Business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans to be modelled in California

The business case for hydrogen fuel cell trucks and vans, and the number of refuelling sites needed to support commercial operation is to be mapped out in California.

It will be carried out through a partnership between Ricardo Strategic Consulting and the California Fuel Cell Partnership (CaFCP).

Ricardo’s total cost of ownership (TCO) calculator can be used to analyse a wide range of alternative fuel technologies – such as natural gas, battery electric, hybrid and hydrogen fuel cell.

It provides a detailed report of both upfront and operating costs incurred over the ownership period of the truck or van, including benchmarked vehicle prices, duty-cycle based MPG, itemised scheduled and unscheduled maintenance costs, future fuel prices and required infrastructure investment.

This is complemented by economic modelling of refuelling infrastructure to provide a picture of installation and operational costs for new sites.

Ricardo said it enables vehicle manufacturers, operators, transport authorities and urban planners to make informed decisions about the rollout of new technology.

It will be used to support California’s aim to enable adoption of fuel cell technology in HGVs and vans, following CaFCP’s strategy released last year: Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric truck action plan.

“Economic modelling and assessment is vital in identifying and overcoming barriers to the commercialisation of advanced technology, and to developing a strong business case against which customers can invest,” said Piyush Bubna from Ricardo Strategic Consulting.

“Medium and heavy-duty fuel cell electric trucks will play a crucial role in reducing vehicle emissions in California,” said Bill Elrick, CaFCP executive director, “but they are at the beginning stages of introduction.”

He added: “Ricardo’s TCO model provides an enabling toolset that will help CaFCP members develop a consensus as to the potential of hydrogen fuel cell technology, as an alternative to diesel propulsion in truck fleets operating in California.”

California is to be the testbed for Toyota’s Project Portal trial, which will see a zero-emission, hydrogen fuel cell concept truck hit the roads this summer.

Powerful hybrid electric technology for HGVs unveiled in Finland

A hybrid electric system for HGVs capable of delivering 1,140hp and more than 5,000Nm of torque has been developed in Finland.

The two companies behind the technology, Visedo and Sisu Auto, said it marks a “breakthrough” in hybrid electric technology that will give operators the power and performance they need, while also reducing fuel and emissions.

A proof-of-concept vehicle, unveiled at Finnish trade show Kuljetus 2017, integrates a parallel hybrid drive: this draws power from both an electric motor and a diesel engine connected via the same axle.

The electric motor assists the diesel engine during peak periods and charges energy storage during the off-peak via supercapacitors.

Locating the electric motor between the engine and gearbox means no modifications are needed for the existing chassis or suspension structure.

Visedo system solutions manager Risto Tiainen said: “We’re proud to be giving Europe its first look at such a breakthrough hybrid truck drive system that’s capable of delivering breakthrough power and performance while saving fuel and reducing emissions.

“After delivering pioneering hybrid and electric power for passenger buses, Visedo is proud to be powering the next generation of cleaner truck transport solutions.”

The electric drive system was developed to work in parallel with the Mercedes-Benz OM471 and OM473 diesel engines, which are used in the Sisu Polar truck range.

While the main objective for Visedo and Sisu was to reduce fuel consumption and emissions, the powerful hybrid system also boosts available low-speed torque. It enables the use of the vehicle with or without electric power since the drive line is mechanically continuous from the diesel engine to the axle.

Power is delivered via a permanent magnet motor, while the mechanical powertrain is controlled by an inverter and PowerBOOST DC-DC converter. Energy is stored with the company’s supercapacitor unit.

The system supplies additional power and charging automatically, allowing the driver to concentrate on the road unless they choose to use a bypass function and take control.

Trenchcon picks UK’s first Volvo low-entry rigid truck-mixer for urban distribution work

Concrete specialist Trenchcon has received the UK’s first Volvo FE low-entry cab (LEC) 6×2 rigid truck-mixer unit.

Based in north-west London, the 6m³ truck-mixer was chosen for its enhanced direct vision for drivers, as well as its easy maneuverability.

Trenchcon MD Ronan Byrne said: “With the Volvo FE LEC, we are paving the way for a new type of construction truck for use in the urban environment.”

