Government funding of £35m up for grabs for low-carbon vehicle technology

Businesses are invited to bid for a share of a £35m funding pot to develop low-carbon vehicle technology.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) competition is open to consortia that can deliver projects to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and strengthen the UK’s position on low-carbon vehicle technology.

Projects include at least one vehicle manufacturer or main supplier, as well as an SME.

Areas that will be supported include:

  • alternative propulsion systems
  • electric machines and power electronics
  • energy storage and energy management
  • lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • thermal propulsion systems

Total project costs are anticipated to range in size from £5m to £40m, with a duration of between 18 and 42 months. Businesses can bid for up to 70% of their total project costs

Registration is now open, with a deadline of noon on 20 September.

In January, the government launched a competition to support low-emission freight and logistics trials.



Alternatech fits Fraikin Iveco Eurocargo with Kers

A 12-tonne Eurocargo in the Fraikin fleet has been fitted with a kinetic energy recovery system (Kers), which the rental provider has described as a major step forward in urban truck operations.

The Kers technology, which has been showcased in Formula 1 and featured in a number of semi-trailer applications to date, was installed by Alternatech.

Alternatech worked alongside hybrid technology firm Adgero and Skeleton Technologies to get the vehicle on the road.

The Kers system works by harnessing the energy created under braking.

This energy is stored in a set of ultracapacitors then used to provide acceleration assistance via an electric motor fitted to the prop shaft.

It is primarily designed for multi-drop urban distribution or refuse collection, as the more the brakes are used, the more power is created.

Skeleton Technologies CEO Taavi Madiberk said: “The partnership with Fraikin highlights the significant impact utilising regenerative braking technology and energy storage can have.

“This is an important first step in realising essential efficiencies for the industry and we look forward to seeing further advances in this field.”

During initial testing, the Kers system offered a claimed 32% fuel saving when compared to a standard vehicle of the same type. Nitrogen oxide emissions were cut by half and CO2 emissions by 30%.

Next generation Taxi paves way for LCV range

The next generation of London’s iconic black cab has been unveiled, paving the way for an LCV range.

With the launch of TX eCity taxi, the company name has also changed from LTC to LEVC.

This reflects the ambition of the company’s owner, the Chinese Geely automobile manufacturing giant, which has also owned the Volvo car brand since 2010, to create the “urban commercial vehicle provider of choice”.

Next summer it will be expanding its offering to include an as yet unspecified LCV. It is powered by an electric battery powertrain with a 1.3-litre petrol generator.

Called eCity, the range-extender can charge from empty to almost full in 20 minutes. Fast charging will take approximately two hours, or between eight to 10 hours on a trickle charge.

This will provide up to 400 miles of range, including 70 miles with zero tailpipe emissions.

TfL mulls London Lorry Standard in response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

TfL is exploring whether a combined London Lorry Standard could meet the mayor’s goals around the environment and vulnerable road-user safety, while making it easier for hauliers to comply.

Contained within the Mayor’s Transport Strategy for London, the single standard appears to be an attempt to unify the recent proliferation of standards for the capital such as the Safer Lorry Scheme, incoming Direct Vision Standard and tightening of emissions requirements to meet the ULEZ.

A TfL spokesman told Freight in the City: “The draft Mayor’s Transport Strategy has made his vision for a fairer, greener, healthier and more prosperous city clear.

“There are a wide range of policies and proposals that recognise the important role the freight industry has in both achieving this vision and the continued sustainable growth of London.

“To support this, TfL is exploring how a combined London Lorry Standard could reduce both the environmental and safety impacts of deliveries in London, so we can bring up the standards of vehicles while making it easier for operators to comply,” he said.

The spokesman added that TfL will also explore how it can work with other UK cities to widen the uptake of any new standard.

The transport strategy contains a host of policy points affecting road transport, including an ambition to reduce freight in central London by 10% – based on current levels – during the next decade.

HGV emissions still too high says climate change committee

The Committee on Climate Change is calling for a renewed drive to cut HGV emissions after noting that transport emissions are continuing to rise despite improvements in technology.

The call is made in the committee’s report to parliament, Reducing emissions and preparing for climate change, which was published this week.

It criticises the government for dragging its feet on delivering action strategies laid out in the Climate Change Act 2008.

It also warns that the UK is in danger of missing its target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 57% by 2030, compared to the level in 1990.

To date the UK has cut emissions by 42% since 1990.

It raises concerns that some sectors, including transport, could do more to cut emissions.

It states: “Most of the UK success in reducing emissions to date comes from sharp reductions in the power and waste sectors. Despite improvements in technology, emissions in the transport and building sectors are rising.”

The report sets out where the government must take action to meet its emissions target.

Its recommendations include a number of transport policies including new measures to support emissions reduction from HGVs, and new vehicle efficiency standards requiring electric options for smaller trucks.

The committee also wants to see new policies to create more efficient logistics, increased uptake of eco-driving measures, and a shift to lower-carbon modes such as rail freight.

