The future begins now
It’s not a question of whether regulations for greenhouse gas emissions will come, but, rather, when. Two degrees of global warming are enough and the implementation has to start quickly. What impact does this have on the transport sector? Some answers already exist, writes FLORIAN ENGEL from 1Truck, Austria’s leading commercial vehicle magazine
The diesel engine is clean and efficient like never before. It has a 99-percent share in the transport sector and is the perfect solution for the complex and demanding tasks of a truck. A new fuel is on the cards, however, in the form of liquefied natural gas (LNG); earth or biogas liquefied at -162° C.
Does this mean we are on the verge of a drive revolution, or is it, once again, one of the many alternatives that have been announced, but have never really gone beyond the concept stage?
It was decided at the United Nations (UN) Climate Conference in Paris, also known as COP21, in December 2015, that greenhouse gas emissions have to be practically reduced to zero by 2045.
This means that the entire energy supply must be converted to renewable energies by 2040 at the latest. This also includes transport. According to UN experts, the implementation has to start by 2020, or, realistically, there will be no chance of meeting the two-degree limit by 2045.
Many companies have clearly defined their goal – to operate CO2 neutral. Of course, transport plays an important role here.
In city buses the ratio of diesel to gas engines is already balanced. When doing short daily trips it is easy to cope with compressed natural gas (CNG) tanks, without having to think too much about the range.
The CNG engines are quieter than diesel engines and emit less CO2. The balance is dramatically improved when biogas is used. Distribution trucks running on natural gas have been operating for years.
Long-distance transport also needs to play a part, however. Although electrically powered trucks could provide an acceptable range and payload, this system is still unaffordable. Solutions with fuel cells are available in the development drawer – however, there is a massive lack of infrastructure.
LNG is currently the simplest solution to implement. When natural gas is liquefied at -162° C it is 600-times smaller than CNG. This means that, at maximum tank capacity, it is already possible to achieve a range of up to 1 500 km.
The Dutch Iveco importer Schouten recognised the potential of LNG years ago. It has developed and built its own LNG filling stations through its subsidiary Rolande, which is at present the largest LNG fuel station operator in the Netherlands, with six stations. Shell and Total have also jumped on the bandwagon and are moving aggressively into LNG. The large mineral-oil companies do not like it, however.
The big question, therefore, is whether the latest generation of trucks is ready for the revolution. Together with the new XP, Iveco has also presented the new Stralis NP. NP stands for natural power and aims at the possibility of virtually CO2-neutral driving through the use of biogas.
Is the LNG system workable? Will the performance of LNG trucks be sufficient? What will the drivers say?
Let us approach the subject very simply. The first impression usually counts. Here the Iveco Stralis NP definitely scores points. There is no doubt that the large Hi-Way has been developed for the long haul. The spacious driver’s cab also satisfies demanding drivers.
The 8,7-litre Cursor 9 engine, specially designed for the use of gas, delivers 298 kW (400 hp) and
1 700 Nm of torque, which means that it’s equivalent to a diesel version. The combination with the automated Hi-Tronix 12-speed transmission, which is known from the normal Stralis, offers maximum comfort.
Up to now, combining gas engines with automated gearboxes has been problematic. Even though it is not the latest-generation TraXon transmission, the ZF transmission can certainly offer shift comfort and perfection.
The gas engine is considerably quieter than the current whisper-quiet Euro-6 diesels. The operation of the LNG Stralis is not a challenge: release the parking brake, select drive and start.
Of course, a nine-litre engine with 400 hp (298 kW) and 1 700 Nm of torque cannot be expected to deliver overwhelming power. It tracts properly, despite three-quarter loading, but gear switching is more leisurely than the new XP. Having said this, this does not constitute an obstacle in real operation.
Instead of a diesel noise from the exhaust, the LNG Stralis produces rich sound under load – a real pleasure.
Iveco promises fuel savings of up to 15 percent and up to 35-percent reduction in fuel costs, depending on the tax burden. Overall, the total cost of ownership (TCO) will be seven-percent lower when compared to a diesel vehicle.
First large orders
The French transport company Jacky Perrenot, has already deployed 50 LNG Stralis trucks since 2010. Recently, another 200 of the latest generation have been added. According to the company, the use of the LNG fleet has resulted in a 5,6-percent reduction in total cost of operation and the maintenance and service costs have been reduced by up to ten percent.
The potential of LNG can no longer to be dismissed, particularly with regard to the COP21 agreement and the CO2 tax in question.
Rolande, an LNG pioneer, is expected to have a fleet of 10 000 LNG trucks in Europe by 2020, for example, supplied by approximately 100 filling stations on their routes.
As regular readers of FOCUS know, this magazine has been appointed an associate member of the International Truck of the Year (IToY)! FOCUS is the sole South African magazine to have joined this prestigious body. One of the advantages of this association is access to exclusive articles, specially written for FOCUS by ITOY jury members. This is one such article.