Accelerating the Adoption of Clean Fuels: Leading Road Fleets Share Data

May 1, 2018
  • Beth Richmond portrait

    Beth Richmond

    Director, Transformation, BSR

  • Léa Farnier

    Former Manager, BSR

Massive growth in global energy consumption is placing increasing demands on fuels and energy sources; fossil fuel sources, however, are finite, decreasing, and must be phased out if we are to meet our global climate goals.

Sustainable fuels and technologies for road freight applications are a solution, and they’re at the cusp of an exciting transition. More sustainable fuels—those that reduce emissions and social impact—are already available to meet the needs of today’s fleets. Compressed natural gas, biodiesel, renewable diesel, electricity … all of these fuels are viable to power our road freight system. Today, they are being widely tested and deployed by members of BSR’s Future of Fuels, signatories to the Sustainable Fuel Buyers’ Principles, and other leading companies. “Advanced alternative fuels, like renewable diesel, are an important part of our strategy to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions impact of our fleet,” said Patrick Browne, director of global sustainability for UPS.

But we don’t want low-emission fuels to remain the privilege of a small group of well-informed insiders. They will not be successful if they do. The challenge that lies ahead is, therefore, how to scale the market and make these technologies more widely available.

As fleets test and deploy new technologies, they generate practical, real-world data on the technical and financial aspects of the various options, useable data that is often locked behind company doors. Meanwhile, many fleets struggle with information overload, do not understand how sustainable fuels perform in practice, and want to assess the level of infrastructure and investment required before piloting these technologies.

These uncertainties create high barriers to adoption. Companies are reluctant to apply the resources required to further investigate through their own individual testing, and suppliers feel stuck in “pilot purgatory,” performing the same tests over and over for a seemingly endless stream of buyers.

Solutions to accelerate the uptake of sustainable fuels and technologies must include not only innovative science and technology, but also effective knowledge management and collaboration. The data to alleviate these challenges exists—but we need to connect the dots.

Today, Future of Fuels is releasing a case study library that will, for the first time, allow fleet owners to compare clean fuel technologies independently tested and rated by peer companies. Leading fleets will now be able to share test data, evaluating clean fuels while protecting business-sensitive details, that meets the needs of their customers and peers.

To create this, BSR developed a case study template to help companies share their data in a standardized format. In order to do so, we narrowed 130 potential data points down to approximately 50 by benchmarking existing case studies and interviewing fleet owners and suppliers. We then finalized the template at Future of Fuels meetings with our member companies. Our members and Fuel Principles signatories hope that by providing this open-source data, they can help reduce the time and resources required to validate alternative fuels for wider adoption and scaling.

The initial set of five case studies contributed by IKEA, UPS, and PepsiCo covers fuel technologies including biodiesel, compressed natural gas, and electricity. These case studies—from pilots carried out in the U.S., China, and Sweden—suggest that there are fewer and fewer operational barriers to implementing new fuel technologies. According to Mike O’Connell, vice president of supply chain, fleet, and sustainability at PepsiCo, “Understanding both the environmental performance and the operational benefits and challenges of new technologies is vital for fleet owners. Concrete case studies further that understanding and ensure that we are not replicating work already conducted.”

The library we are launching today is still in its early stages and will continue to grow. Our members and Sustainable Fuel Buyers' Principles signatories already plan to submit more case studies in the coming months.

These case studies complement the Fuel Sustainability Tool (available for free), the world’s first apples-to-apples way to compare emissions reductions investments in efficiency and advanced fuel technologies, and build on the Sustainable Fuel Buyers’ Principles, through which companies demonstrate demand for sustainable fuels and catalyze the partnerships needed to drive a sustainable transition in the freight fuel system.

We invite all fleets interested in sustainable fuels and technologies to use the case studies in this library. We are currently accepting case study submissions from Future of Fuels members and Principles signatories, and we encourage other fleets that would be interested in participating in this effort to download the case study template and use it to guide their pilots. If you wish to submit a case study, please contact us.

We also invite fuel purchasers and shippers to sign on to the Sustainable Fuel Buyers' Principles. There is no cost to join; we simply ask that companies offer a sincere commitment to use these principles to proactively engage with their value chains around sustainable, low-emission fuels.

Let’s talk about how BSR can help you to transform your business and achieve your sustainability goals.

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