Zero-Emission Road Freight – What’s next?

Connected Places Catapult is working alongside Government, industry and academia to help accelerate the transition to zero-emission road freight. It’s been 18 months since we published our ‘Pathway for Long-Haul Heavy Goods Vehicles’ report. So, what has happened since, and what’s next?

This article explains, and includes a suite of related reports available for download.

The scale of the challenge is clear. Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) are vital to industry and represent the backbone of trade and commerce worldwide. They are responsible for ensuring we have access to food, medicines, and goods of all kinds. 89% of domestic goods transported in the UK in 2020 were moved by road – the vast majority of which in HGVs. However, these vehicles produced 16% of UK domestic transport greenhouse gas emissions in 2019, and this needs to be reduced to zero by 2050.

The Pathway to Long Haul HGVs report was, itself, a culmination of extensive research and stakeholder consultation. Connected Places Catapult investigated the promising technologies for zero-emission road freight and started to build the business case for large scale trials and wider deployment. We consulted widely on state of the art and barriers to deployment.

Potential pathways to zero or low emission HGVs, produced by Professor Neville Jackson on behalf of Connected Places Catapult.

Within the Pathway document, we set out actions that we felt would enable the transition, which included:

  • Setting a clear vision
  • Funding and de-risking the transition
  • Developing trust in the technology
  • Deploying initial infrastructure
  • Progressing regulations and standards
  • Building the UK supply chain
  • Enabling a sustainable market

The key recommendation was to gather evidence and mature the technologies through large-scale demonstrations operating in real-world conditions in the UK.

The Catapult’s business case work helped to secure £20m of funding to accelerate the rollout of zero-emission road freight, and following the publication of our study in March 2021, Innovate UK launched the Zero Emission Road Freight competitions, covering areas such as hydrogen fuel cells, electric road systems, supply chain technology, battery electric HGVs and supply chain technologies. The winners of these competitions were published in August 2021.

This funding enabled industry partners, such as vehicle manufacturers, infrastructure providers and technology companies, to come together with local authority representatives, freight operators and academics to develop detailed plans for the rollout of large-scale trials. The Catapult has been at the heart of these conversations, which have included representatives from the Department for Transport, Innovate UK, National Highways, National Grid, the Zemo Partnership, Logistics UK, the Road Haulage Association, and many others.

Further good news arrived earlier this year, as it was confirmed that major funding has been secured to deploy the significant infrastructure and large number of vehicles needed for successful trialling of zero-emission HGVS, in a real-world commercial context in the UK. Again, the Catapult’s technical and cost modelling inputs contributed to this funding award.

In addition, the Catapult has produced a suite of outputs to help inform partners and build robust foundations for the trials. The Catapult’s focus areas have included trial data strategy, export potential, safety and regulations, standards and market operations. This has included publication of the following reports which are available to download.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Standards landscape and gap analysis – January 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 4.7MB

The purpose of this report is to document findings from a review of global standards and provide recommendations on a standardisation programme that would enable safe and effective roll out of Zero Emission Road Freight Trials and establishment of a longer-term sustainable market.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Market opportunity mapping – March 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 2.4MB

The purpose of this report is to examine the UK’s export opportunity in three emerging zero-emission HGV technologies: Hydrogen Fuel Cells, Battery Electric Vehicles, and Electric Road Systems.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Regulation and safety roadmap – March 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 17.9MB

The purpose of this report is to set out the safety activities that are required for safe on-road Zero Emission Road Freight Trials.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Summary of Concept Safety Analysis – March 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 17.6MB

The purpose of this report is to set out findings from a review of the hazard landscape and key safety considerations for the proposed Zero Emission Road Freight Trials.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Data objectives and data stakeholder mapping – March 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 2.0MB

The purpose of this report is to identify what data needs to be collected from trials for evaluation purposes, to outline necessary data collection methods and to identify key stakeholders that would need to engage with this data collection approach.

ZERFT Phase 1 – Comparison of Transport Decarbonisation projects – March 2022
File Type: pdfFile size: 4.9MB

The purpose of this report is to explore Connected Places Catapult decarbonisation projects across road, rail, maritime and aviation. To consider potential alignment, pre-empt interoperability challenges, highlight operational and implementation synergies and accelerate industry learning.

What’s Next?

Now that funding has been secured and foundations have been laid, the next step is to progress with the design of the demonstrator projects, and consider how such demonstrations can progress to wide-scale commercial deployments of the right infrastructure and vehicles to meet the needs of freight operators.

Meanwhile, the Catapult will be undertaking work on a host of enabling actions, as per the recommendations detailed within reports, to ensure technology can be deployed in a safe and secure manner. This will include investigations into standards, regulations, safety and security and UK export potential. If you would like to be involved in these discussions, please send an email to

Connected Places Catapult is looking forward to continuing on this exciting journey towards a cleaner future!