Biomethane gas fuelled HGVs could reduce carbon emissions by up to 85%

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A new report by the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership has found that biomethane gas fuelled HGVs could reduce carbon emissions by up to 85% on a well to wheel basis.

The Low Emissions Freight Trial (LEFT), is a £20 million government-funded programme aimed at cutting emissions and improving air quality via emissions-busting technologies for trucks and vans. An additional £12m was contributed by private sector trial participants.

The LEFT report, published yesterday, offers conclusions on a range of tried and tested solutions categorised as ‘Revolution’, ‘Transition’ and ‘Evolution’ technologies, depending on their potential contribution to achieving net zero carbon emissions.

For the revolution technology trials, the vehicles tested were a 2t electric van modified with a roof extension to increase cargo capacity, a 3.5t van and a re-powered (Euro V) diesel 7.5t HGV.

When it comes transition technologies, Internal Combustion Engine Range-Extended EVs, ICE Range-Extended Electric Vehicles, Spark Ignition Dedicated Gas Vehicles, Compression Ignition Gas-Diesel Dual Fuel Vehicles, Compression Ignition Gas-Diesel DF Vehicles, and CI Hydrogen-Diesel Dual Fuel Vehicles, were all trialed.

The evolution technology trials involved lightweight and aerodynamic trailers, as well as a Kinetic Energy Recovery System trailer.

The authors of the report say every technology was put through comparative laboratory or track-based tests over the full operating range to give a direct comparison to the current Euro VI diesel truck performance.

Commenting on the report’s findings, Isaac Occhipinti, Head of External Affairs for the Gas Vehicle Network, said that it was clear that „biomethane trucks will help the UK meet its decarbonisation goals.”

The LEFT report provides definitive evidence that biomethane trucks will help the UK meet its decarbonisation goals. The Department for Transport, DfT, must now recognise this in their upcoming ‘Transport Decarbonisation Plan’. This would provide logistics managers and haulage companies with a clear message that they need to begin decarbonising their fleets now. Biomethane fuelled HGVs are the logical choice. They are cheaper to run, and as the new report says, they emit significantly lower levels of carbon as well. There is no other sector of the UK economy where large CO₂ emissions cuts can be so quickly and cost-effectively implemented as in the HGV, and in particular the long-distance truck sector.

The key findings of the report regarding the aforementioned ‘Revolution’, ‘Transition’ and ‘Evolution’ technologies are as follows:

Revolution technologies

  • Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) provide major savings in energy consumption, running costs, tailpipe and well to wheel greenhouse gas emissions, even using current pump/grid average factors (typically 50-80%) and have substantial air quality benefits (zero exhaust emissions)
  • The BE VAN and BE HGV projects both reported significant wider operational benefits and the operators involved are now fully committed to accelerating their adoption of the technology
  • Despite quite high vehicle purchase and infrastructure costs of BEVs, overall operating costs were no higher than diesel equivalents

Transition technologies

  • Dedicated gas vehicles are best suited to long haul operations, where efficiency losses are minimised, and should be run on bio-methane for significant GHG savings to be achieved. Pollutant emissions are similar overall to comparable Euro VI Diesels
  • With bio-methane, trials of SI CNG and LNG HGVs indicate there would be substantial well to wheel savings on all cycles, in the range of 67-85%
  • Drivers taking part in the trials perceived gas trucks to be noticeably quieter and the refuelling process cleaner than with diesel
  • Additional capital and maintenance costs in gas vehicles compared to diesel can recouped in 2 years at 160,000 km/year
  • Methane slip not an issue for gas trucks (confirmed by emissions testing, <2% tailpipe GHG impacts) or fuelling stations
  • Bio-methane usage across the UK gas fuelling station network has increased, reaching 80% in 2019, and substantial investment is being made in developing a nationwide network of large public access bio-methane refuelling stations
  • Gas vehicle reliability is similar is to diesel counterparts
  • Drivers and operators are comfortable with using hydrogen in vehicles (safety issues did not feature as a barrier to using the technology) in particular integrating these into their usual fleet maintenance practices

Evolution technologies

  • Aerodynamic trailer improvements reduced fuel and emissions by up to 5% and a 2 tonne weight reduction achieved 3-6%
  • KERS technology has the potential to reduce fuel use and emissions by up to 15% in the right urban/city operations and if equipped vehicles are driven optimally

Photo credit:  JThomas / Geograph UK