Charging or refuelling needs for trucks in Scotland

Project background

Transport Scotland has commissioned Heriot-Watt’s Centre for Logistics and Sustainability to work with fleet operators to understand where future zero carbon charging and fuelling infrastructure is most urgently needed.

This project will:

  • Determine broad locations where on-route charging or refuelling facilities should be developed.
  • Provide recommendations for investors on how locations should be prioritised and phased.

This can only be done working collaboratively with road freight businesses to understand how HGVs currently move through Scotland and where infrastructure should sensibly be located on route.

Explainer video by project lead Dr Dhanan Utomo

Phase 1 - Data Collection and Modelling: please get involved by sharing your data

The first phase of the project is to gather data from HGV fleets across Scotland to understand the patterns of journeys that take place today. We are asking operators of all sizes of fleets to share their journey information to feed into our model of Scotland’s charging and refuelling needs. By sharing data with the project, participants raise the chances that future energy infrastructure networks will be in the locations that will meet the needs of their operation. 

Please see our FAQ section below to learn more and find out how to share your journey data.

Phase 2 - Model Testing: register to see early results

We’d like to work with key stakeholders to test whether the assumptions of our model reflect the reality of day-to-day operations. We will hold an online workshop in January 2024 to show our early results and sense-check it with fleet operators. If you’d like to be part of that discussion, register your interest.


I've been working on decarbonising HGV's for the last 18 months or so and the key piece of work has been the Zero Emission Truck Task Force. So trying to work with the haulage sector, the energy sector, manufacturers, really unions,

as many focused possible to figure out what do we need to do to support the introduction of zero emission trucks into Scotland. And it's really early days for that transition as I'm sure you're all very, very aware and infrastructure comes up time and time again. That confidence is needed that you can charge or fuel your truck as is needed across Scotland.

But we want to try and get that infrastructure in place in a sensible way so that it's where you need it, when you need it.

And you'll be astonished how little data government has on the way that trucks move. So this project has come out of the Zero Emission Truck Task Force. It's seeking to understand where energy infrastructure, both electricity and hydrogen, is going to be needed in Scotland in the future. We want to collaborate very much with the haulage sector and the energy sector to make sure that your data is shaping this. Your knowledge of how operations are run is shaping this

and that we begin to have a shared understanding of the kind of locations where this is needed, the kind of phasing where it might be needed. You know, is it important to start at the M8 or is it more important on the A9? Don't know. So the purpose of the project is to work with you to increase our understanding of where we need on route charging and fuelling. And we're really talking about the regional and the long distance fleet movements. I guess we probably have depot charging for the more urban movements,

so we want to understand the national picture as a whole. We recognise that trucks are incredibly versatile. It's not just about trunking, but every spa, every Co-op in our remote and rural communities, every small factory site or timber mill, you know, trucks go and visit these. So we'd like to get as big and as broad a picture as possible. And there's a lot of moving parts. You know, fleets have plans for transition, the energy sector have plans for where they think they can get power sooner. The UK government is developing an infrastructure strategy.

Each one of these is weighing up the opportunities and the risks.

So we're hoping that this project will increase understanding and will increase confidence in everybody who's looking to invest so that we can understand what's planned, where are the gaps and I guess what good enough looks like. So this project is seeking to understand what good enough looks like for the early stages of the move to zero emission trucks. The network will of course evolve overtime to become the perfect 20 year end state, but what do we need so that you can

invest in the vehicles you need

for those first five years, 10 years of the

So government has no data to draw on on how HGVs move. We recognise it's quite commercially sensitive. We recognise that we can only do this by working with you

and we want to do that. We want to understand as best we can how to get this right. So Heriot-Watt University

have a model, a developed model already

which they will explain in more detail because I am not technical, that can take journey movements

data from fleets such as yourself and already understand the capacity of the technology and begins to say well based on this data it looks as though we will need charging or fuelling infrastructure here, here and here.

That model is generally being used by individual fleets today, but we would like to try and take a Scotland wide perspective to try and do that shared understanding and that coordination at national level.

It'll be as good as the data that we can get into it. So we're delighted to have you on the call today. The purpose of today is so that you can understand what the ask is and what the protection for your data is and to ask all of the questions that would give you the confidence to join in. There are two asks really that Phil will explain in more detail. One of them is to share the journey data of your fleets. So starting points, stopping points, that kind of stuff. It doesn't have to be up to date, it can be a couple of years old.

