THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN | Truck Review -What comes after Diesel?

 What comes after Diesel? – Words by Ed Higginson

At PowerTorque, our aim is to provide insight into technologies that will affect truck operators in the future. That helps you plan the present and, as an increasing list of trucks hit the road using some form of alternative fuel, understand the future of truck operation which is evolving faster than ever before.

At the IAA Truck Show in Europe last year, every truck manufacturer had an alternative fuel option, whether it was HVO biodiesel, ethanol, CNG, LNG, hybrid, plug-in hybrid, fuel cell, or full electric. It was also obvious these were no longer prototype trucks, but ready to enter service.

You may think diesel is the only option for Australia, and that may be true for some time to come. But if Europe, Asia and the US begin to only produce trucks that run on something other than diesel, we will have to adapt quickly and adopt new technologies.

We’ve already seen a comparable shift via the introduction of current European diesel emission reductions. A growing percentage of Euro 6-compliant trucks are already on our roads, even though Australia’s legislation is years away from demanding it, with a possible introduction date potentially stretched out to 2025.

With Australia being such a small-volume market, and with many corporate customers pushing for more environmentally efficient ways of moving goods, we can expect to see the latest European and American emission technology arriving here years before our governments demand it.

So, what comes after Euro 6?

On December 17, 2018, the European Union finally announced the next level of emission targets for heavy vehicles. Backed by all 28 member states, the EU confirmed that all new trucks built by 2025 must produce 15 percent less CO2 emissions than they do today, and 30 percent less by 2030. These are bold targets, and it’s clear they cannot be met by diesel.

The task of measuring this will be just as challenging as meeting the targets. From the start of 2019, every manufacturer must use a software tool called VECTO that uses several key values such as engine size, fuel, truck type, average weights and routes, then works out a CO2 value.

What are the benefits?

Trucks and buses account for 6 percent of Europe’s total CO2 emissions, so the targets aim to reduce CO2 by around 54 million tonnes from 2020 to 2030, whilst also reducing oil usage by up to 170 million tonnes from 2020 to 2040 − worth around €95 billion ($AUD150.4 billion) at today’s prices.

With 98 percent of trucks in Europe still relying on diesel, we expect the uptake of zero- and low-emission vehicles to pick up momentum quickly for both city and long-haul routes in the next few years.

Which alternative fuel should you choose?

Choosing which fuel type in which to invest may be an expensive gamble before our Government announces the strategy it will support. National infrastructure investment will be critical to make any alternative fuel realistic, whether it’s gas, electric or something else, plus some options will require tax incentives and vehicle weight exceptions to get started.

It’s also critical to see in which direction truck manufacturers are going. Iveco is pushing natural gas in Europe and this strategy appears to be working. With a 1500 km range for the Iveco 4×2 prime-mover when pulling a tri-axle trailer, it’s a viable truck for long-haul operations now that gas fuelling stations are being built on key routes. Other brands are jumping onboard, too, with Volvo and Scania both offering factory-built gas trucks.

Currently, the Natural Gas Vehicle body (NGV Global) estimates that there are more than 26 million vehicles running on natural gas worldwide, and 31,000 fueling stations. The same statistics predict Europe may have around 2000 trucks running on LNG; but China has more than 300,000, so there is still a long way to go.

Considering Australia’s natural gas reserves, it’s a shame we haven’t embraced gas trucks. A handful of companies have trialed gas conversions over the years but due to poor reliability, a paucity of fuelling infrastructure, limited factory support and no Government incentives, it was an uphill struggle from the start.

In its largest single order to date, Scania will deliver 100 LNG-fuelled R410 prime movers to KP Logistik, based in Stavenhagen, Germany. Based between KP Logistik’s centres in Stavenhagen and Wustermark, near Berlin, they will be used for deliveries of dry, refrigerated and frozen foods, primarily to retail stores Netto’s and Norma’s in eastern Germany, including Berlin.

David Brokholm, Managing Director of KP Logistik GmbH, says: “Carbon emissions from natural gas trucks are lower than from diesel and are further reduced by up to 90 percent if we use biogas.”

