A new era of UK freight: Electrifying road transport
A new era of UK freight: Electrifying road transport
Einride is deploying freight mobility grids around the world, fast-tracking electrification across regions by bringing together products, technology, clients and partners. Its latest grid is being deployed in one of Europe’s largest transportation markets, the United Kingdom. The starting point of the grid will be in the Midlands, and it will later unfold along some of the country’s busiest motorways, connecting major metropolitan cities.
The technological transformation needed to get the UK to net zero by 2050 is already underway. The UK Government has presented several plans on how to get there, including the Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution, which presents its strategy for realising a decarbonised economy within the next three decades. Such initiatives reiterate the fact that net zero is possible, although it will require the transformation of every sector of the British economy – including its highest-emitting sector: transport.
Reaching net zero through the electric transition
Each year, 1.6 billion tonnes of goods are transported around the UK. The transport sector is a vital pillar of the UK economy, contributing £127 billion gross value added through more than 200 thousand enterprises. At the same time, however, it is the highest-emitting sector of the UK economy, accounting for over 20% of total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2020. To reduce such emissions, the UK is rallying the sector to face future transport challenges head-on. In 2022, the UK’s Department for Transport presented its Future of Freight Plan, mapping its intentions to make the sector cost-efficient, reliable, resilient, environmentally sustainable, and valued by society.
At the heart of the transport sector is road transport, which is integral for connecting ports, airports, distribution centres, and more. Between mid-2020 and mid-2021, the UK’s heavy goods vehicles lifted 1.39 billion tonnes of freight, moving over 150 billion tonne-kilometres. This demand for road transport is increasing and is expected to keep rising in the future. However, it is possible to keep up with high demand for transport while also ensuring goods are moved efficiently and without tailpipe emissions; the solution lies in electric freight. In fact, the Climate Change Committee, the UK's independent adviser on tackling climate change, highlights the need for a full transition to electric vehicles (including heavy-goods vehicles) as “one of the most important actions to achieve the UK’s net zero target.”
Addressing driver shortage by leveraging new technologies
The introduction of electric and automated vehicles also tackles another critical problem within the transport sector: the driver shortage. In 2020, the UK experienced a serious driver shortage due to various factors, including the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. While the severity has reduced since, the UK is still short of around 50 thousand drivers. The issue isn’t isolated to the UK; it is a global problem fuelled by increased transport demand as well as an ageing driver population. The International Road Transport Union (IRU) projects two million vacant driver positions in Europe by 2026, which would impact 50% of all freight movements across the continent.
To address the driver shortage, there is a clear need to make the profession more attractive and accessible. Thus, one of the main action points is to improve working conditions for haulage personnel. This can be done by leveraging new technologies, such as digitalisation, electrification and automation.
The electrification of heavy-duty vehicles will enable a significantly improved work environment for truck drivers when being on the road. Driving an electric truck means less time for maintenance, no motor vibration, no loud noise, and no exhaust fumes. By adopting digital technologies, businesses can streamline processes to make life easier for operators and drivers alike. For example, the intelligent freight mobility platform Einride Saga can provide drivers with all the necessary instructions on where to go and when, taking into account all the assigned shipments as well as all charging requirements. This allows drivers to execute transport with high precision without having to plan their routes or manually handle shipment information.
When it comes to autonomous freight technology, a new kind of trucker emerges – and, in fact, this is a role that is situated away from the road entirely. While Einride’s autonomous vehicles carry goods between locations, humans are kept in the loop at all times, supervising the vehicles remotely from a purpose-built workstation. This new type of professional – the remote operator – exemplifies Einride’s vision of human-led autonomy.
Improving public health and fuelling economic growth
In addition to providing several work-related benefits for truck drivers, the electrification of the transport industry will also provide wider benefits for the public. Accelerating the decarbonisation of transport will save lives and significantly reduce noise pollution, making the UK a more enjoyable place to live.
Air pollution is the top environmental risk to human health in the UK. In 2016, air pollution was responsible for 40 thousand premature deaths, costing the UK economy upwards of £20 billion annually. The main cause of air pollution in the UK is transport, where diesel and petrol vehicles emit harmful pollutants of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which are causes for asthma, inflammation and other lung problems. In addition to reducing GHG emissions, the shift to electric vehicles will also bring a significant reduction in these types of harmful emissions, which will support improved public health across the country, especially for the communities located near freight corridors and motorway routes.
Furthermore, the transformation of the transport sector will fuel economic growth. The introduction of electric vehicles will create new jobs around the UK and could ultimately support up to 22 thousand jobs in 2024 and up to 74 thousand jobs in 2030. As the economy transitions to net zero, the development of road transport sector technologies could support up to 71 thousand jobs in 2050.
The UK grid
Some of the UK’s most densely trafficked motorways – generating high portions of GHG emissions and smog-forming pollution – are the M1, M5 and M6 between the cities of London, Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. It is along these motorways that Einride will establish a regional freight mobility grid, putting the country on the fast track to net zero.
The Einride grid represents a long-term concept that will unlock a resilient and cost-effective way to transport goods across the country. With the digital, all-electric, and autonomous movement of goods, Einride enables unprecedented efficiency while reducing emissions.
The UK grid builds on several proven innovations that Einride has applied in other markets. A grid is composed of charging stations and green corridors spread across a city or region. It also encompasses all the physical and digital infrastructure components that enable clean and efficient freight. The UK grid will include a network of semi-public charging hubs that will have bookable high-power chargers as well as services and amenities such as vehicle maintenance and drivers’ lounges. Underpinning all aspects of the grid is the intelligent freight mobility platform Einride Saga, built around high-quality data and unique algorithms.
The grid concept is a highly scalable solution that will become more cost-effective over time as transport volumes increase, due to features such as fleet optimisation, tractor swapping, and battery management optimisation. Scaling of the grid will be supported by algorithmic optimisation provided by Einride Saga to reach high cargo volumes per shipment and high hardware utilisation. Einride also plans to introduce human-led autonomous technologies to the grid, taking a stepwise approach. Through autonomous operations, wherein remote operators will play a key role, Einride will be able to further optimise the total cost of ownership (TCO) of the transportation network.
“Through the grid, Einride plans to establish a vast network of partners, bringing shippers, operators, service partners and charging infrastructure together, taking British freight operations to the next level,” says Robert Ziegler, General Manager Europe at Einride. “Unlike other freight providers, Einride takes overall responsibility for all logistical touchpoints.”
The starting point: The golden triangle
The starting point for the grid is in the heart of the Midlands: on the route between Leicester and Coventry, right in the centre of the golden logistics triangle. The golden triangle is centrally located to support ports, domestic suppliers and onward transport, and it is home to many national distribution centres that act as medium-term storage for internationally and domestically sourced goods.
Einride’s first commercial partner for its UK grid is PepsiCo. In an initial deployment, PepsiCo will transport goods between its Walkers manufacturing sites in Leicester and Coventry with Einride connected electric trucks, powered by Einride’s intelligent platform, Saga. The initial deployment will reduce fossil fuel-powered distances travelled by over 250,000 miles annually, reducing the equivalent of 1,623 tonnes of CO2 emissions across three years.
Einride is deploying grids around the world – bringing together products, technology and partners. Read more about how and where this is happening.