The net-zero challenge for mobile machinery

Efforts in mitigating climate change have resulted in ambitious global targets on CO2 emission reductions. Highly affected by these targets are mobile machinery which now face a challenging transition towards net-zero emissions.

Global and local emission targets

The global response to climate change is slowly mobilizing, mainly governed by the Paris agreement. However, some of the most stringent emission targets are set on a local level, either by companies, industries, or local authorities. For example, cities such as London, Tokyo, Copenhagen require all construction work, public or private, to be zero-emission by 2030. Similar targets are also introduced in ports all over Europe. 

“Cities such as London, Tokyo, Copenhagen require all construction work, public or private, to be zero-emission by 2030” 

Implications for mobile machinery

Highly affected by these targets are mobile machinery. Examples of this machinery are forklifts, telehandlers, mining equipment and tractors. They operate at various types of sites such as ports, construction sites, underground mines, etc. OEMs of mobile machinery are used to adapt to emission targets of NOX, carbon monoxide, and particles. However, radically reducing CO2 emissions and eventually reaching net-zero is a new requirement for many types of mobile machinery that will require an extensive change within the industry. 

“OEMs can no longer rely on incremental improvements of diesel powertrains” 

New powertrain solutions for mobile machinery

Historically, mobile machinery have been powered by diesel. However, to meet the upcoming emission targets, OEMs can no longer rely on incremental improvements of diesel powertrains. Instead, they must adopt alternatives such as batteries and fuel cells, or new types of fuel such as HVO or e-methanol. In addition, there are market complexities that differ in terms of local requirements, incentives, and infrastructure readiness that need to be considered when evaluating each powertrain alternative. Together, this makes for a complex choice in terms of what powertrain to adopt for each type of mobile machinery.

The way forward

Actors in the mobile machinery value chain must realize that their business and product now need to take swift and ambitious steps toward the net-zero future. To be successful in this transition, companies need to assess and clarify the possibilities as well as limitations of the different technologies, understand market conditions but also invest in their in-house competence. 

Actors must now decide whether they want to be leaders or followers of the net-zero challenge for mobile machinery. 



•The ICCT, Non road emission standards, 2016
•London buildings to be net zero carbon by 2030 | Carbon Intelligence
•Ports: net zero, systems thinking and big opportunities - Arup


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