In the concluding instalment of a two part series Cadent Sustainable Transport Manager David Jones shares detail of Cadent’s ongoing journey to develop gas as a major fuel source in the transport sector as the UK heads towards Net Zero.
To achieve its 2050 Net Zero goals the UK is going to have make significant changes to its economy, especially in the transport sector.
As Britain’s largest gas distribution network Cadent is leading by example and we’ve pledged to have 1,000 zero-emission vehicles in our fleet by 2026. As part of this Cadent’ recently took delivery of our first set of zero emission vehicles, five electric vans and five hydrogen response cars, which are being used by our engineers to respond to gas incidents across our North London network.
The new cars are hydrogen fuelled Hyundai’s with a range of almost 400 miles and they really are ‘environmental rock stars’ in that the only emissions generated by them is water. The vans are another matter and currently there are no dedicated hydrogen fuel cell electric vans operating in the UK, so we have selected the Nissan e-NV200 as the platform on which we can develop our early learning experience to work towards decarbonising our gas emergency response fleet.
Our investment in zero emission vehicles is not only good environmental stewardship but it also demonstrates the viability of alternative fuels including hydrogen as fuel. Our 2026 target also provides a unique opportunity to encourage the development and supply of a new product for the UK market, hydrogen vans.
All this is consistent with our own hydrogen strategy and as Cadent’s Sustainable Transport Strategy Manager I’ve pretty close to all the latest exciting developments in this new energy and transport frontier for a few years now.
Working with its partners Cadent has developed the HyNet scheme which proposes producing and using hydrogen locally in the North West as a fuel source for industry, domestic heat and transport which would save over one million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year. The equivalent of taking more than 600,000 cars off the road.
Our HyMotion report, published last year, showed that, with the right investment and policy support, hydrogen would be the most cost effective fuel for HGVs and heavy transport because you’d be using an existing network.
Small vehicles such as cars can happily run efficiently on electric batteries, but this simply won’t work for heavier vehicles. due to factors such as payload, range, battery charging time and the high investment that would be needed for rapid charging technology. However, using hydrogen fuel cells could provide the required range, greater payload capacity quicker refuelling times HGVs need.
It’s not a simple journey and we do face challenges along the way. We’re working with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and partners to resolve the challenges of delivering hydrogen through a repurposed gas network, extracting it again and finally purifying it to a level sufficient for it to be used effectively in a fuel cell. We’re looking to extend this pioneering research to help identify the most cost effective way of refuelling vehicles using network suppled hydrogen by developing a commercial scale demonstration. This will help deliver a price at the pump that will make hydrogen cost effective for customers. We’re hoping that Government will be able to support us with this next stage of the project.
However, just as Cadent believes that an incremental approach is best for decarbonising heat – introducing 20% blended hydrogen nationally and then increasing the percentage over time until we reach 100% hydrogen – our current road map to Net Zero for transport envisages a phased approach. Existing HGV fleets powered by diesel could be switched to bio-CNG (biomethane compressed natural gas) fuel made from food and animal waste. This would provide fleet owners with three advantages: emission reductions of around 84% compared to diesel; air quality improvements and savings in fuel costs of up to 40% compared to diesel.
In recent years we’ve also provided bio-CNG gas connections for high profile locations including CNG Fuels Warrington bio-CNG HGV refuelling station, which is Europe’s largest. We’re also leading by example and working with logistics company DHL we’ve developed a fleet of nine HGVs to run on bio-CNG.
Our growing green fleet also now includes a pair of Iveco repair CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) vans in our North West and West Midlands network with another CNG van expected to join the North West Network soon.
The integrated process of decarbonising lorry fleets by using bio-CNG will help hopefully buy enough time for the hydrogen production supply chain to get up and running so it is able to supply demand that will be required when all logistics fleets have to achieve the Government’s Net Zero 2050 targets.
A lot of conversations around green energy involve the words ‘infrastructure’ and ‘policy’ and this one is no different. Government departments for transport and energy need to be talking to each other and the transport sector needs to be involved in the discussions too.
If we all get our motors running and get onboard this journey to Net Zero 2050 hopefully we can achieve a sustainable economy with vastly reduced emissions and a greener future.
Find out more - our transport vision