LoCity highlighted the challenges and opportunities low-emission vehicles present

Freightinthecity headed to London’s Guildhall last month to attend TfL’s first annual LoCity event, which highlighted the programme’s first steps in stimulating the uptake of low-emission commercial vehicles in the capital…


TfL commissioner Mike Brown reassured delegates at LoCity of his commitment to giving freight a voice in the ambitious air quality plans new London mayor Sadiq Khan announced last month.

A consultation to be launched this summer will look to expand the area and speed-up the launch date of the capital’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), as well as proposing a London-wide Euro-6 requirement on all HGVs by 2020.

“We really do need your input, as this is what will make this a set of credible and deliverable initiatives going forward,” urged Brown.

But while London may be introducing the world’s first ULEZ, Brown was keen to point out that the capital must move away from the “arrogant” view it has all the answers, and must also learn from the experiences of other cities.

“I want to ensure that whatever we do in London is aligned to initiatives taken place in other UK cities. It’s important to recognize that these cities often have their own individual challenges and might need to introduce tailored solutions.

“But this should be done within a framework that minimises regulatory burden and the cost of compliance,” he added.

Speaking of the success the Clocs initiative has had in stimulating demand and availability of safer, urban trucks, Brown said he hoped LoCity would work in the same way for the low-emission market and is pleased with “remarkable traction” the five-year programme has gained since its launch in January.

Beyond ULEZ?

Venn Chesterton, LoCity facilitator and Transport & Travel Research divisional manager – energy and environment – told the audience how the programme had high goals to go above and beyond the realms of the ULEZ.

“What I think LoCITY is all about is looking above and beyond the ULEZ – what else can be done and how can we get to zero emissions? What is aspirationally achievable rather than the bare minimum you need to operate in central London,” he explained.

To ensure LoCity moved in the same direction as industry’s needs, TfL commissioned two pieces of research that it highlighted to delegates during the event: one piece looked at the technical barriers to uptake of alternatively fuelled vehicles; the other on the motivation, barriers and opportunities to influence operator uptake of ultra-low-emission vehicles (ULEV).

In terms of technical barriers, of greatest concern to fleet operators was the absence of an alternative fuel option in some vehicle classes (particularly at the heavier end), or those that were available, lacking sufficient range or payload.

Inadequate public refuelling infrastructure in London was also problematic, as was uncertainty around vehicle performance and whole-life costs for urban operations in the capital.

Vehicle manufacturers said low demand and not enough policy or clarity on timescales led to a lack of confidence that technology would be supported through to mass market, although many did have plans to increase their offer of alternative fuelled CVs in the UK.

Operator motivations

In terms of operator barriers and motivations, the research showed that 14% of operators surveyed operated at least one ULEV, with a further 33% planning to do so. The most common types were battery electric, plug-in hybrid electric and CNG vehicles.

In addition to those fleets already operating ULEVs, around a third of operators are “on the road” to take-up, for example trialling, enthusiastic or accepting that it must happen.

However, smaller operators were less likely to trial new technologies based on the high upfront costs.

The research said the identification of up-front cost as a major barrier suggests vehicle acquisition will be key to uptake for many operators, however this could be overcome with accurate data about whole-life costs of ULEVs compared with conventional options.

Realistic testing and data

Helping LoCity to achieve this aim of providing need-to-know information about new vehicle technology is the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership (LowCVP).

For the past year the organisation has been working with industry to develop a series of three test cycles for CVs representative of normal operations for vehicles ranging from 7.5 tonnes up to 44 tonnes.

These are based on long-haul work (avg 74 km/h), regional work (50 km/h) and urban delivery (42 km/h) and will complement European VECTO research focusing on HGV CO2 measurement.

“What we do with these test programme is identify real trucks, real drivers, in real road scenarios,” explained Andy Eastlake, MD at LowCVP (pictured).

He told delegates that current data is often not representative of real operations, for example, a van may be sold with CO2 data based on an unladen vehicle with a relatively slim-build driver.

“What LoCity has now brought to the table is how we relate our city centre operations into this testing.  We have therefore been developing a new [fourth] test cycle based on a low-speed average 22 km/h stop-start operation,” he added.

Predominantly focused on vans, the new test cycle will use a 60% load factor and help provide information for operators to help make the business case for low-emission vehicles, such as fuel use, energy consumption and emissions data including CO2, Nox and particulate matter.

All four tests will be available across multiple test sites, in order to keep costs competitive, and provide consistent scenarios to enable new retrofit technology to be tested. “If you get a truck today and come back with it in two years’ time fitted with new technology, you want to be able to compare it,” said Eastlake.

Defining low-emission

LowCVP is also working closely with the government, TfL and industry representatives around better clarity of what a low-emission vehicle looks like.

“We hope to be baselining some of the fleet and give a platform against which technology can be measured. We can then say “low-emission” is this and the standard is this,” added Eastlake.

LowCVP’s Annual Conference on 30 June – A low Carbon Transport Future: The UK capability to lead the way – will focus on how the UK is placed to develop and benefit from low-carbon propulsion technology of the future. Bookings for the conference, which takes place at Here East in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, are now open.