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Can Green Transportation Contribute Significantly in Achieving GOI’s Net Zero Vision by 2070?

By Anirudh Bhuwalka

As the global community grapples with the pressing challenge of climate change, nations worldwide are setting ambitious targets to achieve net-zero carbon emissions. In alignment with this global commitment, the Indian government has laid out an ambitious vision to attain net-zero emissions by 2070. Considering the economic transformation India has embarked upon, it is necessary to focus on sectors that contribute to most of the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the country.  According to the World Economic Forum’s 2021 report, “Mission 2070: A Green New Deal for a Net Zero India,” India’s “green transformation” hinges on sustainable growth and reforms across five pivotal sectors: Energy, Industry, Transport, Buildings, and Agriculture.

 

The transportation sector, especially heavy truck industry, is a sector that is both a major contributor to carbon emissions and a key player in the path towards sustainability. A linchpin in the journey towards net zero vision, the promotion and adoption of green transportation has emerged significant to mitigate climate change in alignment with the government’s mission.

 

Need to Decarbonise the Trucking Industry

India stands as the world’s fifth-largest economy, with a GDP that is likely to exceed USD 4 trillion in 2024-25 and rise to USD 5 trillion by 2026-27, as per a report by PHDCCI.   The freight transportation sector is expanding rapidly to meet the rising demand for goods, currently moving around 4.6 billion tonnes annually, resulting in a transport demand of 2.2 trillion tonne-kilometres (tonne-km) at a cost of ₹9.5 lakh crore. This growth is propelled by factors such as urbanization, population increase, the surge in e-commerce, and rising income levels. As these trends persist, road freight movement is projected to reach 9.6 trillion tonne-km by 2050.

 

In India, the logistics sector ranks as the third-largest contributor to CO2 emissions, accounting for about 14% of the total. Road transport, predominantly trucks, shoulders the bulk of India’s goods transportation, accounting for 70% of the domestic freight demand, and resultantly is responsible for 90% of these emissions. Heavy- and medium-duty trucks (HDTs and MDTs) play a significant role in this, and as road freight continues to escalate, the number of trucks is expected to skyrocket from 4 million in 2022 to approximately 17 million trucks by 2050.

 

Given these market dynamics, green trucks, including LNG trucks, battery electric trucks (BETs) and fuel cell electric trucks (FCETs), emerge as a compelling alternative to the prevalent diesel trucks in India’s road freight. Green Trucks, with near zero tailpipe emissions and featuring lower operating costs, present an opportunity for India to demonstrate the economic efficiency and positive impacts on air quality, public health, and the environment through the adoption of such technology.

 

Green Trucking – The Answer to Emission Woes

In the quest for a more environment-friendly and sustainable future, India faces a pivotal moment in reshaping its heavy-duty transportation sector.  There are several initiatives being undertaken around the world on green trucking, which not only saves costs but also builds a responsive corporate image, apart from making the world more liveable. These are aimed at making trucking operations eco-friendly by adopting alternate fuels that help reduce carbon emissions and integrate technologies to make trucks more fuel efficient.

 

In fact, India is accelerating its efforts to go green in the freight movement and trucks are expected to play a prominent role in this decarbonization journey. Concerns about the environmental impact of conventional fuels have led the Indian government to explore whether Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) could revolutionize commercial vehicle transportation. As a result, LNG has emerged as a promising solution, providing a cleaner and more sustainable option for commercial vehicles. Its lower emissions of pollutants and greenhouse gases compared to diesel aligns with India’s commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and addressing climate change impact.

 

LNG, existing in cryogenic liquid form, takes up to much less space than CNG, offering higher energy density and an extended vehicle range. This characteristic makes LNG a preferable fuel for India’s extensive fleet of long-haul, heavy-duty trucks currently dependent on diesel. The government aims to transition at least one million trucks to LNG by 2035 out of the 10 million trucks in the country.

The 2023 report from the GOI’s Principal Scientific Advisor’s office, titled “Technical Roadmap for Deployment of Zero-Emission Trucking in India,” outlines timelines, budgets, and necessary actions for stakeholders over the next five years to facilitate the transition to ZETs. It includes plans for selecting priority trucking corridors and launching pilots with approximately 60–70 electric trucks.

 

The incorporation of LNG into trucks provides several advantages for India, including a lower environmental impact compared to diesel, quieter engines, and a reduction in the demand for petrol and diesel. The government is proactively taking measures, such as establishing 1,000 LNG stations along major highways within the next three years and increasing LNG capacity by 17 million tons by next year.

 

Creating an ecosystem that encourages the adoption of sustainable transportation options is crucial for achieving the Government of India’s net-zero vision. Green Trucks can emerge as a game changer from a competitiveness and sustainability point of view. But there is a long way to go, as more investments and research are required to ensure broad-based acceptance and deployment of Green Trucks. In India, widespread Green Truck adoption could reduce CO2 emissions by 46% by 2050, totalling 2.8–3.8 gigatonnes of cumulative CO2 savings today through 2050.

 

The Way Forward

Global momentum towards zero-emission freight transport is evident as developed economies transition to clean energy. Consumer awareness and corporate commitment to environmental sustainability are driving forces behind this shift. The transportation sector, more conscious of carbon emissions, needs to focus on reducing them, particularly in short-haul and long-haul journeys. While India achieved a 24% GDP emission intensity reduction from 2005 to 2016, the government targets a 45% reduction by 2030. Despite this, the demand for logistics transportation will continue to grow due to population increase, urbanization, and e-commerce. Hence, companies must make trucking journeys eco-friendly and for the same government incentives will be relevant and enable for zero-emission transportation adoption and manufacturing. Green transportation is pivotal for India’s journey to a net-zero carbon future by 2070, aligning with global climate change efforts. Prioritizing electric vehicles and clean fuels is both an environmental necessity and a strategic imperative for long-term well-being, making a significant contribution to the global fight against climate change.

 

(The author is Anirudh Bhuwalka, CEO, Blue Energy Motors, and the views expressed in this article are his own)