Biomethane the answer to keeping trucks on the road for longer trips
While SA continues to be rather slow when it comes to the uptake of alternative fuels, the rest of the world is making significant changes when it comes to transport fleets.
The latest news to cross our desk comes from the UK where supermarket chain Waitrose has partnered with renewable biomethane supplier CNG Fuels to introduce Europe’s most advanced fleet of compressed natural gas (CNG) powered trucks with a range of up to 805km.
They will use technology developed jointly with Scania and Agility Fuel Solutions, a CNG fuel systems and cylinders company in the US. It will help overcome concerns about the distance that CNG-powered lorries are able to cover before refuelling. It also makes it easier for fleet operators to switch to renewable biomethane CNG.
Justin Laney, GM central transport for the John Lewis Partnership (which incorporates Waitrose), said: “With Europe’s most advanced CNG trucks, we will be able to make deliveries to our stores without having to refuel away from base. Using biomethane will deliver significant environmental and operational benefits to our business. It’s much cleaner and quieter than diesel and we can run five gas trucks for the same emissions as one diesel lorry.”
Ten new Scania-manufactured CNG trucks entered operation for Waitrose in January and will be used to make deliveries to the company’s stores in the Midlands and the North. They are the first in Europe to use twin 26-inch diameter carbon fibre fuel tanks which store gas at 250 bar of pressure to increase range to as much as 805km. It will allow them to always run entirely on biomethane, which is 35% to 40% cheaper than diesel and emits 70% less CO2.
The tanks, which are already in use in the US, were adapted and certified for the European market, thereby offering significant advantages over the standard European set-up of eight steel gas tanks. The vehicles are half-a-tonne lighter, hold more gas and can cover a greater distance depending on the load being carried. They are also said to be quicker to refuel and easier to maintain.
Philip Fjeld, CEO of CNG Fuels, said: “High pressure carbon fibre fuel tanks demolish the ‘range anxiety’ concerns that have made many hauliers reluctant to move away from diesel to CNG. Renewable biomethane is far cheaper and cleaner than diesel, and, with a range of up to 805km, it is a game-changer for road transport operators.”
Each of the new CNG trucks costs 50% more than one which runs on diesel, but Waitress is convinced it will repay the extra costs in two to three years depending on mileage. The vehicles are likely to operate for at least five more years after that. It is anticipated that each truck will save more than 100 tonnes of CO2 a year over diesel.
Todd Sloan, vice-president research and new product development, Agility Fuel Solutions, said: “We are seeing a shift to natural gas because it allows companies to control fuel costs, meet sustainability goals and take care of drivers. CNG costs less than diesel and has lower tailpipe emissions.
“In addition, our fuel tanks increase route efficiency and driver confidence. It’s a win-win for everyone.”
Says David Burke, specialist sales executive at Gas for Scania (Great Britain): “Together with Waitrose and CNG Fuels we are developing a new UK market sector for dedicated gas vehicles which we believe will supersede the heavier dual-fuel models seen up until now.
“In addition to being cleaner and quieter than dual-fuel vehicles, our dedicated gas trucks offer the considerable operational advantages which come with having Scania as the single source of supply.”
Ten Scania CNG trucks entered service with UK supermarket chain Waitrose in January.
The trucks are refuelled at special biomethane pumps.