The government has promised to invest £20 million in projects that help to develop zero-emission heavy goods vehicles (HGVs). The Department for Transport (DfT) says it hopes the money will not only help to increase the number of zero-emission HGVs on UK roads, but also improve the infrastructure for such vehicles.

Among the projects to receive government funding is an ‘electric road’ feasibility study, which would involve fitting battery-powered trucks with train-style pantographs, allowing them to be supplied with electricity from overhead wires while on the move. The study, led by Costain Ltd, has earmarked a 20-kilometre stretch of road near Scunthorpe, in Lincolnshire, for the trial.

Other projects include a hydrogen fuel cell feasibility study led by Arcola Energy Ltd. The project will design a possible trial of hydrogen fuel cell trucks, as well as designing a new refuelling infrastructure for Scotland.

Nikola hydrogen facility

At the same time, commercial vehicle manufacturing company Leyland Trucks will be deploying 20 DAF battery-electric trucks for use by public sector organisations, allowing the company to learn from field testing vehicles in a real-world, real-time logistics environment. The DfT says investment in an interactive “tool” will also “aid and encourage” fleet operators to convert to battery-electric vehicles.

“We’re delighted to have been selected to play such a key role in the initiative and we’re proud to be leading the drive towards a cleaner, more sustainable future for the road transport industry,” said Rob Lawton, the project manager at Leyland Trucks. “We believe our LF Electric and CF Electric vehicles offer the best solution for zero-emissions operation and we’re confident that the results from our NHS and local authority partners will support our own extensive and long-term testing programmes.”

HGV lorry with orange shipping container in motion on the road

Meanwhile Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government would work together with the logistics industry to help “understand the role” of electric and hydrogen trucks. The investment, he claimed, would also help to boost local economies and businesses within the sector.

“Through our bold and ambitious transport decarbonisation plan, we’re leading the way in the transition to zero-emission vehicles by becoming the first country in the world to commit to ending the sale of all new fossil-fuelled road vehicles by 2040, subject to consultation,” said Shapps. “From Doncaster to Scotland, by working in partnership with industry, this funding will allow us to better understand the role of zero-emission HGVs while levelling up the industry and boosting regional economies.”