Hard sums

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[asset_ref id=”1329″]Making trucks meet the Euro 6 emission standard is going to be expensive, so perhaps it is time to start investigating the alternatives. But, says Malory Davies, it’s vital to understand the operational pros and cons – and to get the arithmetic right.

Just when you thought you had got to grips with Euro 5, all the planning is moving to Euro 6 – an emission standard so tough that is needs not only SCR but also EGR technologies, plus some. And it is going to be expensive. The general view among the manufacturers is that it is going to add about 10,000 euros to the price of a commercial vehicle.

And as a result, green technologies, that until now have been regarded as far too expensive, start to look more attractive – for some operations at least.

But the moment you start looking at the alternatives to diesel, it becomes clear that there are no simple substitutes. Each technology has characteristics that suit it to particular operations. There are some complex calculations involved. But get it right and there are some big wins to be had.

Of course, there has been a lot of work on diesel emissions over the past few years with the various Euro standards. In addition, emissions from commercial vehicles have been helped by a fall in the number of commercial vehicles on UK roads over the past decade. From the start of 2012, all new truck models sold in the EU must meet Euro 6 emission standards. A year later, the same will apply to existing models.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders show a fall from 574,000 vehicles over 3.5-tonnes in 2000 to 563,000 in 2010. Over the same period the number of cars on the road has risen from 28m to 31m.

The Freight Transport Association has also introduced a Logistics Carbon Reduction Scheme in which participants are collectively committed to reducing CO2 emissions by eight per cent between 2010 and 2015.

There is a lot of talk about fuel cell technology, but it will not be a practical option until it becomes more affordable – at the moment it is still in the region of £1m per vehicle. And, there has been a lot of interest in hydrogen but hydrogen is only as clean as the process used to create it and at the moment that tends to involve burning coal. Safety is also a consideration.

Iveco product director Martin Flach highlights two main technological approaches: alternative traction such as electric and hybrid trucks; and alternative fuels such as gas and bio-fuels.

And Flach warns that companies cannot simply substitute green technology for conventional vehicles – the additional costs and different operational requirements dictate where and how these technologies can be used. For example, he says, a typical van operation might use £5,000 worth of fuel a year while a rigid truck, such as a Eurocargo, might use £10,000 worth. A hybrid vehicle will cost an additional £50,000 and will cut the fuel bill by about 20 per cent – so it will take many years to provide a payback.

“Even if you can bring the additional cost of a hybrid down to £25,000, it is going to take eight years to get a payback,” he says.

An electric van, depending on the size, will use two to four batteries, each costing £10,000, resulting in another long payback time – particularly when you consider that batteries need to be replaced after five or six years.

Nevertheless, says Flach, there are good reasons for considering using these technologies. The obvious applications are night-time deliveries which might only be possible using an electric or hybrid.

“If you can use the vehicle for night-time deliveries, there is an opportunity for double-shifting, which could enable better utilisation than a conventional vehicle,” he says.

Both Iveco and Mercedes-Benz offer all-electric vans. The Iveco Ecodaily Electric comes in 3.5 and 5.2 tonne models and is designed for short-distance journeys and door-to-door deliveries in an urban environment. It qualifies for a 100 per cent discount from London’s Congestion Charge. It uses a three-phase motor controlled with regenerative braking (in a similar way to the Formula 1 KERS system). Real-life trials have shown the vehicles to have an effective range of between 55 and 80 miles, depending on the number of batteries specified and the vehicle’s application. The Ecodaily Electric can be driven like a conventional vehicle fitted with an automatic transmission, using a gear lever to select forward, neutral or reverse. Each vehicle has a maximum road speed electronically limited to 45 mph, although this can be set to a lower level to further improve the range.

The Mercedes-Benz Vito E-Cell has a maximum payload of around 900kg and has a range of around 130 kilometres with a maximum speed capped at 80 km/hr. By the end of 2010, a total of 100 had been delivered in Berlin and Stuttgart, and plans are in place for the delivery of a further 2,000 units across Europe.