The report praises those local authorities where measures to reduce urban emissions have been introduced but warns that a supportive national framework, which includes strategic and regulatory decisions and funding, is vital if progress is to be made nationally.

It also warns that carbon-cutting opportunities arising from leaving the EU, such as reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the ability to develop jobs based on a low carbon economy “will require clear strategic thinking, but time and resources risk being in short supply given other pressing demands ahead of the UK formally leaving the EU”.

The FTA said the report showed there is “still much work to do to get significant carbon reduction from freight”.

The association called on the government to introduce measures such as longer or heavier lorries, rail and water freight infrastructure investment and the roll-out of alternative road fuel infrastructure, with tax benefits to encourage faster take up.

FTA national policy head Christopher Snelling said: “In contrast to air quality where we have achieved an 80% reduction in local air pollutants from the latest diesel HGVs, progress in reducing greenhouse gas emissions is clearly slower and in many ways a harder problem to solve.”

Making the switch to electric freight vehicles could save London £900m by 2021

Switching 10% of London’s current truck and van fleet from diesel to electric by 2021 could save the capital £900m in reduced health impact and abatement costs, researchers have calculated.

Such a move would also shave 402 tonnes of NOx, 3.8 tonnes of particulate matter and 284,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas from the capital’s streets (see box below).

The results were presented at the final Frevue conference last week (21 June) – a four-and-a-half year EU scheme to assess the viability of electric freight vehicles in towns and cities.

Three uptake scenarios for electric freight vehicles:

Low – 10% of all freight traffic electrified
• Medium – 50% of all freight traffic  electrified
• High – 100% of all freight traffic electrified

Low penetration level (10%), 2021:
• NOx reduction of 402 tonnes
• PM reduction of 3.8 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 284,000 tonnes CO2e

High penetration level (100%), 2031:
• NOx reduction of 2,500 tonnes
• PM reduction of 16 tonnes
• Local GHG savings of 2. 9 tonnes CO2e

Professor John Polak, director of the Urban System Laboratory at Imperial College London, undertook research to assess the environmental impact of electric trucks.

This included direct results from the Frevue vehicles taking part in the trial, traffic modelling to assess future impact depending on electric freight vehicle uptake levels, and the resulting cost savings to be realised.

Social impact

Polak’s research also looked at the wider social impact and attitudes towards electric freight vehicles.

He surveyed hundreds of participants from the eight Frevue partner cities: Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

This included feedback from drivers and fleet managers, through to end customers and infrastructure providers. Some key conclusions found that:

  • Drivers found electric vehicles to be a positive experience, enjoying the instant power, quietness and simple operation.
  • Only 15% of drivers reported any range anxiety, which was due in the main to a low state of charge at the end of their delivery routes and a reduction in performance during cold weather.
  • Fleet managers found the electric vehicles integrated easily into existing depot routines, with good reliability reported for electric vans and improved reliability for larger electric trucks after an initial trial and error period.
  • Around half of logistics firms surveyed said they have committed to more electric freight vehicles in the short-term due to positive experiences, however, 30% said there is no plan as “better products are needed”.
  • Others planned to deploy more electric vehicles as part of a wider fleet decarbonisation strategy, looking at suitability of all alternative fuels, infrastructure, financial incentives and policy.

Polak’s full research presentation is available on Frevue’s website.


Real-world electric freight vehicle data presented at final Frevue conference

More than 200 city logistics stakeholders headed to London’s Guildhall last week (21 June) to attend the final Frevue conference.

The EU project, led by the Cross River Partnership, has been running for four-and-a-half years to explore the viability of electric freight vehicles (EFVs) in urban environments.

Operators and public sector officials from eight major European cities have taken part in the project: Amsterdam, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Milan, Oslo, Rotterdam and Stockholm.

A range of 80-plus electric freight vehicles from car-derived vans up to 18-tonne trucks have been trialled in real-world operations, with data recorded over 757,000km.

Individual trials looked at everything from driver comfort through to battery performance and charging requirements for a multi-vehicle fleet.

Key findings from the event include:
• EFVs are well suited to inner city operations;
• The range of EFVs on the market today is sufficient for most operations;
• Good driver acceptability and comfort to operate;
• Zero tailpipe emissions, with strong health benefits
Significant cost savings for cities through reduced health and abatement costs

Some challenges still to be overcome, include:
• Limited vehicle supply, particularly at the larger end of the vehicle scale;
• For larger electric trucks, the business case is hard to make at present, although for small and medium EFVs they are already a cost-viable alternative to diesel. Larger trucks will continue to become more cost-effective as more players enter the market and battery technology is enhanced.

You can find case studies and useful guidance documents about all the city projects conducted through the programme on the Frevue website, as well as download all the slides and findings from the final conference.

Make sure to also sign the Frevue Declaration of Intent, which aims to provide solid proof to manufacturers of the desire from industry that demand exists for EFVs.