We welcome as much data as we can get from any fleet, large or small, recognising the huge variety that there is across Scotland.

We'd also welcome deeper engagement with some folk who are interested to check the assumptions of the model. You know, academics and government do the best they can and Heriot-Watt have an excellent understanding and I've worked with many fleets in the past, but we want to check the assumptions that underpin the model.

Is it appropriate to assume that there will be charging at your destination at your end point, for example? For some of you the answer is likely to be yes, for some of you maybe no. But getting those assumptions right makes the model operate well. So we really welcome deeper engagement with a smaller group to ask, does this seem sensible? Have we understood this correctly?

So the outputs of the piece of work will be a map of visual map of Scotland with sort of broad blobs.

The most immediate need for on route charging will be in this area, this area, this area, however many blobs that need to be for that

and we will have worked with the energy providers, so the National Grid people, the DNOs, basically Scottish Power and SSE to make sure that wherever those blobs are situated there will be appropriate power. The grid would be able either to be upgraded quickly enough or would be able to accommodate already that kind of charging.

So there will be the map and the report which will look at the sequencing of sites, the location of sites, the kind of number of charges, the amount of power that might be required. We will have improved the understanding of the electricity grid in particular about where these sites are going to need to be because there may be a need for grid upgrades. We won't have got down to the level of this particular field, but something around in the vicinity of this junction on that road.

But I think really importantly, we hope that you as fleets and hauliers as a sector will have a better idea of what good enough looks like for you to be able to invest in the vehicles and contract progress as these sites become more real in the future, to have that confidence that you'll be able to charge and fuel as need be.

So once we have that map and the output which we are expecting around the end of March, it's a fairly short project.

I think after we have that, we'll be looking to convene interest around those key sites and really bring them into reality. We'd expect them to be owned and operated by the public, by the private sector. Sorry, governments, not very good at fuel operations, I would imagine. So it's really about developing that, understanding that confidence and stimulating investment. We're looking to do it at Scotland level, but I want to reassure you that we're absolutely joined up with the developments from the Department of Transport as well.

DfT are aware of this project, they're interested in it. Heriot-Watt are engaged in a much larger digital project for the DfT that this will feed into and we absolutely recognise that trucks move really freely between England and Scotland. So although this is a Scotland specific and focused project, it is joined up with that bigger picture. So I think my key message is we really want to work with you on this. We want to get it right for Scotland as best we can

and you can really help us make a difference here. So there'll be an opportunity for questions where you can ask me anything you like about that bigger picture and how it'll work in the future.

But my role really was to give you that broad overview of what are we trying to do here. I hope I've done that.

Please note: research results shared in the video are preliminary and need further verification.


OK, so I'm just going to explain a little bit about how the model works and why it's important to get this data.

So our task, as you know, is to recommend locations for, let's say, public charging points for H for heavy goods vehicles in Scotland. So we want to know where they are, how many we there should be, and what their power output should be.

We have the software that we call miles and the software models electric vehicle movements and charging.

It's called decision making capability, such as when and where vehicles need to charge and if they need to make diversions for recharging journey.

It requires the telematics input, in other words.

Sorry, I think my microphone has slipped down.

It's yes. So telematics inputs such as start and end information,

so in a little bit more detail that we want linked telematics data ideally. So the start and end locations and times for vehicle journeys, meaning going from sort of A to B and we could ideally do with some sort of identifiers for each vehicle and each route to track the vehicles over multiple journeys. The other information that we could really do with is data about essentially potential locations where vehicles could be capable of recharging between journeys. So imagining a future where you've invested your like becoming electric or something like that, and

if you if you have a rapid charger in your own depot or in your own warehouses, that would be really useful information for us.

The output of the software is that we can have really detailed information about rapid charger usage, such as exactly when they're used, the profile of usage over the day, the amount of energy that's delivered, the number of vehicles that are simultaneously charging so that we would know how many

charging points to put in.

We'd also have information coming out about, well, the battery specifically, so kind of the battery size that's needed.

We can have alerts where and when the battery runs out, which would be useful for knowing where

sort of hot spots where lots of batteries seem to run out,

and eventually the number of emergency recharges, as well as something that we can put into the model.

We have, yeah. And the output of that is, as I said before, basically the recommended number of charges at each location.