Earlier this year MAN set up a centre of competence for commercial vehicle hybrid drives. “We are convinced that hybrid technology will play a fundamental role in the future of all commercial-vehicle segments, from the city bus to the long-haul truck, in the continued increase of efficiency and conservation of resources, thus smoothing the path to E-mobility,” said Bernd Maierhofer, MAN’s director of research and development and purchasing. “The new centre of competence will concentrate on hybrid technology from research right up to series production in the various product segments.”

Last year MAN unveiled a hybrid bus. It points out that the introduction of hybrid drives for commercial vehicles is a major challenge for manufacturers, given the users’ vastly different requirement profiles.

While regular-service buses in cities operate in a continual cycle of acceleration and deceleration, long-haul trucks run at largely constant speeds over long distances on motorways.

Distribution trucks with varying loads operate both in and between cities, whereas trucks in the construction industry require high levels of power and traction, under some circumstances also having to drive power take-offs. Roland Ehniss, MAN’s head of innovation management, says: “Enabling hybrid development to take these differing demands into consideration requires close co-operation among the hybrid-drive experts across all product segments.”

Iveco’s hybrid Eurocargo 12 tonner made its UK debut at the Low Carbon Vehicle show in September. It is powered by a 16-valve, four-cylinder Tector EEV diesel engine with maximum rated power of 180 hp, working in combination with a 60 hp electric motor-generator. There is a 250 kilo payload deficit.

While there is clearly a market for electric and hybrids, Flach sees more opportunities for alternative fuel vehicles. He points to companies such as Coca-Cola, which are investing in bio-methane vehicles.

Iveco offers compressed natural gas and bio-methane vehicles. Gas is particularly good on NOx and particulates, says Flach – and the business case is not bad either.

Infrastructure is an issue – it can cost between £250,000 and £500,000 to set up a CNG delivery system at a depot – but the gas is little more than half the price of diesel. This makes it worthwhile for delivery operations where trucks are out and back in the day, but less suitable for trunking as there are not many places to fill up.

An alternative is liquefied natural gas which has a greater storage density and giving a range of up to 1,000 km for a four by two tractor. However, this also suffers from a lack of infrastructure – there are currently only eight or nine filling stations on the motorway network.

Iveco has focused its development on gas-only vehicles which are good for urban deliveries. Other manufacturers have been working on dual fuel vehicles which burn diesel and gas simultaneously.

Howard Tenens is running vehicles on a mixture of compressed natural gas and diesel. This provides improvements in terms of air quality reducing NOx by 60 per cent, carbon monoxide by 98 per cent, exhaust noise is reduced by three decibels and particulates meet Euro 4 and 5 standards. It uses the OIGI system under which the engine will use 100 per cent diesel at idle; gas injection and diesel reduction commences when engine speed increases from idle.

Tenens recently installed two additional natural gas refuelling stations in the UK, bringing the total to three so far with others planned across its transport network. Group environmental director Catherine Crouch said: “There is limited gas refuelling infrastructure in the UK and we have had to install our own gas stations to ensure the success of our low carbon transport strategy.

However, Martin Flach argues that while dual-fuel works well for trunking, it is less attractive for urban deliveries. The engine does not get hot enough to burn the gas efficiently, he says, and as a result substitution of gas for diesel can fall as low as 25 per cent – and at that point the economics start to look unattractive.

Much of the development work so far has targeted urban deliveries, but, looking ahead, Flach sees potential for hybrid heavies. He points out that if a truck is burning £80,000 worth of diesel a year, then the saving could be worthwhile. And every time the price of diesel goes up, the case for green technologies improves.


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This 26-tonner is one of 100 hybrid trucks that Volvo plans to deliver in Europe over the next two years. The truck has gone into service with SPAR Austria and the company’s chief executive Gerhard Drexel said: “I think it’s sensational that the fully-hybrid truck, unlike e-bikes and e-cars, does not need to be charged at the mains, but that the battery recharges itself through the vehicle’s own braking force. That’s why the truck will mainly be used on the streets of Vienna, where constant starting and stopping is unavoidable.”

The hybrid truck reduces the fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 20 per cent. Depending on usage, it can travel shorter distances silently and with zero emissions at speeds of up to 30mph on its electric motor alone.



