The company has concluded that LNG (liquefied natural gas) is particularly appropriate as an alternative fuel source, both as a result of its environmental impact and its potential practical implications, according to Transport Engineer.
This announcement of its commitment to LNG comes shortly after EU regulators confirmed that HGVs will need to declare the amount of carbon dioxide they emit from 2019 onwards, meaning that manufacturers will face increased scrutiny in the near future.
Solution to emission regulations:
Volvo Trucks spokesperson Lars Martensson said that this action alone will be enough to spur on a new round of LNG investment, since this is one of the more immediately viable solutions to the problem of tighter emissions regulations.
LNG is not a zero-emissions fuel but rather a fossil fuel which burns more cleanly than diesel, allowing reductions in carbon output of up to 20 per cent to be made after switching. Even greater improvements can be made if biogas from sustainable sources is used, which is something that more trucks may incorporate in the long term.
Aside from adherence to emissions regulations, LNG trucks have the added benefit of being able to fit more of the fuel itself on board, since the liquefied form is more compact and enables greater distances to be covered between refills.
Volvo is aware of the need to both improve the infrastructure for the provision of natural gas and to ensure that it can be used safely, as it presents problems in terms of storage and refuelling because of its volatility.
Embracing natural gas:
Furthermore, the manufacturer wants to embrace natural gas today in the expectation that it will play an even bigger role in the future of the truck market. Around the world the availability of LNG and biogas may be limited today, but this is set to change going forwards.
Even the cost of the gas itself is comparatively affordable, especially with rises in diesel prices putting many haulage firms under pressure at the moment.
Martensson said that plenty of Volvo Trucks’ customers had yet to be convinced that now was the right time to make the leap to an LNG-powered vehicle, because a comprehensively capable and compellingly priced model has not emerged. Clearly, his company is looking to position itself at the forefront of this movement.
Scania’s adapted vehicles:
Domestic rival Scania has been similarly vocal in its support of natural gas-powered trucks, with deployment of adapted vehicles in the UK already carried out in partnership with supermarket chain Waitrose. So there is proven commercial interest in this technology, even if the uptake has yet to gather momentum and truly threaten traditional diesel trucks.
The regulatory pressure which is being brought to bear on the most polluting vehicles is leading to many manufacturers offering scrappage schemes for cars and vans, so a similar trend may emerge in the HGV market.