Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Calls for Electric Road Haulage Trucks as Freight Transport Pollution Comes Under the EU Spotlight

Environment Agency Boss Insists Economic Improvements Must Fund Progress
Shipping News Feature

EUROPE – Today sees the release of the latest annual transport report presented in the European Parliament’s Transport Committee by the European Environment Agency (EEA). Despite the introduction of Euro standards’ for road haulage vehicles, buses and cars alike these have failed in their objective to cut real nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions to the levels proposed in EU legislation although they have made substantial improvements to air quality overall. The report also highlights the carriage of freight as a major contributor to the problem.

The report says despite the decrease in air pollution it remains a problem in many parts of Europe and freight is historically responsible, particularly for high NO2 levels, despite major efficiency improvements. Increased shipping levels over the last two decades has also meant that emissions of acid rain-causing sulphur oxides have only decreased 14 % since 1990. Jacqueline McGlade, EEA Executive Director, said:

“One of the big challenges of the 21st Century will be to mitigate the negative effects of transport – greenhouse gases, air pollution and noise – while ensuring positive aspects of mobility. Europe can take the lead by intensifying its work in the area of technological innovation in electric mobility. Such change could transform inner city living.”

The report clearly states that as the economic climate improves, the new EU transport targets should focus efforts to further reduce environmental impacts with people living near busy roads across Europe still particularly exposed to excessive air pollution levels. Harmful NO2 levels above legal limits were registered at 44 % of roadside air monitoring stations in 2010. Particulate matter (PM10) levels exceeded limits at 33 % of these sites. These are the pollutants which can affect the cardiovascular system, lungs, liver, spleen and blood.

The EEA says that Europe needs to further reduce the energy consumed by transport, since it was only 4.3 % lower in 2011 than its peak in 2007 and indicates that personal transport is affected by the lower prices of cars in real terms whilst train and ferry prices spiral upward across the continent. In order to hit the prescribed targets the whole transport sector has to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 68 % between 2010 and 2050 but freight transport, being particularly sensitive to economic fluctuations, grew 5.4% in 2010 after a sharp fall in the previous two year period.

These facts must also be added to the amount of noise pollution created particularly by commercial vehicles. In Europe’s biggest cities, three of every five residents are exposed to harmful levels of traffic noise whilst even in the rural areas the EEA says 24 million Europeans are exposed to damaging traffic noise at night leading to both physical and psychological problems.

When taken overall the EEA obviously considers that a major shift is required if there is to be any chance of the EU pollution targets being hit. The Executive Director’s plea for an increase in innovation, particularly for vehicles with far less polluting drive trains, may require more investment by the EU to reward those who forge this particular path whilst ever more punishing tactics await those retaining old technologies.

Editors Note: Those interested in new road haulage technology should type the words ‘electric truck’ into the News Search box at the top of this page and then use the ongoing links to look at individual manufacturers.

Photo: A light weight electric truck produced by Bulgarian company Di-Ven which traditionally manufactures fork lift trucks.