Overhead power lines for lorries to be trialled

28 July 2021

The UK government has announced £20m to fund freight decarbonisation trials including e-highways and hydrogen trucks. 

One trial will receive £2m to develop plans to install overhead cables over a 20km section of the M180 motorway near Scunthorpe.

Previous research found 13.4m tonnes of CO2 emissions could be cut a year by switching to a £19.3bn system of overhead lorry electrification.

The trial will see lorries fitted with rigs similar to those currently used on trains and trams that allow them to use electric power. They will also be fitted with batteries to power them through journeys occurring off motorways. 

The system could be implemented by 2024.

Part of the £20m will fund trials into battery-powered trucks, which will see 20 such trucks in use by the NHS and other government bodies.

Trials will also take place for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and new refuelling infrastructure in Scotland.

The government previously announced all petrol and diesel lorries would be phased out by 2040 in an effort to decarbonise road freight. 

These plans were criticised by industry bodies including the Road Haulage Association (RHA), which dubbed the plans “unrealistic” and argued green alternatives do not yet exist. 

Meanwhile, Tesco has announced it will offer new HGV drivers a £1,000 bonus in an attempt to tackle the driver shortage. 

The HGV driver shortage has affected UK food supplies, with supermarkets warning of food shortages and asking suppliers to pay extra costs after driver costs have increased by 12% in some areas. 

Richard Burnett, RHA chief executive, told the BBC supply chains were on the brink of “collapse” due to the driver shortages. 

He said: “We’re facing, potentially in the next two to three weeks, a collapse of the supply chain and we will see even bigger gaps on supermarket shelves because we cannot get product into the supply chain fast enough.

“We have got hauliers that have literally got vehicles parked up, unable to cover literally hundreds of thousands of loads on a daily basis. And that’s impacting the food supply chain.

“This is a massive crisis – a crisis on a scale of which we have never seen before in this industry and the government is burying its head in the sand – it’s not recognising the seriousness of the situation.”

Logistics UK has said there is a shortfall of 90,000 HGV drivers, exacerbated by the “pingdemic” and Brexit. 

Approximately 25,000 HGV drivers have returned to Europe following Brexit, and there is a backlog of around 25,000 HGV driver tests after tests were postponed due to Covid-19.

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