The challenge facing global supply chains and transportation networks is to bring down emissions while remaining profitable.
The challenge facing global supply chains and transportation networks is to bring down emissions while remaining profitable.

Why fossil-free steel is the future of heavy transport

Heavy transport is the backbone of many industries and plays a fundamental role in how we live, but is also making a significant contribution to our climate crisis. For the world’s leading heavy-duty truck manufacturers, something must change.

Heavy-duty trucks are essential to the world’s supply chains and transportation networks, which in turn have enabled huge improvements in our living standards. However, now the industry faces a critical challenge: how to transform its manufacturing and production process so that they’re more sustainable, while also remaining profitable? This is where SSAB fossil-free steel is set to play a critical role.

Why fuel efficiency alone is not enough to make heavy transport sustainable

As in many industries, fuel efficiency improvements have also been the main means of improving sustainability in the heavy transport industry. Traditional manufacturers, such as Daimler, Scania and Volvo, are all developing electric trucks and are using collaborations with start-ups and younger companies like Arrival, Nikola Motors and Tesla to innovate and approach production and design differently. 

However, the industry has also recognized that efficiency improvements are not enough to meet the challenge of climate change and while fossil-free operation is an important step, it does not deliver the complete solution. The next stage is bringing sustainability to production and the entire lifecycle; this is where fossil-free steel will play a pivotal role.

Sustainability key to surviving and thriving in future heavy transport industry

Consequently, many of the major manufacturers are targeting sustainability improvements across their entire value chains. For example, Daimler, the largest truck manufacturer in the world, is working hard to reduce CO2 emissions from its production processes, and its trucks and buses division used 19 percent less energy in 2020.2

The Volvo Group, who is collaborating with SSAB to implement fossil-free steel into its vehicles, is also taking a variety of positive steps to boost sustainable production. Fossil-free steel is steel produced using an innovative approach that replaces the traditional coking coal, with technology that uses fossil- free electricity and hydrogen. The HYBRIT fossil-free steel initiative is a partnership between SSAB, iron ore producer LKAB and energy company Vattenfall, and has the potential to drastically advance sustainability in heavy transport; it could also be key to increasing sales. 

“Two of the most interesting heavy transport segments are trailers and tipper trucks,” says Jan Eckerlid, Technical development engineer at SSAB. “These sectors are quite fragmented and the companies who make trailers or tipper trucks are always assessing what their competitors are doing to see how they can stand out from the crowd. I believe some of these companies are going to see fossil-free steel as a real business opportunity.”

Transport currently accounts for a quarter of the EU’s greenhouse gas emissions; the European Green Deal wants to reduce these emissions by 90 percent by 2050. The EU hopes to achieve these goals through the use of alternative fuels, shifting to use of greener transport modes and by increasing efficiency.1

”Fossil-free steel will be a real game-changer in heavy transport.”

Jan Eckerlid, SSAB

All future trends point towards fossil-free steel

As companies increasingly require sustainability improvements across their entire supply chains, this will continue to put pressure on all players. Heavy transport firms who can market their equipment as containing fossil-free steel could have an advantage in attracting customers that recognize sustainability is already business critical. There has been an upswing in companies asking their suppliers for proof that they are taking steps to improve sustainability and this trend is set to embed in everyday practice. Heavy transport is a critical aspect of the logistics sector, which is under pressure to improve their green credentials.

“Fossil-free steel has the same high quality and technical properties as traditional steel. It can also be recycled just like steel has always been,” says Eckerlid. “The big difference is that fossil-free steel will be produced more sustainably. This will be a real game-changer in heavy transport.”


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