A number of the nation’s largest transport firms have committed to kick-starting a switch from traditional diesel-powered HGVs to more eco-friendly alternatives fueled by either compressed or liquefied natural gas.
Transporter Engineer reports that this latest trial involves the likes of supermarket chain Asda and will see a total of 81 brand new trucks rolled out to be integrated alongside existing fleets.
This is not just about proving to operators that there are plenty of reasons to consider switching to LNG, CNG or biomethane, but also about accruing information which will be used to make improvements to these vehicles and determine their environmental impact in real-world scenarios.
It is hoped that the trucks which make use of natural gas in either its compressed or liquefied forms will be capable of cutting the carbon emissions generated by around eight per cent when compared with diesel alternatives. Biomethane trucks are intended to be even cleaner, with a 70 per cent CO2 reduction on the cards if they are driven efficiently.
Another aspect of the ‘Dedicated to Gas’ trial is that of testing out new cooling systems for truck trailers, as current options can be fairly environmentally problematic, while a new liquid-nitrogen-based approach is thought to be far less compromising.
A wide range of onboard sensors will feed into a telematics solution that will enable reams of data to be gathered as the army of eco-friendly trucks travels around the UK over the next few months.
Project spokesperson Daniel Lambert said that trials such as this were vital to ensuring that new technologies could be embraced by the HGV market, as manufacturers and customers alike want to see figures which definitely prove that performance claims are achievable on public roads.
He explained that there has been a real push to drive down emissions, with truck-makers like Scania and Mercedes-Benz developing various technologies to make the industry greener. However, he argued that testing prospective replacements and publishing the results was the only way to ensure that progress continues.
Some organisations have already jumped on the natural gas bandwagon, with Waitrose announcing its acquisition of CNG trucks back in February this year. Built by Scania and adapted by AGF, these machines can store enough gas on board to ensure a range of up to 500 miles before refuelling is a necessity.
The main obstacle at the moment is the cost of the trucks themselves, which tend to be more expensive than their diesel-powered counterparts. This should change with time as alternative fuel sources grow in popularity and more manufacturers offer compatible vehicles straight out of the factory.
Supporters of biofuels point out that this call for change is important from the point of practical sustainability, not just ecological and environmental concerns. The planet’s finite fossil fuel resources cannot match the renewable nature of alternatives which can be grown.
If this trial proves to be a success, then gas-powered HGVs will surely be able to increase their share of the market in the UK.