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Commercial vehicles in the climate check

RWTH Chair publishes emissions target calculator for the commercial vehicle sector

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The Chair of Production Engineering of E-Mobility Components (PEM) at RWTH Aachen University has published a CO2 calculation tool for commercial vehicles. The free online tool calculates the effects of self-defined drive transition scenarios, specifies their costs and energy consumption and compares them with the emission targets. According to the tool, they cannot be achieved with current developments.

A row of parked lorry tractor units in front of a forest

© GREGOR, Pixabay

In German road transport, commercial vehicles cause an above-average amount of CO2 emissions in relation to all vehicles on German roads. Nevertheless, the focus of the current political debate is mainly on passenger cars and less on freight transport, according to a press release from the PEM Chair. The researchers have developed the new online tool to calculate CO2 emissions and investment costs for various vehicle fleets and infrastructures. This makes it possible to determine how high the proportion of alternatively powered commercial vehicles of different weight classes must be in order to achieve or even exceed the climate targets depending on the type of energy supply. There is a choice of battery electric vehicles, overhead line and fuel cell lorries as well as internal combustion lorries powered by synthetic fuels. The model was developed as part of the "LiVe" electric truck research project funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection and was published in November 2023.

"With the current developments in commercial transport and the manufacturers' market announcements, the emission targets for 2030 cannot be achieved," warns Professor Achim Kampker, Head of the PEM Chair. Due to higher product requirements, longer development cycles and less public interest, the first electric models are only just being presented or tested. "In addition, there will be no patent solution for this vehicle class, as the respective requirements are too different and even contradict each other in some cases," explains Kampker. The RWTH researchers had already pointed this out at the beginning of 2023 in their white paper "Strategies for achieving emission targets in the commercial vehicle sector".

Kim Kohlmeyer from the NGO Transport&Environment (T&E) emphasised in an opinion piece that the German funding programme for climate-friendly commercial vehicles and infrastructure (KsNI) is going in the right direction, but that more and more easily approved funds are needed. "As an environmental association, T&E is often not one of the first to call for comprehensive funding programmes for the industry. But transformation cannot be achieved half-heartedly and, as a former entrepreneur, I know that you can't plan with Schrödinger's cat. Uncertainty slows things down and leads to investments being postponed or cancelled," she wrote in November 2023. Kristina Haverkamp, Managing Director of the German Energy Agency, also emphasised the need for clear funding commitments.