Biomethane best option to decarbonise long-haul transport, say GD4S, EBA, NGVA Europe

Gas Distributors for Sustainability (GD4S), the European Biogas Association (EBA), and NGVA Europe have co-signed a joint letter to the European Commission, calling on it to focus on renewable fuels, including biomethane, in the upcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

The organisations specifically called for all renewable fuels, and all relevant engine technologies to be considered, to enable a ‘fast, secure, and affordable’ transition supporting the European industries.

In the letter addressed to Executive Vice President of the European Commission, Frans Timmermans, Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, and Transport Commissioner Adina-Ioana Valean, the organisations said the EU is expected to ‘enshrine in law’ the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and a 2030 target of at least 55% greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction, compared to 1990 levels.  According to the European Commission, this requires a reduction of transport GHG emissions of at least 16.3% by 2030 and 90% by 2050.

Currently, transport accounts for 25% of the EU’s total GHG emissions and its emissions kept increasing between 2013 and 2017. In Europe, conventional fossil fuels are “overwhelmingly predominant” on the road, say the organisations, representing more than 96% of light vehicles, 95% of buses, and 99% of trucks. In 2019, new vehicle registrations with diesel accounted for 85% of buses and 98% of lorries.

In the letter, the EBA, NGVA Europe, and GD4S said: “The upcoming Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy is a major opportunity to reverse this trend. To achieve this, we call on the European Commission to build the new Mobility Strategy on the ‘complementarity’ of all renewable fuels (biomethane, green electricity, green hydrogen, and advanced liquid biofuels) and all relevant engine technologies, to enable a fast, secure, and affordable transition supporting the European industries.

“This, with a special attention for freight mobility, which represents only 3% of the vehicles but accounts for 25% of the total fossil fuel CO2 emissions of the transport sector.”

The organisations note that natural gas vehicles (NGV), using compressed or liquefied gas, are an already available, cost-effective alternative to conventional fossil fuels. “This is particularly true in the heavy-duty sector,” the letter continued,” as shows its growing market shares (6% for buses and 2% for trucks.

“NGVs are cost-competitive and offer operational advantages compared to other alternative solutions, such as comfortable driving ranges, fast refuelling times. NGVs rely on mature technology: buses and garbage trucks, for instance, have been on the road since the 1980s and many types of gas truck models are available from different manufacturers.”

NGVs combined with biomethane are a key solution to reducing the climate and environment impacts of transport, say the organisations. Being a pioneer alternative mobility solution to improve air quality, NGVs are becoming a long-term, sustainable option, thanks to biomethane.

“The increasing use of biomethane as a fuel (bio-NGV) is already a reality,” said the letter. “On average in Europe, the share of bio-NGV is at 17% and is rising. In countries like Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands, NGVs use almost exclusively biomethane. Germany, Finland, and the UK are well above a 50% biomethane share.”

Municipalities including Paris, Rome, Madrid, and Stockholm were also highlighted for choosing biomethane for their waste collection trucks and public transport.

The letter continued: “Supporting gas mobility will reinforce a green recovery as the industry is mostly European. Gas mobility technologies are largely developed and supplied by companies such as Iveco, Scania, Volvo for the heavy-duty segment and FCA and VW Group for passenger cars and light commercial vehicles, not to mention special vehicles like garbage lorries, or gas engines for trains.”

In 2019, new registrations of gas passenger cars amounted to almost 70,000 units, followed by around 13,000 heavy-duty vehicles and more than 4,500 LNG trucks, all designed and manufactured in Europe.

“That is why we want to emphasise that gas mobility is a unique and immediately available environment and climate-friendly solution on the market, especially for trucks and buses requiring adequate range,” the organisations said.

“Companies and cities willing to act now and have a positive impact already in the short-term can rely on competitive products that are manufactured in the EU.

“Gas mobility is here to stay, thanks to increasing development of biomethane, to the benefit of the European automobile industry, agriculture, and customers.”

The key takeaways from the EBA, NGVA Europe and GD4S are:

  • A clear political signal at EU level is needed to reassure European industries and consumers that gas mobility is part of the solution to abandon fossil fuels and build a sustainable mobility sector

  • Phasing-out conventional fossil fuels and effective decarbonisation as of today must be the drivers of mobility regulation

  • There is no alternative solution to bio-NGV for immediate decarbonisation of long-haul transport at the required speed

  • Bio-NGV must be able to compete on a level playing field with other solutions. Vehicle manufacturers must take into account GHG reduction through the use of biomethane in gas vehicles in the context of the CO2 standards for vehicles to have an incentive to put more gas vehicles on the market

  • Innovation in gas mobility is promising but requires clear market perspectives

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