrain alternatives for the general public and businesses; improvements in existing technologies entail a high level of pollutant emissions. Also, current alternative fuels fail to achieve significant GHG emissions reduction.

For the first time, COLHD (Commercial Vehicles using Optimised Liquid Biofuels and HVO Drivetrains) is aiming to develop a 540HP Natural Gas Direct Injection engine that is more efficient than a standard diesel one while being much less pollutant. Up until now, no alternative fuel engine has proven to be more efficient than a standard Diesel one.

This research and innovation project is dedicated to the use of liquid biofuels in commercial vehicles, such as LBM (Liquid Bio-Methane), LBP (Liquid Bio-Propane) and HVO (Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil), including the development of optimised biofuel blends, fuel storage systems and engine drivetrains.

The engines will be designed to run on optimised blends of both fossil fuels, mainly Autogas (LPG) and LNG (Liquid Natural Gas), and non-fossil renewable biofuels, with the objective of progressively increasing the share of biofuels throughout the evolution of the market.

In the figure below there is a qualitative comparison of different powertrain technologies regarding total CO2 emissions in g/km using a Cradle-to-Wheel approach, taking also into consideration the emissions during the manufacturing stage of the vehicles. When comparing total emissions, the potential of reducing them is similar in bio-gas powered vehicles and electric vehicles using 100% renewable energy.

Figure. Cradle to Wheel CO2 emissions for a Mid-size passenger car [Courtesy of SEAT, Methamorphosis project]

Figure. Cradle to Wheel CO2 emissions for a Mid-size passenger car [Courtesy of SEAT, Methamorphosis project]

And the benefits of using advanced biofuels in transportation go beyond reducing total emissions. By increasing the use of renewable fuel sources, COLHD will also contribute to increasing the circular economy of resources and reducing European energy dependency on imported fossil fuels.

As some economic and operational limitations are still hampering a wide introduction of biofuels in European road transport, the importance of having flexible powertrain technologies, able to work together with different fuel blends, becomes even more relevant. The advantages that flexible technologies provide in terms of their ability to work using different fuels and fuel blends makes the viability of alternative fuels in the market more likely to be successful.

However, to be able to benefit from these series of advantages, Europe needs a common and unambiguous policy framework, which COLHD partners will help elaborate by contributing with actualised policy and regulatory recommendations.

The project, which will run until 2020, consists of a consortium of eleven industrial partners (including MAN, Siemens and Bosch), four universities and seven European countries. In addition, it has a total budget of 12 million euros and is 70% funded by the European Commission, given its importance for compliance with the Paris Agreements to combat climate change.


The COLHD team invite you to follow their journey by:

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Don’t forget you can contribute to the European Open Consultation (to identify current market barriers of the alternative fuels market)