He added the driver’s lowered seating position compared with a standard six-wheel mixer significantly improved road safety for vulnerable road users.

“The type of work we do means the FE LEC doesn’t need to go off-road,” said Byrne.

“We needed the rear-steer lift axle for maneuverability and the I-Shift automated gearbox as the best solution available to help the driver manage deliveries through the constant stop-start heavy traffic.”

“It’s the first truck of its kind for Volvo and we will see many more operators opting for this type of mixer in London.”

The new FE LEC will join Trenchcon’s 20-strong fleet of 4m³, 6m³ and 8m³ mixers.

To ensure the FE LEC offered the top level of direct vision and maneuverability, Trenchcon worked in partnership with Volvo to help develop its specification.

It features a 320hp engine, coupled to a direct top I-Shift automated gearbox and a single reduction rear axle.

“This appears to be a far more efficient solution than other vehicles designed for the city environment based on refuse specs, which call for automatic transmission coupled to a hub-reduction axle, especially in and around the orbital roads,” said Volvo Trucks head of product management John Comer.

“In this respect the Volvo FE LEC will help with both London direct vision, carbon and increasingly more important, air quality demands, and it is better for the bottom line,” he added.

The truck also features air suspension on all three axles, a two-step entry steel safety cab, a lowered window in the nearside door to improve driver visibility alongside the cab, and a four-way Brigade safety camera system,

It is equipped with a Cifa truck mixer body fitted by Wilcox.

Self-driving Volvo FM refuse lorry makes UK debut

Volvo Group debuted a self-driving FM refuse truck at its UK Innovation Summit this week, to demonstrate the potential safety and environmental benefits for urban areas.

The concept truck has been developed and tested over the past two years in collaboration with Swedish waste and recycling firm Renova.

Volvo Group chief technology officer Lars Stenqvist said: “There is amazing potential to transform the swift pace of technical developments in automation into practical benefits for customers and, more broadly, society in general.

“Our self-driving refuse truck is leading the way in this field globally, and one of several exciting autonomous innovations we are working with.”

How does it work?

The first time the automated refuse truck is used in a location, it is driven manually while the on-board system monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS. Upon entering the area a second time, it knows exactly which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop.

At the first stop, with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it as normal. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon the driver’s command.

The driver walks the same route as the truck to have a full view of what is happening in the direction of travel.

Reversing, rather than driving forwards, enables the driver to remain closer to the compactor during collections.

“And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there is less risk of work-related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints,” said Hans Zachrisson, strategic development manager, Renova.

Volvo said the self-driving truck aims to reduce the risks associated with reversing an HGV in urban areas, even when fitted with cameras.

Sensors continuously monitor the vehicle’s vicinity and the truck stops immediately if an obstacle suddenly appears in its path, or if the driver activates the emergency stop function.

It also has potential for lowering fuel consumption and emissions, as gear changes, steering and speed are constantly optimised.


The joint research project with Renova will continue until the end of 2017 and will be followed by an evaluation of functionality, safety and the acceptance of drivers, road users and residents.

However, the manufacturer said a lot more R&D work remains before self-driving refuse trucks will become a reality on our roads.

Instead, it believes varying degrees of automation will probably be introduced earlier in other applications, where transport operations take place within strictly confined areas.

For example, the technology used in the refuse lorry research is also being used in a trial of a self-driving truck for mining operations in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden.

Volvo Group demonstrated the truck in action yesterday at its Innovation Summit in London, where it also brought its fully-electric passenger bus and the world’s first zero-emission, near-silent, all-electric excavator aimed at urban construction sites.


Co-ordinated transport requirements needed across UK cities, says DHL

DHL Supply Chain has called for a co-ordinated approach to dealing with transport issues in urban areas to avoid differing standards across the UK.

Speaking at a Westminster Energy, Environment & Transport Forum seminar last week, Phil Roe, MD of Transport, UK & Ireland, told delegates that while the focus on safety and reducing emissions was welcomed, policy makers should be aware of the impact it could have on the logistics sector if differing requirements emerge.

