Volkswagen to gauge UK appetite for electric van at CV Show

Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles will be testing the waters at this year’s CV Show, where it will be trying to gauge the UK’s appetite for its all-electric compact van.

A German version of the e-Load Up!, was designed with urban deliveries in mind.

It will be on display on Volkswagen’s stand, despite the manufacturer having no plans to sell the electric vehicle in the UK.

An offshoot of the Up! car at 3.6m in length, it offers up to 990 litres of cargo volume and a 360kg payload.

The van is powered by an AC electric motor which produces 60 kW and 210 Nm of torque.

Volkswagen said the e-Load Up! has a range of 160km, with energy consumption of 11.7 kWh per 100km.

  • Registration is open for the free-to-attend CV Show, taking place at the Birmingham NEC between 26-28 April.

UK should stop looking overseas for solutions, says Transport for the West Midlands

The UK shouldn’t be looking to cities overseas for answers to problems such as congestion and air quality, according to the chief executive of Transport for the West Midlands.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Spring Summit, Martin Reeves (pictured) told delegates that industry must “test things, try things. Or we’ll be back in this room in five years with nothing different”.

He said: “We should  not just address these issues, but we should be a beacon. Why is it that we find ourselves having to go to other European countries – to North America, to Scandinavia – and other parts of the world to understand best practice? We should be generating the international standards on best practice.”

On the day’s theme of improving the last mile, Reeves said that congestion around UK cities was “intolerable” to the detriment of final mile deliveries.

He said: “We are woefully behind our European counterparts in congestion. It’s a challenge to our economy. Every day you see the congestion on the network, which then affects last mile in our city centres. That is intolerable.”

Reeves also urged delegates to think of the air quality issues as an opportunity for change.

He said: “Rather than seeing air quality as a public health challenge, let’s see as it as a challenge and an opportunity to think fundamentally differently about disruptive technologies and how people live their lives. We have got to change the dynamic.”

The West Midlands, he added, will “never ever get the chance again to reimagine physically, socially, economically, environmentally, practically rebuild our cities.

“We have a choice,” he said.  We can do it well, and future proof it as best as we possibly can and grab the opportunity, not despite the challenges that we face but because of them. Or we do it badly.

“You’ve got to be leaders yourselves, you can’t be self-interested. Understand the power that you offer to future cities and future communities.”

Another speaker at the event agreed that urban freight challenges were an opportunity for creative thinking.

Helen Smith, head of logistics, environment and active travel at Transport for Greater Manchester, said vehicle design in particular was an area that could use more joined up thinking.

She said: “We could be more creative in our solutions. One basic example is there is a lot of work happening with schemes like Clocs, and the manufacturers are coming forward. But actually is there a programme that combines all these things?

Are we having the right conversations? Are we tackling this in a combined way, or looking in isolation at different problems and coming up with solutions that run parallel?”

FTA welcomes long-term transport plan for Manchester

A long-term transport plan for Manchester has been praised by the FTA for its focus on keeping HGVs moving in peak times and “joined up thinking” around strategic road links.

The Greater Manchester Transport Strategy 2040 is the outcome of a public consultation which received just under 1,800 responses.

The strategy aims to create a well-coordinated and stable transport system, and to capitalise on the city’s road, rail and shipping links.

Malcolm Bingham, FTA’s head of policy for the North of England, said: “The strategy makes reference to HGV operations during peak periods, which is a positive if it saves trucks sitting in traffic when there is no need.

“However, that means educating the freight industry’s customers about when and how to schedule deliveries, particularly in the emerging digital economy.”

He added that it was “good to see joined-up thinking in setting up a transport system for the area that looks to join up a Key Route Network with the strategic roads of the M6, M60 and the M62”.

However Bingham added that building reliability into a transport network is a “major challenge”, and that the association would “look to work with the combined authority to ensure that freight operators receive detailed information to enable them to make informed decisions on how they route traffic”.

Diesel cars produce more than double the NOx of HGVs

Diesel cars produce more than double the amount of nitrogen oxide than trucks, new research based on real-world testing has found.

A report by the International Council on Clean Transport (ICCT) found that while the market’s newest HGVs (and buses) produce an average of 210mg/km of NOx, the newest diesel cars produce 500mg/km.

The report was an analysis of data from vehicles tested in both Germany and Finland.

The differences in emissions, said the ICCT, was partly because of the different, stricter tests the heavier vehicles are subject to.

HGVs, the report said, are given a high load test, a mobile testing device, or portable emissions measurement system (PEMS) test, and an off-cycle test, none of which cars have to undergo under EU law.

The report argued that cars should be given the same tests, and in September they will be required to be tested in real-world conditions with a PEMs device.

However the ICCT’s report said that even with planned changes, regulations on car testing will not be as stringent as those on HGVs by 2019.

Proper Oils greases urban operation with new Fuso Canters

London oil supplier Proper Oils has updated its urban fleet with three new 8.5-tonne Fuso Canter rigids.

