Road Freight Decarbonisation with Ricardo

Written by Juan Ramirez and the Ricardo Team

On May 31, BEI held an extraordinary hybrid event, sponsored by Ricardo, that brought together experts, policymakers, and international finance institution actors from Latin America and the UK to explore solutions around the decarbonisation of road freight.

The event showcased the power of collaboration and innovation in shaping a sustainable road transport ecosystem. Insights from our panel of experts shed light on the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. There is an opportunity to capitalise on synergies and cross-regional collaboration, with Latin America's innovative business models and resource abundance complementing the UK's progressive regulations and technology adoption.

We had the privilege of host a panel of high-level international experts integrated by:

  • Elisabeth Windisch, research programme co-leader at the International Transport Forum, OECD
  • Lorenzo Casullo, Director of the Sustainable Transport at Ricardo
  • Ernesto Monter, Transport Specialist at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
  • Juan Pablo Bocarejo, former secretary of transport of Bogota and Director of a sustainability research group at the Universidad de los Andes, and
  • Brian Macey, Associate Director at Connected Places Catapult.

The first speakers covered global trends on road freight decarbonisation. Elisabeth Windisch provided a global perspective on road freight decarbonisation, highlighting its significant contributions to climate change and air pollution. She shed light on key role that electric heavy goods vehicles can play as the technology takes off and reaches cost parity with diesel trucks. Lorenzo Casullo gave a quick tour of the world covering China, the UK and Europe, and Latin America, highlighting the drivers and barriers behind zero emission road freight. He emphasised the opportunities for Latin American countries to take the lead in decarbonisation of the sector, showcasing some of Ricardo’s work in Mexico and Argentina.

Next, Ernesto Monter shared valuable insights on the Latin American context. He highlighted the need to improve road infrastructure and build dedicated recharging and refuelling networks to be adapted to zero emission freight vehicles. Cost is a primary driver in the region, but ambitious national strategies and incentives have proven to be a key element to overcome such barriers. Pilots are being deployed and these experiences will enrich the way forward. Juan Pablo Bocarejo highlighted the findings and contributions of UK funded programme Giro Zero. Giro Zero has gathered information about road freight fleets in Colombia to further develop such pilot projects based of data and data analysis. He stressed the need for financial incentives to make sustainable technologies more attractive. Bocarejo's insights showcased the region's determination to drive decarbonisation efforts forward.

Brian Macey from Connected Places Catapult provided a comprehensive overview of the challenges and opportunities in sustainable road transport. He emphasised the need for collaboration and support from the truck industry, highlighting the complexity and low returns from battery recycling. His remarks emphasised the importance of developing the necessary infrastructure and support systems to facilitate the adoption of low-carbon technologies.

There are reasons to be optimistic for Latin America in its quest for sustainable road freight. The rising availability of zero-emission trucks, both battery electric and hydrogen models, and the fact that Mexico and Brazil host large manufacturers, make the region primed for accelerated progress.

The abundance of clean energy production provides a strong foundation for electrification and green hydrogen deployment. Furthermore, Latin America's openness to global standards, interest from international financial institutions, and private green financiers further strengthen the region's prospects.

In collaboration with Europe, including the UK, Latin America can leverage its innovative business models and financial instruments to promote sustainable transportation. Knowledge sharing and cooperation will drive both regions towards their respective decarbonisation goals. Together, Latin America and Europe can create a future where road freight plays a minimal role in climate change and air pollution, fostering a cleaner and greener world.

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