Although trucks only account for six per cent of all vehicles on German roads, they generate 30 per cent of total traffic emissions. In view of expanding transport activities, further increases ought to be expected here.
Since electrification of heavy goods traffic in particular is difficult, this specifically offers an opportunity for the use of alternative fuels. The spectrum here is constantly expanding and ranges from bio-diesel, including synthetic fuels to hydrogen.
Gas-powered trucks are one option, an increasing number of which could be run on biogas in the future. This is why Zukunft Gas and the German Federal Association of Road Haulage, Logistics and Disposal (BGL) have issued a joint position paper strongly advocating exploiting the climate protection potential of bio-LNG in trucks.
Bio-LNG is liquefied biogas. Vehicles running on this alternative fuel are almost climate-neutral. It is currently a marketable technology that promises immediate CO2 savings at low cost, particularly for long-distance freight transport, according to the assessment of both organisations.
If all trucks operating with CNG (compressed natural gas) and LNG (liquefied natural gas) were fuelled with biomethane in 2025, a greenhouse gas reduction of 1.6 to 1.9 million tonnes of CO2eq would be possible. The production of bio-LNG has considerably gained in momentum in recent months. Well-known LNG filling station operators and biomethane suppliers have embarked on the development of corresponding projects. In Germany, according to a member survey by the industry association Zukunft Gas, a significant share of bio-LNG is to be expected on the market from 2023 onwards.
With this in mind, Dr. Timm Kehler, the Chairman of Zukunft Gas, emphasises: “If we are to achieve the ambitious climate protection targets, policy-makers must now not focus solely on one technology for road freight transport. Bio-LNG offers the sector a major opportunity for rapid and effective climate protection. Policymakers must now recognise this and adjust the regulatory framework to create reliability for bio-LNG producers and hauliers”.
The associations therefore call for the use of biomethane in the transport sector to be positively considered in the revision of the EU fleet limits and for bio-LNG to continue to receive the maximum possible toll reduction on both a European and domestic level within the framework of the Eurovignette Directive. Trucks operated on 100 per cent biomethane should not be allocated a lower status versus other zero-emission trucks.
As the BGL board spokesman Prof. Dr. Dirk Engelhardt emphasises, the medium-sized transport and logistics companies are keen to make their contribution to climate protection. Unfortunately however, there are hardly any technological alternatives on the market up to now. Large-scale production for e-trucks and hydrogen trucks is not to be expected until the late 20s.
However, natural gas vehicles also scored points in the private car sector last year. Two such vehicles rank high on the list of the most environmentally friendly cars in the ADAC Ecotest 2021. The Seat Leon TGI is in first place, with the VW Golf TGI close behind. The CNG Club was also pleased to see that e-vehicles and the other types of drive came in second.
This comes as little surprise to the ADAC test engineers. After all, CNG vehicles have been proving for years that they blow fewer pollutants into the air and emit less CO₂ at the same time compared to diesel- and petrol-driven cars.
The car industry is focusing on electric drive instead, not least because e-cars are officially regarded as zero-emission vehicles. But e-cars also consume energy – and power plants with exhaust gas emissions are involved in generating electricity. This is why the ADAC takes the current power plant mix in the Federal Republic of Germany and the test consumption including accruing charging losses as the basis for its calculations. An electric car therefore also “emits” CO₂ and pollutants – just not through its exhaust. With this calculation, e-cars are positioned – albeit only just – behind natural gas-powered cars.
On closer inspection, however, the gap could well be greater, as the CNG Club points out. The ADAC therefore considered two categories in assessing environment-friendliness: on the one hand, pollutant emissions such as carbon monoxide (CO), particles and nitrogen oxides (NOX) were evaluated and on the other hand, CO2 emissions. The ADAC had specified 40 percent BioCNG in the CNG-Germany mix as the basis for calculating emissions. “The share of BioCNG in Germany, however, already climbed to around 80 percent by the end of 2021. This in turn improves the environmental balance of CNG drive systems. This will allow CNG to set itself apart even more from electric vehicles”, explains Miklós Graf Dezasse, the President of the CNG Club.