Cargo ship

Why decarbonise? 

Across the world, businesses and governments are setting goals in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

More than 120 countries have committed to stop adding to the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2050. 

Road freight, accounts for around 9% of global CO2 emissions - more than shipping and aviation combined. To meet the goal of the Paris Agreement, absolute emissions from road freight need to decline almost 60% by 2050 versus a 2018 baseline, despite an expected doubling of road freight volume over the same period. However, road freight is fundamental to the global economy and day-to-day lives. Globally, there are approximately 217 million road freight vehicles that range from light commercial vehicles, medium and heavy-duty trucks, to coaches and buses. With such huge scale comes an equally huge challenge; as the global economy returns to growth post COVID-19, so too carbon emissions from road freight will grow. 

There are several barriers to decarbonisation; insufficient regulatory incentives, lacking infrastructure and limited demand from shippers for example, and yet despite these barriers there is hope. The industry is facing a tipping point. Increasing demands, accelerated regulations and maturing technologies have created a groundswell of progress. 

The industry is already converging on a technology pathway. Most technologies to decarbonise road freight already exist and many truck manufacturers already have fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs) and battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in development. The sector has defined a decarbonisation roadmap, which allows it to start deploying low- and zero-emission trucks at scale by the late 2020s. 

Shell has identified a wide range of initiatives to accelerate road freight past the planning and design stage of the transition. The solutions include immediate action through the increased use of existing technology, such as battery-electric technology for the shorter-range, lighter vehicles used in cities. In the longer term, they include hydrogen as a fuel for heavier trucks that travel further with a greater load. Greater regulation, increased production and improved infrastructure to sustain growth are key and the principle of collaboration runs throughout. 

The challenge is enormous, but so is the opportunity to redefine the energy mix for the road freight sector.

Portrait image of Huibert Vigeveno

Urgent action must be taken now to put road freight on a pathway to net-zero emissions. Fleet companies, truck manufacturers and energy providers have already started investing in low- and zero-emission solutions, but the sector requires a more robust set of policies and regulations to accelerate change.

Huibert Vigeveno, Downstream Director

Explore the publications

  • Trucks parked in a truck stop

    Executive summary

    Download the executive summary of Shell’s Industry perspective report Decarbonising Road Freight: Getting into gear to read how to accelerate road freight decarbonisation.

    Download Executive summary

  • Trucks and shipping containers

    Media release

    Read the media release

  • Person holding ipad showing PDF report


    Explore the key findings of the report as a helpful infographic

    Download infographic

  • Truck on road

    World Economic Forum – Agenda blog | January 21, 2021

    ‘The freight industry's journey to decarbonization’, a blog by Huibert Vigeveno, Downstream Director of Shell

    Read blog

Portrait of Carlos Maurer

It is very encouraging that road freight leaders have begun to align on a technology pathway. We believe that once produced at scale, hydrogen will likely be the more cost-effective and viable pathway to net-zero emissions for heavy-duty and long-route medium-duty vehicles, and electric mobility will do the same for light-duty and short-route medium-duty vehicles.

Carlos Maurer, Executive Vice President of Sectors and Decarbonisation


Hydrogen cars hit the highway

Emissions-free cars move closer to the mass market with support from governments, car makers and a growing network of refuelling stations.

Driving into a low-carbon future

Climate change may be the biggest threat to our way of life and demands urgent action to cut emissions. At the same time, the world’s population is expected to rise to around 9 billion by mid-century while the number of vehicles could double as millions come out of poverty. 

The road to decarbonisation

The British government has set itself a legally-binding target of hitting net zero emissions by 2050.

Our climate ambition

Shell is aiming to become a net-zero emissions energy business by 2050 or sooner.