Shell has an ambitious plan to become a zero-emissions energy business by 2050. Selda Gunsel, vice-president of global commercial fuels technologies with Shell Lubricants outlined the roadmap to that eventuality during a webinar March 25.
It’s a five-pronged strategy that involves: increasing the production and availability of hydrogen for fuel cell trucks; expanding electric charging infrastructure, products and services; developing low-carbon fuels such as natural gas and biofuels; helping to advance a decarbonization policy framework with other stakeholders; and reducing the emissions of its own fleet of 3,000 vehicles by 10% by 2025 and completely by 2050.
“There is not a single solution or silver bullet to achieve this target,” Gunsel said. However, when its targets are reached, Shell will have eliminated more than 700,000 tons of CO2 emissions per year, equal to driving a Ford F-150 more than 1.5 billion miles.
For now, carbon offset programs are a way Shell balances its CO2 emissions. Shell is also working to optimize the efficiency of its product development and design processes, for example by using more recycled content in bottles. It’s also forging ahead with more efficient low-viscosity oils.
“We are doing some groundbreaking research developing a 0W grade lubricant for heavy-duty engines,” she said. “We hope to lead the industry in this space.”
Gunsel noted there are about 3 million companies operating some 217 million trucks and buses, which contribute 9% of global C02 emissions, more than shipping and aviation combined.
Operators of those trucks are eager to do their part, said Drew Cullen, senior vice-president of fuels and facility services for Penske Transportation Solutions.
“Nobody in the transportation industry woke up this morning and said ‘Gee, how can I use more diesel fuel today?’ They are all about these solutions and trying to get them in place,” he said.
Penske’s role in this is helping customers to spec’ and operate the most efficient vehicles for the job, and to ensure proper maintenance programs are in place. More recently, it has been helping fleets to deploy battery electric trucks.
“When we talk to them today, a lot of the conversations are around zero emissions technologies and specifically battery electric vehicles (BEVs),” he said. Penske today has about 100 BEVs on the road, and built a DC fast-charging network in Southern California.
It hasn’t been an easy process, Cullen acknowledged. He urged fleets looking to electrify to choose good partners to work with.
“One thing we found is that you don’t overcome these challenges and you can’t turn them into opportunities without strong partnerships and relationships,” he said.
While electric truck operators initially experienced range anxiety – nervousness about running out of a charge before they complete their route – a funny thing happened.
“The state of charge when the vehicles came back from their routes was initially about 7-8%,” Cullen said. “As time went on, we saw the state of charges coming back at 10%, 12%, 15%. Drivers were figuring out how to use the regenerative braking, and when to use and not use the power that’s available from the electric motors.”
But for BEVs to really catch on, Cullen said government incentives are still required.
“Costs will get better but grants and funding are really required in the short-term, maybe even medium-term,” he said. “We’d all like to see sometime between now and 30 years from now, it get to the point where it all stands on its own and makes economic sense for everyone involved.”
For now, we’re in the “messy middle,” according to Mike Roeth, executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). In the future, he said it’s becoming clearer that BEVs will thrive in urban, shorthaul applications, while hydrogen fuel cell will find a home in longhaul.
“We believe battery electric and hydrogen will win out over the 30-year timeframe,” he said. “There are some great solutions in the interim, including biofuels and hybridization.”