So the work so far, Phil has already kind of mentioned this, but I'll just be a little bit more precise about it. So this logistics company asked us where should they install private rapid chargers

and they gave us information about their journeys, where and when they start and stop. It was identified by number plate and we had a list of locations where they could potentially install charges,

which was a very small subset of their destinations. So we're talking as we say, 1300 destinations in total and this list was a little bit over a dozen.

So just a bit vocabulary for.

So when I talk about journey I mean travelling from A to B basically without stopping. So from, I don't know,

depot to warehouse kind of thing. So on this diagram up in the right on the top right, it would be one of those lines in those zigzags. And a route would be basically a sequence of journeys, so A to B to C to D and the routes would be separated by at least an 8 hour gap

during which we assume that the vehicle slow charges to

so that each route starts with the full battery.

The results of this if we were to assume that every single journey started with a full battery, which is not really practical in real life because sometimes you know you're uploading stuff and then you're back again back out again. But if they started with a full journey, full battery, then 80% of these journeys can be completed with the other 20%. The point is that the battery runs out like part way along the journey, so the journey is is like too long for the battery.

If we're talking about the routes, supposing we were rapid charging at every single stop between the journeys, not necessarily to fall, but as much as we could, and that's over 1000 locations. So again, this is not really practical.

Only a third of the routes could be completed, and again that's because 2/3 of the routes contained a journey which was too long for the battery.

And then finally, if we're thinking about a vehicle that goes on a route and is  assigned multiple routes, then none of the vehicles could complete all of their routes and that's still rapid charging at every single stop between journeys.

So I think that emphasises the importance of having these extra non private charging points that kind of everybody can use.

So even using private charges everywhere, routes that contained longer journeys would require public charging.

And also another conclusion from this is that vehicle routes are probably going to have to redesign, firstly around charging, recharging times and secondly potentially about vehicle length. In the short, sorry about journey distance in the short term. So you may start with a small fleet of electric vehicles that would only do the shorter journeys.

So This is why we need your data.  Public charges will be used by more than one company. And when I'm talking about public charges, I mean sort of publicly available charges, things that you can divert towards.

More companies means more charges are needed.

And other companies may operate different routes at different times. So if we only have the information from, you know, one or two companies, it's not going to show us the whole picture. The more data points that we have, as always with statistics, the greater accuracy.

This is a lot like voting. If we've got your data, then essentially you get to vote on which public charging locations are useful for you.

Another thing is that the more we know about your plans or potential for private rapid charging, the more accurate public charging results can be, because we can assume that we can assume basically where your vehicles are charging along the route.

1) Why do you need my company’s HGV data?

Governments do not have adequate data on HGV movements in Scotland. To understand where future charging and fuelling infrastructure will be needed, we need to work with road haulage operators to understand how HGVs currently move through Scotland. This will tell us where infrastructure should sensibly be located en route.  The Heriot Watt research team will combine this data so that no individual company’s information can be deduced from the model outputs. We will use your company’s data as input to our models to find out the most critical re-charging/ refuelling points for the Scottish road network.

2) My fleet is completely diesel. Why do you need my data?

Most fleets in Scotland will take a while to shift to electric or hydrogen, and one of the key questions of most operators is whether there will be the refuelling/ charging infrastructure to meet their needs.  This project needs to learn about ALL HGV journeys in Scotland so that infrastructure can be planned to help everyone to move more quickly to zero emission freight.

3) How can you assure me that my data will be kept securely and commercially sensitive information will not be shared with my competitors?

Data will be shared with the research team on a secure server owned by Heriot-Watt University. The server has satisfied cyber essential criteria (the evaluation report can be provided upon request). The data will only be accessible to the named researchers working on the project and essential IT staff of Heriot-Watt. Any data identifiers that could be linked to an individual company will be replaced with generic identifiers (e.g. vehicle registration numbers would be replaced with ‘vehicle 101’). Companies can do this before sharing the data, or we will ‘clean’ it in that way before using it. The data from all participating companies will be combined in the model, after removing any company identification. It will not be possible to identify details of any contributor’s operations from the model outputs. Outputs will be checked to ensure that commercially sensitive information is not inadvertently disclosed.

4) How will my company benefit from sharing data with this project?

By sharing data, companies will initially contribute to a clearer national response to support decarbonisation. By contributing data to the project, you are increasing the chances that future energy infrastructure networks will be in the locations that will meet the needs of your operation.

