A question of greenness

LinkedIn +

Is there a ‘right’ technology for a particular transport operation and what are the options available.

The cause of green commercial vehicles got a boost earlier this year when the government decided to contribute £11m to a scheme encouraging operators to buy low carbon trucks.

But it still leaves open hard questions about what are the best choices in terms of environmental impact, cost and long term viability.

The £23m programme, which will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board in partnership with the Department for Transport and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles, focus mainly on gas and dual fuel trials.

Freight minister Mike Penning said: “These trials will reduce CO2 emissions from freight and provide important information from a range of real-life situations that will increase industry confidence in low carbon trucks in the long term.”

More than 300 low-carbon commercial vehicles will be involved in the demonstration programme. The demonstration trial fleets will be run for two years, during which time usage data will be gathered and analysed by the Department for Transport.

At the moment, when bio-fuel is mentioned, the tendency is to think of chip fat. But work is now well advanced on a second generation of bio-fuels which not only promise lower carbon but also don’t make your truck smell like a local take-away.

Volvo is now running trials of a second generation bio-fuel which it reckons could replace up to 50 per cent of the diesel currently being consumed by commercial vehicles in Europe within the next 20 years.

Bio-dimethyl ether (DME) is produced from bio-mass and can reduce carbon emissions by 95 per cent compared with diesel.  Volvo says its field tests have now reached the halfway point and the results so far have both met and exceeded expectations.

“We have, for example, demonstrated both that the technology works in practice, when it comes to both the production of fuel and trucks in traffic, and that the infrastructure with filling stations in different parts of Sweden works effectively. The test results bode well for the future,” says Lars Mårtensson, environmental director at Volvo Trucks.

The bio-DME used in the Volvo field tests is made from black liquor, a by-product from the production of pulp. Ingvar Landälv, technical director at Chemrec, says: “At the present time, we are only using one per cent of the black liquor produced at the mill. If we can use our technology to convert all the black liquor to bio-DME, it would be able to power around 2,500 trucks, so we envisage incredible potential. The black liquor capacity in Sweden alone corresponds to about 20 mills like this one.”

For most operators, it will be the arrival of Euro 6 that has the most significant impact on their emissions.

And the development of the new generation of Euro 6 diesel engines highlights the progress that has been made – not only in reducing NOx emissions but also reducing fuel consumption and consequently carbon.

Iveco’s Stralis Hi-Way has just been voted International Truck of the Year 2013. It won because of an innovative Euro-6 engine technology, based on an SCR-only after-treatment system. This makes use of a predictive algorithm to control the engine’s operation and a hi-turbulence pipe to enhance the mixing of the exhaust gases and the urea.

The Stralis Hi-Way’s “Hi-eSCr” engines, along with the further optimisation of its driveline components and improved cab aerodynamics, together provide a major contribution to negating the effect of the forthcoming Euro-6 emission legislation on the truck’s fuel consumption.

The High Efficiency SCR (HI-eSCR) catalytic reduction system, designed, patented and produced by FPT Industrial, makes the new Stralis the only heavy vehicle on the market to meet Euro 6 emission limits without the use of EGR. This enables it to meet the Euro 6 limits for nitrogen oxide emissions, without increasing fuel consumption.

Iveco says the new Stralis can achieve a reduction in total cost of ownership of up to four per cent on over an average distance of 130,000 km a year, for four years.
Last year’s winner, the Mercedes Benz’s Euro 6 Actros gives better fuel consumption that the previous Euro 5 version.

And Volvo has just unveiled its new FH range of trucks, which will be available with new features with potential to save up to ten per cent on fuel.

The Euro 6 version of the new FH series will be available with I- Torque, a double clutch transmission, as used in racing cars. This makes gear changes in just hundredths of a second, eradicating power loss and enabling four per cent savings on fuel.