Chosen for the agility provided by the engine-under-cab and compact design, the vehicles carry up to four tonnes of oil at a time to customers, many of whom are based in high street locations.

As well as delivering oil to clients, Proper Oils collects used product which is transported to its HQ, from where it is sent for transformation into biodiesel.

Proper Oils MD Stephen Hurton said the company “prides itself” on the positive environmental impacts of its work.

The rigids are fitted with bespoke bodies built by TLC Auto-Refinishing, with roller shutter doors on the near and rear side.

The 7.5-tonne Canter has a body and payload allowance of 5 tonnes, while the 8.5-tonne Canter has a body and payload allowance of 6 tonnes

He added: “These new trucks have enabled us to increase efficiency within our cooking oil delivery and waste oil collection service, by adding more ‘drops’ to each route.

“They are superbly manoeuvrable and very easy to drive, while the Duonic gearboxes also help to improve safety by leaving our staff free to concentrate fully on traffic conditions, rather than worrying about which gear they’re in.”

The trucks were supplied by Rygor Heathrow.

Government commits £80m to electric vehicle charging infrastructure

Charging infrastructure for ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs) will receive £80m of funding following yesterday’s Autumn Statement.

The funding for ULEV infrastructure is part of a £390m commitment by Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond to support ULEVs, renewable fuels and connected autonomous vehicles.

The development of alternative fuels for aviation and HGVs will receive £20m of the funding, while a £100m chunk was fenced off for vehicle platoon trials.

Hammond also announced that until March 2019, the government will offer companies looking to install charge points for electric vehicles 100% first-year allowances.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes welcomed the Autumn Statement’s commitment to charging infrastructure and said the market for ULEVs is “still developing”, so “it’s critical the government continues to encourage this through consistent policies and investment”.

“Furthermore,” he added, “the commitment to connected and autonomous vehicle testing infrastructure is an area in which the UK is already one of Europe’s leading centres.

“This commitment will help cement that position and promote this next generation technology, which has the potential to transform lives – preventing more than 25,000 accidents and creating more than 320,000 new jobs.”

Lack of capacity for charging electric vehicles was deemed one of the biggest barriers to the uptake of electric vehicles at the Freight in the City Expo earlier this month.

Co-ordinator of the Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (FREVUE) project, Tanja Dalle-Muenchmeyer, told delegates that operators would take up electric vehicle technology, “but it needs to be at the right price, and it needs to be available”.


Hydrogen as fuel is ‘a disaster’ says Centre for Sustainable Road Freight

The use of hydrogen as an alternative fuel is a “disaster”, according to the director of the Centre for Sustainable Road Freight.

Speaking at the SMMT’s London HQ, David Cebon from Cambridge University told visitors: “Hydrogen is a disaster. It’s something that everybody should be saying ‘no, don’t do this. Don’t spend money on this’ to.”

Cebon said that 100kWh of generated electricity, once it’s been sent through the national grid to a battery, will provide about 65kWh of power at the wheels.

But if you take the same 100kWh and used it to generate hydrogen, stored that hydrogen in a vehicle and ran it through a fuel cell to create electricity to power the vehicle, this would translate to just 23kWh at the wheels.

That process, said Cebon, is “extremely wasteful”.

The government committed £2m to a fund in May this year to encourage more businesses to move to using hydrogen vehicles. It also spent £5m on the Hydrogen for Transport Advancement Programme in 2014, which funded 12 hydrogen refuelling stations across the country.

The direction of investment in alternative fuels was also questioned by the RHA’s director of policy Jack Semple at this month’s Freight in the City Expo.

Semple asked whether the government’s £25m spend on research into methane was “innovating in the right direction”.

He said: “For a fraction of what the government has committed to methane in the last few years, we could really move things forward. So it’s good to innovate. But are we innovating in the right direction?”

Fors directors talk version four, Truck Excellence and direct vision at first national conference

The Fleet Operator Recognition Scheme (Fors) held its first annual event at the National Conference Centre in Birmingham last week. Freight in the City caught up with directors John Hix and Steve Agg on the eve of the fourth version of the standard’s introduction.

The new Fors standard has “raised the bar” for operators, particularly gold members, according to the standard’s director John Hix (main picture).

Speaking to at Fors’ first annual conference, Hix said that the key changes to the new standard, which came fully into force yesterday (10 November), were in the highest category.

Hix said: “In the gold standard, we have put in noise assessment, and assessment of mode shift opportunity and use of alternative fuels.

“Silver operators now need reversing alarms, and licence checking using DVSA has moved from silver to bronze. So we’ve generally raised the bar a bit, particularly for gold operators.”

Around 400 delegates attended the conference, which featured sessions on compliance, environmental issues and the new standard, among other topics.

