Problem and research questions

The Paris climate agreement and follow-up COP’s resulted in a global commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The European Commission recently expressed the strategy to be climate neutral by 2050. However, the road towards achieve this neutrality is not yet clear. The transport sector – and freight transport in particular – faces a huge challenge to meet this goal. This research focusses on Flanders (region in Belgium), which adopted in 2018 it’s Climate Policy Plan. While their general aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with 27% by 2030 relative to 2005, freight transport is allowed to have an increase of greenhouse gas emissions of up to 3%. The Flemish government takes the specific challenges of this sector into account, acknowledging as well that business-as-usual would lead to an increase of 19% in emissions between 2005 and 2030.
Consequently, action will be needed, and a demand of both public and private actors was identified to quantify the potential reduction of the use of different energy carriers for freight transport. The presented research is commissioned by the Flemish Government and performed in collaboration with SWECO, VIL and MOW Beleid. We evaluated the potential impact of five different energy carriers (LNG/CNG, biofuels, electric and hybrid, hydrogen and implementation of new emission standards). Currently, freight transport is very dependent on diesel, with a related CO2 emissions. However, the above mentioned energy carriers can be considered as more climate-friendly up to zero-emission. The potential CO2 reduction of their introduction and use is quantified for 2030. Additional information on the cost effectiveness and potential barriers are researched as well, giving rise to a roadmap for sustainable freight transport in Flanders.

2. Methodology, research strategy
We used an agent-based freight transport model for Belgium, called TRABAM, to simulate the impact of introducing five energy carriers. TRABAM is implemented in MATSim and based on the Freight extension (Schröder et al., 2012). Freight carriers are, as agents, performing transport operations in the transport system of 2030 (including new planned infrastructure and congestion levels). For each scenario, a specific share of freight vehicles powered by respective energy carriers were introduced into the fleet of the carriers. That share is based on Clean Power for Transport. The agents are generating day-plans with the aim to deliver all their incoming orders in the most successful way (economically). Vehicle and related energy carrier choice is part of the optimization process which results in a chosen near-optimal day-plan. The CO2 emissions are calculated by linking the performed routes to (vehicle-, time-, speed-, surrounding- and network dependent) emission factors.

3. Major findings
The results show that the use of climate-friendly energy carriers has an significantly positive impact of the CO2 emissions generated by freight transport vehicles in Flanders. However, given the vehicle shares proposed by Clean Power for Transport, none of the scenarios (individual introduction of energy carriers) fulfil the Flemish climate goal for freight transport (+3% by 2030 relative to 2005). Also all energy carriers combined do not fulfil the required reduction to meet the goal. Additionally, we point the importance of the used emission factor of different energy carriers. From a climate account perspective it is tempting to assume electric vehicles and biofuels as zero-emission (CO2). In reality, however, such emission factors will be very hard to reach by 2030.

4. Takeaway
The aim of the study is to come up with a 'roadmap' that indicates the most cost-efficient, feasible and promising way to achieve the climate ambitions. The outcome will serve as a basis for the political and social debate on measures and investments related to the introduction, acquisition and use of different energy carriers for the transport of goods.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019
EventBIVEC-GIBET research days - UGent, Gent, Belgium
Duration: 23 May 201924 May 2019


ConferenceBIVEC-GIBET research days

    Research areas

  • Climate change goals, Agent-based model, energy carriers, freight transport

ID: 45772729