I-Torque relies on a delivering high torque combined with a new automated powershift gearbox. I-Torque delivers no less than 2800 Nm of torque and works at low engine revs, resulting in quiet operation. “Lower revs means fewer fuel injection pulses and combustions – and less friction. I-Torque operates in the rev range where this D13 engine is at its most efficient, between 900 and 1200 revs per minute,” says Mats Franzén, head of engine strategy at Volvo Trucks.

The new D13 Euro 6 engine produces 460 hp and a new dual-clutch version of the automated I-Shift transmission. Other features include a turbo-compound system, new software, common rail technology and exhaust gas recirculation to make the engine more efficient and reduce its environmental impact.

The dual clutch system means there is no torque interruption, not even during gear changes. As a result, the engine can operate within its narrow optimised band, delivering faster acceleration and better driveability.

“What is more, both noise and fuel consumption drop,” says Astrid Drewsen, product manager for I-Torque. “It feels as though you have two gearboxes. When you’re driving in one gear in one gearbox, the next gear is already engaged in the other one. The actual gear change is lightning-quick and takes place without any interruption in power delivery.”

Volvo reckons I-Torque reduces fuel consumption by up to four per cent. When combined with I-See, Volvo’s technology for optimising progress in undulating terrain together with other smaller improvements, it cuts fuel consumption by up to ten per cent. For the average truck that means a saving of about 4,100 litres of fuel a year.

Volvo has also developed the FE Hybrid, a parallel hybrid designed for a total weight of up to 26 tonnes. The technique reduces fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 30 per cent.

Case study- Government cash for low carbon vehicle trials

A Howard Tenens’ led consortium has been awarded a total of £1.26 million from the Low Carbon Truck Demonstration Trial funded by the Department for Transport and the Technology Strategy Board.

Howard Tenens partnered with vehicle operators John Lewis Partnership and Lenham Storage in the bid and will be supported by CMS Supa Trak and Emissions Analytics for data and emissions verification.

The funding will enable gas refuelling infrastructure to be installed at Swindon and a total of 34 commercial heavy goods vehicles to be converted to dual fuel (gas/diesel). 12 of the vehicles will be operated by Howard Tenens and the remainder by partners John Lewis and Lenham Storage. A proportion of the award will be committed to monitor and verify the performance of the vehicles.

Tenens director Catherine Crouch says the funding will “enable us to build on the success of our current CNG and bio-gas programme and offer a truly sustainable transport solution to even more of our customers. We are committed to reducing the carbon footprint of our operations and this project will facilitate a substantial step forward in realising this ambition.”

Other award winners include:

– A project led by G-Volution that will trial ten 44 tonne dual-fuel commercial HGVs using a patented dual fuel technology “optimiser” and bio-methane.

– United Biscuits collaborative project, which proposes to exploit the value in used cooking oil by creating a renewable fuel for use in 44 tonne articulated vehicles.

– JB Wheaton and Sons will trial, with other fleet operators, the use of 28 vehicles that will be fuelled from compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas blended with renewable bio-methane to run dual fuel gas converted trucks.

– Robert Wiseman Diaries, collaborating with Chive Fuels, Cenex and MIRA, will trial the use of 40 dual fuel 40 tonners.

Case study- Plug in and go

For smaller vehicles, the use of batteries is a real option and there are now government “Plug-In Van” grants for approved electric vehicles.

Earlier this year Smith gained Department for Transport approval for its 3.5 tonne Edison panel van and chassis cab.

This means that any business purchasing the Smith Edison 3.5t electric vehicle can now benefit from £8,000 off the list price, meaning that fleet customers can achieve a faster return on investment.

The Edison has a range of up to 100 miles on a single charge of its lithium-ion batteries, which can be fully recharged in four hours.

Nevertheless, Smith Electric Vehicles has had to withdraw plans to pursue an initial public offering to raise new capital.

“We received significant interest from potential investors, however, we were unable to complete a transaction at a valuation or size that would be in the best interests of our company and its existing shareholders,” said Bryan Hansel, Smith’s chief executive officer. “We have instead elected to pursue private financing opportunities to support the execution of our business plan.”

Share this story: