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Time to define concrete measures and joint strategies!

Which fuels and which energy source will be possible and economically justifiable when the emission of CO2 must be reduced by 70 per cent by 2030? Although there is no lack of technology, there is a great deal of uncertainty within the freight transport sector. Now it is time to define concrete measures and joint strategies. For this reason, CLOSER started the new Energy Supply and Logistics focus area in early 2019.

Time is running out to manage the conversion to a fossil-free society before we experience the painful consequences of global warning. Many shipping-intensive companies want to continue to with major initiatives and actions to drastically reduce emissions of fossil-based CO2 from their shipments. The most common measures in Sweden have involved operating lorries on alternative fuels, such as HVO.

When all of Europe, and hopefully the rest of the world, will have made the change to the total absence of fossil fuels, we will soon have a shortage of raw materials for biofuel and it will not be adequate as the only measure. A change in the mode of shipping the cargo volume which can be transferred to railway and maritime transport will not be an adequate measure either. The development of electric roadways and charging stations for electrified vehicles takes a long time and there is uncertainty with respect to which technical solutions will be best for heavy traffic. There are many companies that are hesitant regarding how and when to invest in the new technology:

  • Which alternative or alternatives are sustainable in the long-term and economically justifiable?
  • How will new technology affect logistics costs?
  • What range and load capacity will the new vehicle technologies have?
  • What second-hand value will lorries have?
  • Will there be infrastructure and fuelling possibilities for entire fleets from a national and international perspective?

Different organisations have different preferred solutions – however, there is a great deal of research and many proposals with strong potential. This was made clear at CLOSER's 2018 annual meeting and will be the starting signal for the beginning of the work that will now shift the area of focus at CLOSER to energy supply and logistics at the beginning of next year. Representatives from academics, industry, public authorities and society can gather and discuss what should be done and which knowledge must be developed in order to set the necessary shift to a fossil-free and sustainable freight transport system in motion.

CLOSER and our employees are well-aware that there is no lack of interest or a forum for discussions about the future's energy supply. However, there is a need for a forum for how the various technologies and solution proposals affect logistics. How will potential load capacity and costs for vehicles and infrastructure affect the future location of warehouses and production? How will it affect delivery accuracy, order sizes and lead times? How do the various proposals fit in with the upcoming digitalisation and automated vehicles?

The challenge sometimes feels overwhelming, but that does not mean we should give up! It does not help to ignore the effects of the climate crisis, because we cannot expect the coming generations to be able to solve the problems that we have created. We must begin to make a serious effort; coming generations will forgive us if we sometimes made mistakes against our better judgement. But they will not forgive us if we do not even try.

Sweden has unique conditions to takes an active role in developing solutions without having a negative effect of the long-term competitiveness of industry. We have two of the world's best manufacturers of heavy goods vehicles, an export-dependent industrial sector supported by academics and a transport industry with world-class logistics competence (second in the World Bank's 2018 ranking) and a unique climate for collaboration between academics, industry and society. As a neutral collaborative platform, CLOSER has an important role to play in order to facilitate collaboration and accelerate development.
It is high time to develop strategies for a switch to a fossil-free freight transport system based on clear, common goals and intelligently designed incentives and instruments based on research and knowledge developed by way of consultation between the parties involved. New technology and new fuels will not solve the entire problem. We must also work to improve the efficiency of the entire freight transport system and provide creative researchers and innovators the right conditions to find profitable solutions that are sustainable in the long-term. Not only should society's representatives take an active role, it is possible even more important that the shipping sector is proactive and works together with the academic world to develop and propose solutions that work in a highly competitive market.
CLOSER's work group will not be able to solve all questions. But we offer a forum in which the various parties of the sector can identify where knowledge is lacking and which differences in opinion must be settled and handled.

We look forward to a fruitful and wide collaboration. We can expand our knowledge together and initiate effective project proposals and initiatives that will lead to long-term sustainability in the freight transport system.

Nicklas Blidberg
+46 (0)70-211 71 94