In addition to the environmental aspects, KP Logistik benefits from the road toll exemption and subsidies on gas-powered vehicles that have been offered in Germany since the beginning of the year. These help offset the higher cost of gas vehicles.

The new Scania trucks will be operated in the fleet for four to five years, and during that time each will travel around 800,000 km. With 340- and 400-litre capacity gas tanks, the trucks will have a range of up to 1100 km.

Scania Australia was certainly topical at the Brisbane Truck Show with its display of a CNG-fuelled P340 6×2 truck, underlining how Scania is driving the shift to a sustainable transport solution, ready for businesses keen to make the move to a lower carbon footprint.

Many view gas and hybrid as short-term solutions on the road to full electric vehicles. With most manufacturers committing billions of dollars into the development of electric trucks, it’s a good bet these will become the norm over the next couple of decades. Many manufacturers have started to announce large in-field tests, and even sales of electric truck models. In the rigid categories used for city runs, there are several brands with electric trucks delivering goods now.

Mercedes-Benz recently announced it has delivered its first 10 all-electric eActros trucks to logistics provider Hermes in Europe. The eActros has a range of 200 km using a 240 kWh battery, so will be ideal for city multi-drop work. With another 20 customers about to receive their orders of the 25-tonne rigid truck, it will provide valuable data over the next two years before the truck goes on general sale.

Volvo has also delivered an FL electric refuse truck to Renova in Hamburg, Germany, and an FL electric distribution truck has been handed over to DB Schenker in Sweden. More Volvo electric trucks are scheduled to be delivered to European customers in the second half of 2019, with a global production goal of 25,000 battery-powered models by 2025.

But Volvo isn’t only focused on Europe, with Volvo Trucks in America announcing it will introduce an all-electric Volvo VNR regional-haul demonstrator in California this year, with sales to begin in 2020.

In Australia, Melbourne’s SEA Electric has spent the past eight years developing electric trucks based on rolling cab chassis from various manufacturers. PowerTorque recently reported on the 12-pallet refrigerated truck that was delivered to Woolworths in 2018 for operations around Melbourne, competing against its diesel stablemates.

SEA Electric has also partnered with Isuzu Australia to launch EV versions of the N-series and F-series rigid trucks in 2018, adding major manufacturer support infrastructure. The Isuzu NRR features the SEA-Drive 120b power system with an operating range of up to 350 km. A Ford Transit van programme will enter trials mid-year, featuring the SEA-Drive 70 power system which provides continuous power of 75 kW, maximum power of 134 kW and 700 Nm of maximum torque for an operating range of up to 300 km.

Batteries for all three vehicles can be fully charged overnight in four to six hours using a 22 kW onboard charger, which allows them to be plugged in and charged from any three-phase power source. The manufacturer claims a payback period of less than four years (without incentives), with a battery life cycle of up to 10 years.

Heading into the prime mover categories, DAF has been leading the way with its CF electric truck, as also reported previously in PowerTorque. The first battery-powered electric trucks (DAF CF Electric) as well as plug-in-hybrid trucks (DAF CF Hybrid) are already in service with Dutch supermarket giants Albert Heijn and Jumbo, as well as logistics company Tinie Manders Transport.

The CF Electric has a fully-electric range of some 100 km whilst the CF Hybrid featuring E-Power Technology from VDL offers fully electric driving in urban areas with a range of 50 km, then it can use the latest diesel technology for highway running.

Cummins is investing in various power solutions, including hybrid and fully electric systems, opening the company’s first Silicon Valley hub for electrified power system development. Its latest PowerDrive system has completed a test programme exceeding 10 million kilometres in a fleet setting in the United States and China, and work is under way to introduce it to the European market in the near future.

PowerDrive replaces the conventional transmission and switches in real time between two hybrid and two pure electric modes, optimising the powertrain for the best fuel economy in any driving situation. The vehicle on display at the IAA last year (see PowerTorque issue 87) was configured with exportable grid-quality electric power to recharge vehicles, and a recovery crane operating on either electric or engine-driven power take-off.

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