"Zero emissions out of conviction"
As Department Head Trends and Technology Research, Corporate Research & Development at DACHSER, Andre Kranke heads the "Climate Protection" innovation project. In this interview, he explains what experience DACHSER has already gained with new, zero-emission drive technologies in practice.
How can manufacturers achieve the target of zero emissions?
To ensure compliance with the definition of zero-emission vehicles set out in law – no emissions of CO2 and air pollutants at the vehicles' tailpipes – the way forward will be battery-powered electric trucks and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks – and possibly trucks with overhead catenary systems on selected routes. The complete shift to zero-emission vehicles will come, the commercial-vehicle industry has been forced into that position by the imposition of legal framework conditions. Given this, it is no wonder that as early as 2019, market-leading automotive companies like Daimler Trucks announced that from 2039 they would only be selling zero-emissions vehicles in Europe, but also the USA and Asia.
Which of the technologies you listed will win the race?
Battery-powered electric vehicles and hydrogen fuel-cell trucks, although there are currently still different opinions regarding the deployment scenarios. Some vehicle manufacturers favour battery-powered electric trucks for city delivery traffic and for local and regional transport with ranges of up to 500 kilometres; they foresee the use of hydrogen fuel-cell trucks for greater distances. However, other OEMs believe that in future, battery-powered electric trucks will also be able to manage transport efficiently even over distances greater than 500 kilometres. At DACHSER, we are intensively engaged with both technologies. I’m convinced we need both forms of technology. Ultimately it will be the individual scenario, depending on factors including payload and operating times, that sways the decision about which solution is better and when.
At present, the purchase price of a battery-powered electric truck is around two to three times higher than that of a Euro 6 truck. However, despite these higher costs, DACHSER is already using various zero-emission trucks on its regular schedules. You’re also driving your Emission-Free Delivery concept for zero-emission deliveries in city centres, and biting the bullet of the higher costs involved…
...Yes, driven by our convictions. We need to expand our experiences with these vehicles and we aim to lead the way as pioneers. After all, at DACHSER we’re firmly convinced that we are playing our part in helping to achieve the Paris Agreement targets of keeping global warming below 2° C. We see this challenge as part of our integrated responsibility, pursuing the clear-cut mission of our family-run company. In line with this, we have operated an Emission-Free Delivery Zone in Stuttgart since 2018. As a basic principle, all our deliveries to the city centre and pedestrian zones are provided as zero-emission services as standard, using battery-powered electric trucks combined with electric cargo bikes. In fact, we even won the German Environment Ministry’s National Competition for Sustainable Urban Logistics with our concept.
Andre Kranke is Department Head Trends and Technology Research, Corporate Research & Development at DACHSER.
A successful project that opens up huge perspectives. After the launch of your original flagship project in Stuttgart, your Emission-Free Delivery concept has now been rolled out in Oslo and Freiburg. When does DACHSER plan to implement the concept in further cities?
Standardised processes are essential if we are to be able to implement the idea in more cities. The experience we gained from our flagship project in Stuttgart enabled us to set out basic principles for standards. But it’s enormously important for us to continue expanding and building our expertise – for instance, to deepen our knowledge of handling loading technology to and acquire valid findings about the effect of variations in vehicle scheduling. All these are important steps towards the goal of zero emissions. By the end of 2022, we thus plan to extend Emission-Free Delivery to at least eleven European metropolitan regions in countries including Germany and France.
What role do hydrogen fuel-cell trucks powered by liquid hydrogen play in your ideas for emission-free long-haul transport?
It’s definitely a technological development that we aim to support and encourage. However, at the moment the market is only offering prototypes or small-series production runs. Because there is so much that still needs to be clarified, at DACHSER we have set ourselves the goal of supporting the research and providing impetus for innovation. As part of this, we have participated in various studies since 2020, including a collaboration with Kempten University of Applied Sciences, a research project by RWTH Aachen University, and a European study project examining the cost structures of individual vehicle types.
In addition, this January we joined the German Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Association. This brings us into contact with specialist technological sources and enables us to access expertise in pan-European networks that address topics of sustainable energy supply in depth.
Will diesel trucks still have a role to play in these new developments?
Although they are certain to be phased out over the long term, they will still have a crucial role to play in logistics up to at least the end of this decade. Today’s diesel trucks in emissions category Euro 6 are the only form of road transport that can be used across Europe for all transport purposes. Our enthusiasm for zero-emissions vehicles notwithstanding, we will only be able to use this efficient, and thus eco-friendly, technology on our roads when we have found practical answers to the technological, legal and economic issues that remain to be solved.
Questions upon questions that "will certainly be solved", says Andre Kranke. His conclusion: "Although many decisions still have to be made, you can only score a goal if you kick in the right direction.
With this in mind, thank you very much for the interesting interview.
In another part of the interview, Andre Kranke talks about laws and regulations in the context of zero-emission logistics. Read more here.