Heavy-duty vehicles present a growing energy and environmental concern worldwide, especially as their share of transport sector carbon emissions is expected to rise.
As most heavy-duty vehicles rely on diesel fuel, governments are pursuing biofuels and natural gas as potential alternative fuels to address issues of local pollution, climate change, and energy security.
Scania’s Sustainability Director for Buses and Coaches, Jonas Strömberg, is a member of the EU’s expert group on advanced biofuels and a board member of the Swedish Environmental Institute. He also frequently lectures internationally on sustainable transport.
We sat down with Jonas at the World Ethanol & Biofuels conference to discuss his outlook on biofuels in heavy transport.
Watch/ read the interview below.
“As it stands, we are only using half the capacity of the European biofuel industry. We have the vehicles, and this can be done here and now. This should have been done 10 years ago.”
Q: What would a business as usual approach to heavy-duty vehicles mean for the climate?
Jonas Strömberg: At Scania, we work very closely with the scientists at the IPCC and we are quite worried.
We see a business as usual scenario will only give us 12 years to start the decarbonisation of transport. Otherwise we have passed the point for safe levels of climate change. Time is really of the essence.
Q: Where do biofuels fit in alongside other solutions for the decarbonisation of heavy-duty vehicles?
JS: I would say that biofuels will be critical for heavy-duty vehicles. We really need to start decarbonising from 2020, and then we need to halve our CO2 emissions every decade after that.
Biofuels are currently the quickest way to achieve this goal as we can use them as neat fuels, or we can blend them into our existing fleets (fuels?).
Today, all Scania trucks or buses can run on biodiesel or HVO, and we also have vehicles which can take ethanol or biogas.
While we are waiting for electrification to kick in on a larger scale for heavy-duty vehicles – which could take a few decades – to decarbonise now, biofuels could be absolutely vital for at least the next two decades.
Q: Your company has described biofuels as “the best near-term choice for decarbonising road transport”. What constitutes near-term?
JS: We have been a bit frustrated as we have been able to do this for the last 20 years. These products are off the shelf products - at the same cost of diesel equivalents - and it can be done here and now.
As it stands, we are only using half the capacity of the European biofuel industry.
This could have been done 10 years ago.
Q: Where do advanced biofuels fit into Scania’s vision for the future of road transportation?
CK: Our vehicles can operate on biofuels, HVO, and biogas. The vehicle really doesn’t care whether the fuel is advanced or not.
I am not that happy about the categorisation of fuels as first, second or third generation or advanced and non-advanced. The key is really that the fuel must be commercial and must be sustainable.
I believe that the debate on advanced, non-advanced, and generations of fuel, has hurt the industry a bit and has been slowing down adoption.
Q: Scania has been collaborating with Xynteo to help accelerate the bioeconomy. Could you explain the objectives of this collaboration?
CK: This goes back to what I had mentioned about the urgency to decarbonise, and the great possibilities that we see in biofuels and for the bio-economy sector as a whole in Europe.
It could supply Europe with a lot of energy security and jobs, and we have teamed up with Xynteo and several other partners throughout the chain. We have teamed up with partners from the agricultural and fuel sectors, producers, operators, and the purchasers of transport and energy to form a coalition to really show that this is possible, and we can do it with some concrete projects.