17 December 2018

The slow road to zero emissions

As Christmas approaches, my mind turns to subjects green and pleasant - not fir trees, ivy and the state of old England but how we might look toward a greener future for the automotive industry and for logistics in particular.

From January 1, 2019, OEMs must publish Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP)-derived fuel consumption data, offering a clearer view of real world vehicle running costs. Of course, along with greater fuel economy comes lower emissions, and a report recently published by the Logistics Emissions Reduction Scheme (LERS) makes for interesting if a little depressing reading. LERS has found that its members reduced their average greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 4% in 2017, a figure obtained by analysing fuel and vehicle kilometre data from its 188 members, using some 88,000 commercial vehicles in their fleets.

The report found its members have decreased their average kg of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) per vehicle km to 0.72 from 0.75 in 2016. From April 2019, there will be much tighter emissions controls on petrol and diesel passenger and commercial vehicles and LERS says that 48% of their member’s HGVs and 44% of their vans are now ready for the UK’s Clean Air Zones and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone, having been upgraded to the more emission-friendly Euro 6 model.

This sounds laudable but put in the context of global emissions of all types of pollutants and ozone-depleting gases, cleaning up your vehicle fleet’s emissions by 4% in a year is not going to do very much to reverse the tide of global warming.

No, what is needed is a robust attitude to and by the global automotive industry; a business that has profited enormously from providing personal and goods mobility. And we should start in automotive logistics. If every carmaker was made responsible for how every part of its vehicles travels, in OEM supply and in aftermarket, and also in finished vehicle transport and recycling, some really effective measures could be taken.

Just as OEMs are rapidly designing, engineering and manufacturing much cleaner vehicles to sell to their customers, so they can apply the same advanced mobility solutions to the supply chain that benefits them and their shareholders. In the same way that OEMs demand that their suppliers operate a sustainable and environmentally-friendly business model, so every carmaker should know all about the environmental footprint of the movement of its vehicles and their components, and be working hard to lighten that footprint.

The automotive industry has had a very good run for the last 120 years, now it is time to pay something back to the planet so that we can all continue to enjoy the personal mobility we have come to expect.

Simon Duval Smith

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