New Report and Opinion Piece: How do we make fossil-free transport sustainable – and continue to make money along the way?

Here are now previously promised results from a pre-study within the Roadmapper Project that is led by Henrik Ny from the SustainTrans team. With Volvo Cars in Olofström and the planned Southeast Link as an example, we show how a factory, while waiting for an electrified railway connection, can make its transports fossil-free, sustainable and economically competitive.

In early April, Henrik also published an opinion piece opinion piece on the topic in the Swedish environmental magazine Aktuell Hållbarhet.

Here is a link to this published text from April 2021 (in Swedish)

Below is an English version of the opinion piece that also summarizes the report:

How do we make fossil-free transport sustainable – and continue to make money along the way?

The transport sector is an important driver of both the sustainability challenge in general and climate change. It also functions as a ‘blood stream’ for the entire structure of society and is thus also a prerequisite for solving these challenges. Such solutions must take a global perspective but also work independently of scale. In line with this, the Roadmapper Project, with Blekinge as the first example, takes a holistic approach to the transition to an attractive and sustainable regional transport system. All Blekinge municipalities, the county administrative board, the region, companies and state authorities are involved. An important prerequisite as well as a challenge for Blekinge is to achieve fossil independence for the Southeast Link’s railway and road connection between Älmhult and Karlshamn with connections to the port of Sölvesborg. At present, the Älmhult-Olofström section is a non-electrified railway track, while Olofström to the port of Karlshamn and the port of Sölvesborg to Olofström only have road connections. Volvo Cars has the ambition to become climate neutral by 2040. The Volvo factory in Olofström therefore wants a transition plan for fossil-free freight transport.

In a pre-study within the Roadmapper Project, the municipalities in Western Blekinge have asked the SustainTrans team from Blekinge Institute of Technology (BTH) and NetPort Science Park to study the freight traffic adjustment possibilities along the Southeast Link. Transport to and from Volvo Cars in Olofström has been used as a case study to investigate how to achieve at least 40% climate-neutral transport by 2025 in a way that paves the way for continued measures to achieve the goal with completely fossil-free and sustainable alternatives from 2030 and onwards. By “sustainable” is meant here an independence from fossil fuels that is not achieved at the expense of sustainability for other sectors such as forestry and agriculture.

The study included an overall sustainability analysis of whether alternative fuel solutions could reduce ecological, social and economic sustainability effects while the region waits for an electrified railway connection via the Southeast Link:

  • For the initial situation in 2020, it was found that in addition to its climate impact, the dominant diesel fuel has several unacceptable negative sustainability effects such as resource-driven conflicts in poor countries along the supply chain and other societal costs that have not yet been internalized in the economy.
  • For the current situation in 2021, the main advice was to switch from diesel to RME for all existing trucks and/or trains. HVO100 can be an alternative if palm oil and palm oil residues (which have several negative consequences for social sustainability) can be excluded. However, this is assumed to be difficult given that there is already a shortage of HVO. Biogas is in many ways even better and close to market maturity, but practical tests showed that in this case there are not yet suitable engine alternatives for all transport needs.
  • For 2025, the most important new alternative for the Älmhult-Olofström railway was expected to be fuel cell trains. On the roads, biogas trucks are likely to become competitive, even if they have to compete with other potentially more efficient uses for the biogas resource. Other possible fuel alternatives are ethanol-diesel, electricity (via hydrogen fuel cells or batteries) or various hybrid combinations of these. Fuel cells and batteries can run out of raw materials due to dependence on rare metals whose mining can also pose social risks. However, new material selection, reuse and recycling will probably be well on its way to solving these problems in 2025.
  • 2030+. The most important long-term alternative for Olofström-Älmhult is electrification of the existing train track with or without renovation of the track. Important alternatives for transports that pass through Olofström to Karlshamn port or to Sölvesborg port are electrified train tracks, electric roads, and battery or fuel cell trucks. The metal-related risks for fuel cells and batteries have probably been managed through the transition to new technical solutions.

The study thus found several opportunities to accelerate the transition to sustainable freight transport along the Southeast Link and here are some concrete recommendations that were formulated based on the study:

  • Freight transport-buying companies such as Volvo Cars should in the short term go to RME or palm oil-free HVO, test biogas as a transitional solution and as soon as possible switch to electrified transport in some form.
  • Carriers must be prepared for rapidly changing requirements from the freight transport buyers and should therefore, where possible, use existing vehicles, possibly converting them and postponing larger vehicle purchases until it becomes clearer which alternatives will win in the long term.
  • Municipalities should reduce bottlenecks and facilitate cooperation between buyers and carriers for more optimal use of vehicles and more sustainable transport.

The next step will now be to follow up within the Roadmapper project with more detailed quantitative studies where fuel and technology choices for freight and passenger transport are systematically compared and put together into roadmaps for sustainable transport at both regional and municipal level.

Henrik Ny,

Sustainability Researcher,
the SustainTrans team
the Department of Strategic Sustainable development
Blekinge Institute of Technology

By | 2021-05-04T18:32:05+00:00 April 12th, 2021|News|0 Comments

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