Friday, September 13, 2013

Future is Electric Vehicles says Government - What About HGV’s? say Freight and Road Haulage Groups

How Can We Get The Best from Technology Now and in the Future?
Shipping News Feature

UK – The relentless drive to bring down the ecological costs of road use (not to mention the financial ones) are these days uppermost in the minds of Transport Managers and others associated with the road haulage industry. The need to be Green is necessary to save money when hauling freight and to present an acceptable face to a customer base ever keener to reinforce its own supply chain’s environmental credentials.

Firstly, on Wednesday (18th September) the Energy Trust will conduct a webinar aimed at making vehicle fleets more efficient – in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee! From 1:30 to 2pm the Trust will endeavour to impart ways that drivers and operators can cut fleet costs and emissions. You can reserve your (virtual) seat by registering HERE.

On a broader note, the recent Low Carbon Vehicle Event 2013 at the Millbrook Proving Ground saw almost 2,000 people study the work of over 150 exhibitors. Obviously most eyes were drawn to the more obvious exhibits (a Morgan electric sports car has an almost irresistible appeal) but many in the transport industry are more concerned with the possible application of technology to the haulage sector. Transport Minister Norman Baker, launching the Government’s strategy to drive forward the ultra-low emission vehicles, spoke at the event, saying:

"These are exciting times for the motoring industry as ultra-low emission vehicles are the future for road travel. Our vision is that by 2050 almost every car and van will be an ultra-low emission vehicle, with the UK at the forefront of their design, development and manufacture. This strategy moves us up a gear in pursuing that vision."

The government initiative, Driving the Future Today – A Strategy for Ultra Low Emission Vehicles in the UK, was welcomed by logistics groups such as the Freight Transport Association, but with some reservations. In the document (viewable HERE) the government makes plain that it considers electrification to be the key to attaining its avowed aim of an emission free fleet in the UK (of cars and vans) by 2050. The authorities are hedging their bets however by working with the UKH2 Mobility project to develop a business case for the roll-out of hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles (and the associated hydrogen refuelling infrastructure) in the UK from 2015.

Department for Transport (DfT) statistics calculate that Britain’s commercial vehicles account for 20% of the greenhouse gas emissions on the country’s roads (that’s about 4% of the UK’s overall emissions) and more needs to be done to target reducing pollution from the sector. A recent test in Gothenburg using a cross section of 400 haulage vehicles achieved a 30% reduction in emissions during the three year trial. The biggest drop by far was when operators exchanged diesel trucks for those using alternative fuels such as biodiesel, biogas or dimethyl ether, using hybrid technology or selecting vehicles able to run on methane/diesel fuel.

Exchanging vehicles for one which produces ultra-low emissions is a fairly simple procedure when a car or light van is involved but the picture is radically different when heavy good vehicles are concerned. Although much work has been undertaken using battery power the weight, cost and longevity of running and recharging times are still proving problematical for manufacturers and the capital costs of the vehicles means that few operators are willing to be the guinea pigs for new technology.

Whilst welcoming the government’s initiative, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) expressed some reservations. Whilst the Dft has recently pledged an additional £500 million to fund the provision of ultra-low emission vehicles and supporting infrastructure up to 2020, and in the past, vans have also been a recipient of funding through plug-in van grants, something warmly welcomed by the FTA and others considering the huge number of end user goods for whom they deliver, to date just £6.5 million* has been allocated to HGV’s to help fleet operators utilise alternative fuels and low carbon technologies. Rachael Dillon, FTA Climate Change Policy Manager, commented:

“There is no denying that the UK should be pushing ahead with making our cars more carbon efficient, but HGV’s provide a vital role in delivering the goods for our economy and also need to decarbonise. In order for the UK to see a significant uptake of alternatively fuelled or low carbon HGV’s, we need more financial support and incentives. Historically though, funding has been mainly allocated to private car users.”

*The Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) has committed £6.5 million towards an £11.3 million government trial of low carbon HGV’s and their supporting infrastructure. Over 300 low-carbon commercial vehicles will be involved in the demonstration programme, mostly using some form of gas power in dual fuel vehicles.

Photo: The Le Mans specification Lola Drayson B12/69EV, which recently broke the 40 year old land speed record for an electric vehicle by 29 mph, recording 204.158 mph.