[asset_ref id=”1331″]30th September was a big day at the Mercedes-Benz plant at Worth near Karlsruhe with Daimler group chief executive Dr Dieter Zetsche in attendance to mark the start of production of the new Actros – which he described as “our most important truck of the decade”.

The group has spent two billion euros developing the new truck which complies with the Euro 6 emissions standard, even though this does not become mandatory until 2014. Compliance with Euro 6 requires combining SCR technology with AdBlue injection, exhaust gas recirculation and particulate filter – the exhaust muffler becomes a mini-chemical processing plant devoted to pollution control. The new Actros is optionally available in a variant corresponding to the current Euro 5 emissions standard.

The new Actros was redeveloped from scratch, and already meets the strict Euro 6 emissions limits. Compared to the previous Actros, the new model consumes six to seven per cent less fuel in the Euro 5 variant, and three to four per cent less fuel in the Euro 6 variant.

“With Daimler Trucks we want to grow much faster than the market as a whole and sell more than 500,000 trucks in 2013,” said Zetsche. “The new Mercedes-Benz Actros sets the benchmark among its competitors; it is our most important truck of the decade.”

More than two billion euros was spent on developing the new truck and preparing the Wörth plant and its equipment for the production launch. The company built an automated warehouse for small parts, which forms the basis for a new logistics concept. It has also established the development and research centre, a test track for new generations of trucks, which brings the development and production areas even closer together. The employees received extensive training that familiarised them with the new Actros’ system environment.

The new Actros has a 12.9 litre six-cylinder in-line engine producing up to 510hp. It has two composite overhead camshafts with gear train and four valves per cylinder and a fuel injection technology based on a common rail system with pressure boost.

It has an automatic PowerShift transmission system with 12 gears with a choice of three driving programmes – Standard, Economy and Power – according to the demands of the given transport operation. The high-torque engines allow high gearing: with the standard axle, the new Actros cruises along at only 1260 rpm at a motorway speed of 85 km/h – a prerequisite for low fuel consumption.

Earlier this year Scania unveiled 440 and 480hp 13-litre Euro 6 engines mainly intended for long-haulage.

Jonas Hofstedt, senior vice president for powertrain development, said: “We have combined all the new technologies that Scania has developed in recent years: exhaust gas recirculation, variable turbo geometry, common-rail high-pressure fuel injection, selective catalytic reduction and particulate filtering.

“Operators will find that fuel economy, driveability and engine response are fully on a par with our Euro 5 engines,” he said.


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This Experimental 16-tonne all-electric Renault Midlum has gone into services with STEF-TFE and will be tested over a one-year period delivering fresh products to eight Carrefour stores in Lyon. Because it is silent, it can deliver between 5am and 7am. The 5.5-tonne capacity refrigerated truck will then travel to the Saint-Pierre-de-Chandieu logistics platform so that it can make a delivery to the Carrefour Planet store at Venissieux in the early afternoon.

Altogether, it will cover a distance of 75km. Stefano Chmielewski, president of Renault Trucks, last month presented the keys of the truck to Francis Lemor, president of STEF-TFE at a ceremony attended by his customer, Didier Thibaud, supply chain director of Carrefour France.




[asset_ref id=”1333″]The main difference between Euro 5 and Euro 6 are the significant reductions in the levels of hydrocarbons and NOx. Particulate matter is also reduced. Euro 5 came into force in 2008 while Euro 6 is due in 2013 for new models and a year later for existing models. Euro 6 is the first step towards the implementation of world harmonised emission standards, encompassing Europe, North America and Japan. Euro 6 levels are close to those applying in North America (EPA10) and Japan (Post NLT) starting in 2010.

Transport accounts for about 25 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the European Union – and road transport is responsible for two thirds of that including one fifth of the EU’s total emissions of carbon dioxide.

However, there are currently no standards for limits on CO2 emissions from vehicles. What the the EU has done is set a target of cutting greenhouse gas emissions from the transport sector by 20 per cent between 2008 and 2030 – and by even more in the longer term.

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