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Changing to low-carbon HGVs cuts operating costs and CO2

  • 18 February 2014
  • By David Wilcox

Early results from the 13 low-carbon truck demonstration trials, supported by £11m of government funding, point to reductions in both operating costs and CO2 emissions.

In a progress report on the trials given last month (30 January) by Cenex, the government’s low-carbon centre of excellence, it was revealed that 175 of the 354 trucks involved in the 13 trials have been deployed so far.

The first of the two-year trials started in late 2012, with the remaining ones about to begin. Of the trucks involved in trials, 339 are dual fuel (diesel/gas), five are dedicated gas vehicles, and 10 run on used cooking oil.

Cenex technical and consultancy head Chris Walsh said data is coming from 85 trucks so far, which are covering more than one million km a month between them.

The dual-fuel trucks’ gas substitution rate – the proportion of diesel replaced by gas – is averaging just under 50%, but climbing, said Walsh. CO2 savings range from 4% to 9%.

Weaknesses identified in the trials include some technical teething issues, the lack of a public gas refuelling infrastructure (although the funding attached to the trials also made provision for 18 new gas refuelling stations and upgrades to eight others), and some reliability problems with refuelling stations.

Walsh expects these issues to diminish and for CO2 savings to increase during the course of the trials, the last of which finishes in early 2016. He added that the government’s announcement in the autumn statement last December that it will maintain the duty differential between diesel and gas road fuels – CNG, LNG and biomethane – for 10 years removed one of the threats hanging over dual-fuel and gas vehicles.

Availability of gas refuelling infrastructure is increasing rapidly, according to suppliers such as Gasrec, CNG Services and the Gas Alliance Group (all of which were represented at the Cenex review). Bio-LNG specialist Gasrec has 10 refuelling sites, with six more – all public access – coming on stream this year.

CNG Services said it has 15 biomethane projects scheduled to go ahead this year, followed by a further 20 or so in 2015.

Another threat to the gas truck market highlighted by Walsh is the lack of Euro-6 dual-fuel and gas vehicles. However, two dual-fuel conversion suppliers, Hardstaff and G-volution, said they would have Euro-6-compliant vehicles this year. A third supplier, Clean Air Power, also said it is ready for Euro-6.

“It is substantially different from Euro-5, and technically more demanding,” said Hardstaff chief operating officer Neil Whittaker.

Iveco UK product director Martin Flach said the first Euro-6 gas-powered Stralis trucks will be available in the second quarter of this year, with Eurocargo due at the end of the year.

He added that much of the additional cost of gas trucks is in their tanks, noting that LNG tanks in particular are “ridiculously expensive” .

Steve Whelan, technical director at Clean Air Power, said that could soon change, thanks to low-cost tanks made in China.

“There are some high-quality manufacturers in China,” he said. “We are going to see a step change in tank costs.” 

Image: Brit European MD Graham Lackey reports his company’s 36 Actros car transporters with Hardstaff dual-fuel CNG conversions are achieving a gas substitution rate of up to 55%.


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