CO2-free door-to-door combined transport is already possible with today's technologies

Karel Novak, Published on 23/05/2022
CO2-free door-to-door combined transport is already possible with today's technologies
@Glenn Langhorst

The study has shown more energy efficiency, more climate protection, and less energy dependency in this kind of transport.


Especially today, energy efficiency is a powerful lever to reduce Europe's dependence on external fossil energy supplies. In a study prepared for the International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport (UIRR) the savings potential of carbon-free door-to-door combined transport is examined. The consulting company d-fine GmbH of Frankfurt, commissioned by UIRR, analyzed the aspects of energy efficiency, alternative drives, battery technologies, and CO2-free power generation. The analysis suggests these possibilities:

  • A shift to more energy-efficient and low-emission battery-electric trucking in the road legs and an overall expansion of door-to-door combined transport could reduce CO2 emissions more than any improvement of unimodal road freight transport is projected to be capable of.
  • Rail transport is inherently more efficient than road transport (low rolling resistance, aerodynamic advantages, topology advantages). Further energy savings can be achieved with longer trains (740 meters) and the new Digital Automatic Coupling (DAC).
  • Zero-carbon door-to-door combined transport is already possible today. Cargo handling at the Cargo City Wien Süd and Megahub Lehrte terminals, for example, is already CO2-free - thanks to the use of green electricity and shunting-free operation.
  • The key factors for a fully zero-carbon EU freight transport are CO2-free power generation, full electrification of rail transport, electrical equipment of the transshipment stations, and battery-powered vehicles for short road sections (which are typically shorter than 70 km).
  • According to forecasts, battery prices will fall by up to 70 per cent in the future. The same applies to the costs fo battery-powered transport vehicles due to the increasing series production.

"To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU as quickly as possible, the share of door-to-door combined transport in total freight transport must be increased significantly," points out UIRR President Ralf-Charley Schultze. "Therefore, suitable measures must be taken as quickly as possible to expand the existing zero-carbon transport services into a Europewide zero-carbon transport network." In addition, political decision-makers should not unilaterally restrict the range of technological options required to achieve the goal of a climate-neutral EU: “Those responsible should concentrate on defining the political goals and creating a fair legal framework. The optimal solution should then emerge based on fair competition based on technical merits and management excellence,” the president of UIRR adds.

The whole study concluded that: Given the challenges of the climate crisis, it is important to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as quickly as possible. As the present study shows, zero-carbon door-to-door combined transport can make a significant contribution to realizing the EU's ambitious climate plans. As zero-carbon combined door-to-door transport is already technically and operationally feasible today, political decisions are now required to fully exploit this potential.

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