Features
14 mar 24

Greenhouse gas accounting for LCV fleets

When clients want Scope 3 GHG emission reports, van fleets will face a complicated set of calculations.

The greenhouse gas emissions of light commercial vehicles are an inescapable aspect of doing business. These vehicles are key to company performance, transporting employees, tools and goods to customers. For many businesses, especially those in the service and logistics sectors, the emissions from LCV fleets are likely to represent a large share of total corporate emissions.

In theory, reporting GHG emissions of LCV fleets should be straightforward. As the GHG Protocol says, “Emissions from transportation in vehicles owned or controlled by the reporting company are accounted for in either scope 1 (for fuel use), or in the case of electric vehicles, scope 2 (for electricity use).”

However, there are important details to understand. Firstly, it is not only carbon dioxide that causes climate change – a range of different vehicle exhaust gases are responsible for global warming, including nitrogen dioxide and methane.

This explains why GHG reporting often refers to gCO2eq or kgCO2eq, where ‘eq’ is an abbreviation of equivalent. It is an accepted way of expressing all greenhouse gases as if they had the same climate change impact as CO2.

Scope 1 emissions

Secondly, calculating Scope 1 emissions should be straightforward for any diesel powered LCV fleet, so long as it uses fuel cards. The calculation simply involves multiplying the emission factor for a litre of diesel by the total number of litres consumed by the fleet.

The emission factor can vary from country to country depending on the percentage of biofuel in the diesel mix, so fleet managers will have to calculate their GHG emissions at a national rather than international level. Sweden, for example, has a relatively high proportion of biofuels at 24.7%, whereas Bulgaria only has 2.7%, according to the European Environment Agency.

If fuel data is not available, it is possible to use surrogate methods, based on kilometres driven and average emissions per km by vehicle type, although this is more complicated and less accurate.

Scope 2 emissions

Calculating Scope 2 emissions for electric LCVs involves a similar process, multiplying the grid emissions factor for electricity generation by the number of kilowatt hours used to charge the vehicles. A number of corporates and public charging companies are only purchasing renewable wind or solar energy, so the emission factor should be zero (although there are some GHG emissions associated with both large reservoirs for hydropower and biomass feedstock-related power).

Future complications

Complications arise, however, if drivers have personal use of their LCVs – private journeys do not count towards corporate GHG emissions. As a result, these fleets will need a mileage recording and reporting system to eliminate from corporate totals the emissions from personal trips.

And in future, there may be further complications as customers ask a fleet for forensically detailed GHG emissions to include in their own Scope 3 emissions. Imagine, for example, a last mile delivery van. Are the emissions linked to its first delivery of the day lower than the emissions linked to its last delivery, given that the van has driven farther to make its final drop? And should these emissions be further calibrated by weight, so a heavy package incurs higher GHG emissions than a light parcel?

Benchmarking

Finally, when GHG accounting, fleets have to be clear about the reporting period, and establish a base year, so that progress can be measured.

Image: shutterstock_2008190480

Authored by: Jonathan Manning