As a focus on climate change grows, many industries are making significant strides toward sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. One sector at the forefront of this transformation is the commercial vehicle industry.
Here’s everything you need to know about the trends and developments driving the commercial sector toward achieving net-zero emissions as we move into 2024.
Considering net zero
Before delving into the trends, it’s crucial to understand why achieving net-zero emissions is vital. Commercial vehicles, including trucks, buses, and delivery vans, play a substantial role in global carbon emissions.
These vehicles are essential for the functioning of modern economies, but their environmental impact cannot be overlooked. Net-zero emissions, the balance between emissions produced and emissions removed from the atmosphere, is the path forward for a more sustainable future.
There’s a 2035 deadline for smaller vehicles and a 2040 deadline for larger vehicles whereby all new truck engines have zero emissions, so it’s even more important that the transport industry gets to grips with net zero.
Navigating the road to net zero
In pursuing a more sustainable future, the commercial vehicle sector has emerged as a pivotal player in achieving net-zero emissions. The industry is profoundly transforming with mounting environmental concerns and increasingly stringent regulations.
This transformation is marked by innovative trends and strategies that promise to revolutionise how we think about commercial transportation. This list will explore the most influential trends driving the commercial vehicle sector toward a net-zero future, where sustainability, efficiency and environmental responsibility take centre stage.
One of the most prominent trends in the commercial vehicle sector is the electrification of fleets. Electric vehicles (EVs) are rapidly gaining popularity due to their potential to reduce emissions significantly. However, 84% of operators are currently not running any alternative-fuelled vehicles, and that number is only predicted to increase by around 10% over the next three years.
To reach net zero targets, this needs to be a focus. According to our research, just 6% of our respondents are running battery-electric vehicles, while 7% are running hybrids.
Breakthroughs in battery technology have led to EVs with longer ranges and faster charging times, making it a more attractive option for those with a fleet that needs to drive further.
There are also incentives, subsidies, and tax breaks for those looking to invest in electric for their business. When it comes to total cost of ownership, this can make them the most cost-effective option. There’s no Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to pay on electronic vehicles that cost more than £40,000, and there are scrappage schemes to support businesses when purchasing EVs or installing charging infrastructure.
EVs are exempt from fees in the London Ultra Low Emission Zone, and more and more cities are adopting Clean Air Zones; this trend isn’t going away. This is another reason that electric commercial vehicles are more practical for businesses – with our research showing that congestion charges, ULEZ, and clean air zones are areas of concern mentioned most frequently, particularly in relation to local regulation that affects providers in some regions more than others.
While electrification is a significant driver, sustainable fuels are another key commercial vehicle sector trend. Gas prices rose by 124% on average in Q3 2022, increasing ownership costs for gas vehicles considerably – and when you own a fleet, these costs can seriously add up.
Fuels for the future include biodiesel, hydrogen and synthetic fuels, which all produce fewer emissions. This makes them a viable alternative for businesses that already have the infrastructure in place for diesel vehicles. According to our research, 88% of operators who aren’t using alternative fuels in their fleet have no plans to run any, with half thinking this might change in 2026. Although 25% of the market may be experimenting with alternative fuels by 2025, the number of vehicles awaiting a switch will be enormous.
Hydrogen fuel cell technology is also being explored for heavy-duty trucks. These vehicles have longer ranges and shorter refuelling times compared to batteries. Synthetic fuels are also on the rise, as they can be produced using renewable energy sources, making them a carbon-neutral option. They can be used in existing internal combustion engine vehicles.
Connectivity and telematics
Digital transformation is reshaping the commercial vehicle sector. Integrating connectivity and telematics systems improves fleet efficiency and sustainability through route optimisation, predictive maintenance and driver behaviour monitoring.
Tools like advanced telematics systems help plan more fuel-efficient routes, reducing emissions. Real-time data enables adjustments based on traffic and road conditions, leading to less driver downtime and more efficient routes. IoT sensors and predictive maintenance algorithms help prevent breakdowns.
Well-maintained vehicles are more fuel-efficient and have reduced emissions. Telematics systems monitor driver behaviour, encouraging eco-friendly driving habits. Reduced idling, smoother acceleration and less braking all contribute to lower emissions.
The road to net zero is not one that companies can travel alone. Collaboration is a growing trend, with partnerships being formed between Government bodies and private companies to invest in sustainable transport solutions. Whether this is to fund research or work on infrastructure development, this collaborative approach is making a difference.
There’s also a growth in industry alliances, with leading commercial vehicle manufacturers forming partnerships to accelerate the adoption of sustainable technologies. These alliances pool resources and expertise to create innovative solutions.
Companies are also encouraging their suppliers to adopt sustainable practices. Supply chain partners are increasingly held to sustainability standards, which continues to trickle down the entire chain, building that net zero mindset throughout the process.
The future roadmap
The transition to net-zero emissions has some challenges, but it’s also brimming with opportunities. The electrification of fleets, using sustainable fuels, telematics, and collaboration are the key trends steering the sector toward a more sustainable future.
With continued innovation, investment and collaboration, the day when commercial vehicles operate with net-zero emissions is approaching. This is a road worth travelling for our planet’s and future generations’ wellbeing.