As fleets consider their investments in decarbonisation, they need some assurances that the re-fuelling/ recharging infrastructure will be in place to support operations. Some larger operators are considering investing in warehouse/depot charging, and some will have to rely on shared facilities, whether publicly available or shared commercially. These strategic choices currently have high levels of uncertainty and risk. The modelling work that Heriot Watt is doing can be tailored to respond to specific queries from business partners to inform those choices, but this is not an output of this phase of the project for Transport Scotland. If your company is interested in more bespoke modelling for your needs, this could be considered separately from this project. By joining the project, you can learn, free of charge, what our models can tell you.

5) Is Heriot-Watt University making any commercial advantage from using my company’s data?

No. This work is being undertaken for Transport Scotland as a national initiative, and the outputs will be publicly available without charge.

6) What information will the project make publicly available?

The project outputs will include maps and spreadsheets showing the most nationally critical points for refuelling/recharging infrastructure and their relative importance, based on the combined demand of those fleets that contribute their data. Outputs will be checked to ensure that no commercially sensitive information is inadvertently released. No company specific data will be identifiable in any of the outputs.

7) What data is needed?

At it’s simplest we want to know the start and end points of the journeys your trucks take and when they travel these routes.  Our ideal format is vehicle tracking data, specifically a .csv file containing dates, times and locations (latitude and longitude) of, for example, ignition on/off events, along with vehicle identifiers (e.g. registration number).  A separate file listing depots/destinations is also useful.  Alternatively, we can also use routing and scheduling data.  The more complete the data set is, the more accurate our modelling will be, but we can make estimates based on more limited information.

Sharing information such as total payload transported between start and end point (for example per year) and the fleet profile are also helpful.

If your existing data systems provide just some of the information we need, it would still be helpful to us, so please contact us at

8) What time period do you need the data to cover?

Ideally, we would like one year’s worth of data, but it doesn’t have to start at any particular time of year. If you don’t have a full year of data, we can make some guesses from a shorter time period, but that will be less accurate. If you can share sample data from different seasons in a year we can work with that (for example, a one week sample from each of low season, normal season and high season) .

The most recent data is best, but if that is too sensitive for you to share, we can work with older data (maximum five years old). We’d like to avoid data sets over the period when normal schedules were disrupted due to the pandemic (e.g. between March 2020 and March 2021).

9) How soon is this data needed?

We can accept your data as soon as you’re willing to share it with us, as we are already building the model.  For the purposes of this project for Transport Scotland, data received after 28th February 2024 won’t be included in the first report of results.  Our wider modelling work will continue beyond that date, so please do get in touch with us if you are willing to share data.

10) What format do you need the data to be in?

We would ideally like the data in a tabular format. An Excel spreadsheet or .csv file would be ideal but we can work with other formats (EXCEPT pdf or images).

We can take data in any format and clean it ourselves if you don't have time to meet our specifications. Messy data is better than no data!

11) How should we transfer the data to you?

Data can be transferred using SharePoint or a proprietary Dropbox account. For security reason sharing data though email or google drive should be avoided. Please email us at and we’ll share with you a secure link for transferring your data.

12) We operate across the UK. Do you only want our Scottish data?

This work is for Transport Scotland, but obviously many of the trucks in Scotland come from other parts of the UK. Our refuelling/ charging infrastructure has to meet the needs of all fleets operating in Scotland. If you share with us your UK wide data, then we can have a better view of the fuelling/charging needs within Scotland. We are only really interested in those journeys that come into Scotland or through Scotland (e.g. from Northern Ireland and then into England) If you share a larger data set, we can clean it out to include only the information relevant to this study, or you can choose to share only the journeys that are in Scotland.

13) What kinds of vehicles do you want data for?

We are interested in all types of HGVs including specialist trucks. Light vans and cars are not part of this study.

14) I’m already sharing my data with other researchers. Why do you need this again?

We know that there is a lot of research being conducted in freight refuelling demand, and we are trying to liaise with all the research groups doing this across Scotland. The picture is fragmented, as some are working at local or regional levels, and we’re reaching out to as many as we find. We won’t share your data with others beyond this project, unless you give us explicit permission to do so, and the same applies to other researchers. We treat your data with confidentiality. If you have shared your data with another research project and wish them to share it with us, then please let us and them know, so that we can connect.

15) Who can I contact with questions?

Please email with any questions. A member of our research team will respond to you directly.