Supporting zero emission travel on our roads

Our priorities are to help decarbonise HGVs and support the uptake of electric cars and vans. We will also improve the efficiency of our network and integrate it with other transport modes.

Update on zero carbon HGV trials - December 2022

In our Net zero highways plan published in July 2021 we said we would explore our approach to zero carbon HGV trials on the strategic road network by the end of 2022 and explore options for further freight demonstrators by the end of road period 2.

Finding a viable solution for de-carbonising HGV movements is a high priority for National Highways. We have been supporting Innovate UK and the Department for Transport (DfT) in their work to develop real world trials of potential technologies.

The leading technology options include battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell, and as a company we remain technology neutral.

Earlier in 2022, Innovate UK ran three competitions on behalf of the Department for Transport, seeking organisations or consortia to design and implement demonstrator projects using battery trucks, hydrogen fuel cell trucks or a combination of both. These bids are now being assessed with the intention that projects start in March 2023.

The feasibility studies of electric road systems undertaken in the last financial year identified a number of new safety and operational challenges and we have been working with DfT to better understand these and their effect on viability of this approach on the strategic roads network.

Helm UK advanced HGV platooning trials

HelmUK was the UK’s first real-world trial of HGV platooning which ran between 2017 and 2022.

The concept of platooning is to use advanced driver assistance systems to enable HGVs to safely travel close together to save fuel via a slipstreaming effect. This concept had never been tested in a real-world environment in the UK.

HelmUK ran for five years and through exhaustive analysis of real-world trials found that platooning saved small amounts of fuel over Adaptive Cruise Control (ACC) in the real-world.

Further analysis found that in a road network optimised for platooning, fuel savings could increase to between 2.5% and 4.1%.

HelmUK also found that platooning was as safe as ACC operation, if risks with merging vehicles at junctions are managed.

Read the final report on the HelmUK trials.

The report describes the purpose, approach, design, and results of the HelmUK trials covering road safety, fuel savings, effects on the road network, and economic benefits.

The HelmUK final report also discusses the future of platooning for National Highways, the UK government, and the freight industry.

Finally, the report makes a series of recommendations for platooning development and deployment. These include:

  • consideration of regulation of low headways at junctions
  • a strong recommendation to deploy the underlying systems enabling platooning at more typical larger headways where they offer safety benefits with no increase in risk