To date, more than 38 have been signed by organisations, representing 5,075 vans and 4,180 trucks.

Innovate UK project to develop autonomous driving system for Charge electric trucks

Charge Automotive has won Innovate UK backing to help develop autonomous driving functionality for its new range of electric freight vehicles.

Dubbed Robopilot, the project will see Charge leading a consortium (see box, below) to bring autonomous racing technology to the light commercial vehicle market.

Robopilot combines input from sensors around the vehicle – such as radars, cameras, ultrasonics and lidars (light sensors to measure the distance to a target object) – with mapping, artificial intelligence and fleet information, which is then acted on by autonomous software.

The technology has already undergone “rigorous simulation, internal testing as well as public demonstrations”, according to Victoria Tomlinson, head of PR & communications at Charge Automotive.

She added: “The road environment is complex: simulation, verification and validation, and physical testing in controlled environments, in conjunction with our project partners, will take place before road trials begin.”

Robopilot features in the second wave of projects from a £35m joint Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles and Innovate UK competition launched last autumn.

The Oxfordshire-based firm plans to bring a range of affordable, zero-emission freight trucks to the market that will be priced in line with traditional diesel counterparts.

Earlier this month, Charge signed a 15-year lease on a manufacturing facility in Banbury Cross, with the first trucks in the 3.5-tonne to 26-tonne range expected to roll off the production line later this year.

Commenting on the recent competition funding, Tomlinson told Freight in the City: “It is great to be at the forefront of the advancement of driverless technology in the UK and for that to be acknowledged by Innovate UK.”

Charge Automotive is backed by investment firm Kinetik.

Consortium partners

  • Charge Automotive
  • UPS UK
  • Thales UK
  • Loughborough University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of West of England
  • South Gloucesterhire Council
  • Test and Verification Solutions
  • AXA UK


DfT says electric and hydrogen trucks are the future

The DfT sees electric and hydrogen vehicles as the fuels of the future for the freight, and wants to work with industry to get it to “get this sector moving up to speed”.

Vicky Edmonds, deputy director for environmental strategy at DfT, said the department wasn’t clear on how it will make freight a zero emission industry, and asked whether more could be done in the short-term while it looks for the answers.

She asked: “Are we really at the limit of what we think industry can do when it comes to emissions behaviours and technologies, and how can we in government support that?”

“Long-term  we think the future is a mixture of electric batteries – battery technology is improving quite fast and we hope we could see 44-tonne trucks running on batteries. And hydrogen fuel cells, there’s a problem with supply but how can we handle that?”

She added that government wants to think more on dynamic charging on motorways.

“We’ve not really done much with it in the UK and I think we need to start thinking about our role in that.

“Are we going to have tram lines running along sections of motorways and city centres? Or are we going to have inductive loops under the road? Does industry think it’s a good idea or a bad idea?
“These are the conversations we’d really like to start having with you, about how we get this sector moving up to speed.”

One of the big obstacles to getting electric trucks on the road is the size of batteries vs the height and weight restrictions HGVs have to meet in the UK.

Edmonds told Freight in the City the DfT won’t change these to encourage electric vehicle design.

She said: “At the moment the discussions are the batteries would be enormous, and the idea is that technology and the development of batteries is going to improve so much that you won’t necessarily have that problem.

“So I think it’s about what the future looks like for the industry and how we get there, not to tackle an immediate hurdle.”

ClientEarth to take government to court over air quality plans for third time

ClientEarth will challenge the UK government in court for a third time next month following the release of its “incredibly inadequate” air quality plan.

Speaking at the LowCVP annual conference in London yesterday, ClientEarth chief executive James Thornton confirmed the next court case is scheduled for 5 July.

ClientEarth has defeated the government in two legal battles over its plans to tackle air pollution, and Thornton said the revised version the firm demanded after the most recent case still fell short of the mark.

He said: “As great as London is, it’s not yet a very good place to breathe, although the mayor is tackling that. The government could be taking care of it, but it isn’t.”

As an example of what ClientEarth sees as the latest plan’s failings, Thornton told delegates that the appendix of the document states the most effective method of tackling air pollution would be to remove diesel vehicles from city centres.

The main body of the document, however, “says under no circumstances may you restrict vehicles coming into London in this way. So we’re back in court on July 5th”.

Thornton added that even though it is illegal to use economics as a legal defence against improving air quality, the government’s own documentation proves how financially beneficial it would be to clean up the UK’s pollution.

He said: “When you ask the question ‘why is the government so neglectful’, the answer comes back, for economic reasons. Actually the law specifically prohibits economic answers because it’s a health case standard.

“But even according to the government’s own numbers, air pollution is costing our economy £27.5bn every year.

“Even the government’s new incredibly inadequate plan that we’re fighting in court, they say it will save the economy £555m over 10 years. There aren’t many opportunities to save your own economy £27.5bn a year.”