Greening Indian Roads for a Sustainable Future

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by KnowESG
KnowESG_Greening Indian Roads for a Sustainable Future
Image courtesy of Freepik

India, as the swiftest-expanding major economy, confronts the formidable task of reducing carbon emissions in its road transport sector, a significant contributor to energy consumption and associated environmental pollution.

To meet its ambitious goal of achieving net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2070, India must take substantial measures to decarbonise its transportation network.

While road transportation currently constitutes less than one-fifth of India's overall energy consumption, it contributes nearly 12% of the nation's energy-related carbon dioxide emissions.

With the Indian economy growing rapidly, this sector's emissions are escalating at a pace surpassing that of other industries. Therefore, there is an urgent imperative to address the environmental impact of diesel-fueled transportation, especially for long-haul journeys, and explore viable low-emission alternatives.

Electric vehicles (EVs) have started gaining ground in last-mile logistics, but their widespread adoption for heavy-duty long-haul transport will necessitate significant advancements in battery and charging technology, as well as the development of charging infrastructure.

EVs are poised to be an effective solution for short-haul heavy-duty freight transportation, substantially reducing CO2 and other harmful emissions. Meanwhile, zero-emission options like hydrogen are still in the early stages of innovation, requiring more time for full-scale development and commercial deployment. Nevertheless, the country cannot afford to wait indefinitely for these technologies to mature before initiating the decarbonisation of its road logistics.

During this transitional phase, Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) can play a pivotal role in markedly reducing emissions in road logistics until zero-emission alternatives become economically viable.

LNG-powered heavy commercial vehicles (HCVs) emit up to 30% less CO2, produce no SOx, reduce NOx by 59%, lower CO by 70%, and emit 91% less particulate matter compared to their diesel counterparts. LNG-powered vehicles boast an extensive range of up to 1,400 kilometres per tank fill and generate 30% less noise pollution. Collectively, these factors position LNG as the premier transitional fuel for decarbonising heavy transport.

In the realm of freight transportation, road transport dominates the multi-modal landscape, representing approximately 65% of all freight movements in 2020. Rail accounts for 27%, coastal shipping for 5%, and inland waterways for 2%.

Additionally, road transportation consumes the largest share of energy in freight transport. Between 2005 and 2020, its energy consumption grew faster than its proportionate share of freight activity, primarily due to the suboptimal fuel efficiency of Indian trucking fleets. The nation's progress in implementing stringent fuel efficiency standards, especially for heavy-duty vehicles, has been sluggish, exacerbating energy consumption and emissions.

India's trucking fleet primarily comprises medium-sized trucks with a gross vehicle weight between 3.5 and 20 metric tonnes, which exhibit inefficiency in fuel consumption. These trucks cover long distances but consume excessive fuel while carrying lighter loads. The deployment of larger trucks, capable of handling payloads of 35-40 metric tonnes, on long-haul routes would reduce the number of vehicles on the road, enhance efficiency, and lower emissions.

Looking ahead, trucks will continue to be the dominant mode of freight transportation. A report by NITI Aayog projects a fourfold increase in the number of trucks over the next three decades, from 4 million in 2022 to 17 million by 2050. Without low-emission fuel alternatives, emissions in the sector will also quadruple, reaching unsustainable levels.

In this context, LNG emerges as a pivotal alternative fuel to expedite the transition of India's long-haul, heavy-duty freight transport system toward cleaner energy sources. With its potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions compared to diesel, LNG can serve as a potent solution for long-haul heavy-duty freight transport until zero-emission alternatives become economically viable.

This shift towards LNG-powered road logistics is integral to realising Prime Minister Modi's vision of establishing India as a gas-based economy and aligning with India's emissions reduction commitments under its Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) to the Paris Agreement.

Prominent corporations are embracing LNG-powered road logistics due to its significant advantages, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions and pollutants, which lead to improved air quality and a reduced environmental footprint.

By incorporating LNG-powered vehicles into their long-haul freight transportation fleets, companies not only contribute to a greener future but also gain from enhanced operational efficiencies and a positive brand image aligned with environmental responsibility and ESG performance.

LNG has emerged as a promising solution for achieving a cleaner and more sustainable logistics system. Its use in long-haul, heavy-duty trucking offers substantial environmental benefits, including reduced emissions and improved air quality.

By embracing LNG as the preferred fuel for long-haul road logistics, India can make substantial progress toward a greener and more sustainable future for its transportation sector, ensuring a healthier environment for future generations and advancing toward its net-zero GHG emissions target.

For more environmental news

Source: GreenLine Mobility Solutions Limited

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