Steve Agg chaired the standard's first national conference at the NCC
Steve Agg chaired the standard’s first national conference at the NCC

Holding the event in Birmingham was a deliberate move to promote the nationwide roll out of the scheme, according to Hix.

“Fors will make roads safer across the country,” he said, “and that’s why our first national conference is here in Birmingham, rather than in London.

“We have members all over the country and we’re encouraging local authorities, such as Transport for Greater Manchester, to work with us.”

Steve Agg, former CILT chief executive and chairman of the Fors Governance and Standard Advisory Group, added that to keep the scheme London-focused would be missing a trick.

He said: “The only real point with London is that it’s where Fors started. And it had to start somewhere. But not having it across the whole of the UK would be missing an opportunity.”

Membership fees

Originally a free standard for operators to sign up to, Agg said there was some resistance when  membership fees were instigated in February 2015. 

“If you’re getting something for free for five or so years, and then someone says you have to start paying for it, that’s always going to provoke a little bit of discontent,” he said.

“But nothing’s free in this world. We use the phrase ‘free delivery’. But that’s cobblers. In the case of Fors, the public purse was no longer willing, or able, to fund it, so individual businesses are paying for it, without too much kickback.”


Another challenge Fors has faced in recent months was the FTA’s decision to launch Truck Excellence, an accredited scheme that is equivalent to the Fors bronze standard.

CGE16243-0038This, said Hix, just muddies the waters when it comes to keeping up with standards. “The obvious objective is to have a single standard, because no one wants multiple standards saying people have to do different things. Fors is the default setting for that.”

Agg, who worked at the FTA for just under four years, added: “It isn’t for us at Fors to say whether a scheme is equivalent or not. I don’t personally understand why the FTA is putting forward the alternative scheme. We would love to work with them. But they’ve chosen to do something else.”

Direct Vision

In London, Sadiq Kahn’s Direct Vision standard is looming over operators with its 2020 start date. But Hix said it will be a while until Fors mandates direct vision cabs in its own standard.

“The Fors standard is about minimising blind spots. If you can do that with design instead of fitting additional cameras or mirrors, then clearly we would encourage that. But there are costs to that, and operators need time to equip their fleets.”

Panellists at the Fors conference in Birmingham
Panellists take questions at the Fors conference in Birmingham

“So we haven’t mandated direct vision in the new standard, and we’ve got a couple of years. I’m just working on getting version four off the ground,” he added.

But for both Agg and Hix, promoting a better image of the industry to the public, rather than preaching to the converted, should be the standard’s priority.

A Fors for good

Hix in particular thinks Fors has the platform to appeal to the public, with accredited operators running trailers that could be advertised on all over the country’s roads.

He said: “Fors has become a force of good; it has a profile and a presence. We need to use that to get across some messages. We do need to have a public profile. You see our logo all over the country. We need to think about how that could be of use to us.”

“We have an image issue,” added Agg. “What Fors is doing is showing the public that the industry is prepared to heal itself. That it’s prepared to stand up and say we’re going to do something for our standards. That we can make the world better for everybody.”

Government innovating in wrong direction with methane, says RHA

For just a “fraction” of what it spends on the development of methane as an alternative fuel, the government could “really move things forward” in reducing emissions, the RHA has said.

The association’s director of policy Jack Semple (pictured) criticised the government’s spending of £25m on developing methane to fuel HGVs at the Freight in the City Expo this week.

He told delegates: “The government has already spent £25m on the idea of methane. We’ve got a lot of questions. What is the payback? And if we’re going to use it as a transport fuel, why put it in trucks when buses do eight times as many miles?”

Semple asked why the government paid nothing towards the implementation of technology such as telematics, which is proven to reduced emissions, and added that methane slip (the incomplete combustion of methane in the engine – is actually more damaging than Co2 in terms of climate change.

He said: “For a fraction of what the government has committed to methane in the last few years, we could really move things forward. So it’s good to innovate. But are we innovating in the right direction?”

O’Donovan Waste Disposal urges manufacturers to meet sector-specific needs for Direct Vision

O’Donovan Waste Disposal urged truck manufacturers to keep up with the vehicle needs of specific sectors, in light of Sadiq Khan’s Direct Vision Standard.

Speaking at the Freight in the City Expo, MD Jacqueline O’Donovan (pictured) voiced concerns that the standard was coming into force faster than manufacturers could produce vehicles suited to specific sectors, such as construction.

She said: “My concern is that the mayor is trying to bring in direct vision when we are very limited to what we can bring in. We’ve got the [Mercedes-Benz] Econic with a skip loader on the back. It’s not ideal, it’s very chunky, but we’re using it because it’s the best thing we’ve got at the moment.

“I’d like to see the manufacturers have the availability to give us what we need for our type of application quicker than direct vision comes in, to save us being hit by the stick.”

O’Donovan added that she “appreciates that from design to actually producing a vehicle will take anything from five to seven years”, but added: “I think it’s paramount that manufacturers step up to the plate.”