He said: “What we’re seeing is a much more intelligent and co-ordinated approach in dealing with those problems in cities, which is fantastic and is very much to be welcomed. What worries us is that they all might be different.

“No one is going to manufacture vehicles for London alone.”

However, he said increased regional devolution of transport issues has encouraged increased engagement with the freight sector, which was to be welcomed.

MAN and DB Schenker to use truck platooning for ‘real world’ distribution work next spring

Truck platooning will be used for distribution work in Germany as part of a trial from next spring.

In a partnership deal signed this week by truck-maker MAN and operator DB Schenker, the trial will see networked lorry convoys used on regular distribution work with HGV drivers on board, rather than dedicated testers.

An initial test phase early next year will use unladen two-truck platoons running on the A9 motorway between DB Schenker’s Munich and Nuremberg depots.

They will run without a load during this stage so driving conditions can be tested in ordinary traffic situations and the drivers trained in how to operate the vehicles and adapt to special driving techniques.

Tests will then progress throughout 2018 to move onto regular distribution work carrying real freight loads, with platoons running up to three times per day.

MAN and DB Schenker hope to answer a number of core questions relating to platooning throughout the programme, such as the best time to create a platoon and the most efficient way to form or disband a convoy according to traffic conditions.

Data transmission is also a key component under analysis, including finding the best way to monitor the platoon for operators, as well as the best way to communicate real-time traffic data to the lead driver.

In addition, the trial aims to understand the impact on and acceptance from HGV drivers of platooning.

A parallel study will involve evaluation of participating drivers to see how they cope with new technology, the best method of training, and whether additional activities could be permitted by drivers in the trailing trucks.

An autonomous future

“Networked and autonomous driving will revolutionise transport in future,” said  Ewald Kaiser, chief operating officer, freight at DB Schenker.

“Platooning provides us and our customers with a solution to the demand for completely transparent, as well as faster and more eco-friendly transport processes.

“We are confident that these tests will deliver information about the specific potential for increasing efficiency in real operating conditions over a prolonged period.”

DB Schenker is also using the trial to establish its own platooning roll-out strategy to fit in with its existing infrastructure.

For example, it will be exploring the best way to ensure its depots can facilitate the loading and unloading of a truck convoy quickly and efficiently.

MAN head of engineering central Gerhard Klein said the trial was a major milestone on the path towards autonomous driving.

The manufacturer has already conducted its ‘Konvoi’ research project between 2005 and 2009 testing platoons of up to four vehicles, as well as taking part in last year’s European Truck Platooning Challenge.

Klein said: “By working together with the logistics planners and the drivers, we are directly involving the users during the test and development phases. This is a huge step forwards which will eventually enable us to apply this technology in day-to-day operations.”


Viewpoint: Abbey Logistics asks are gas-powered HGVs now a realistic alternative?

Abbey Logistics Group fleet engineer David Batty aims to find out whether extended range compressed natural gas trucks offer a real alternative to diesel…

One of my most important roles at Abbey Logistics is to analyse and trial new vehicles and associated technology.

Before selecting any vehicles for our fleet, I take a highly-detailed approach to understanding the vehicle’s whole-life cost, taking into account everything from mpg performance, maintenance costs, kerb weight, specialist equipment fitting and aerodynamic drag.

Having trialled many gas-powered vehicles in the past, including dual fuel, LPG, LNG, CNG and many more, trials have usually shown the same results: promising technology, easy to maintain, zero emissions and reduced fuel costs.

However, and crucially for a company like Abbey Logistics, who count every penny of its fleet costs, and rely on the flexibility of our network; the vehicles have always been too expensive to buy and their mileage range has always been too low to be a viable alternative to diesel.

That was until now.

Innovative new technology from Scania and Iveco means that LNG (liquid natural gas) and CNG (compressed natural gas) can now be used in vehicles that can achieve almost the same miles per tank as their diesel equivalents.

Abbey Logistics is now working with CNG Fuels, the UK’s leading operator of CNG, to run trials on new CNG vehicles. The trucks from Iveco and Scania will be put through their paces in a two-month trial, operating on the same routes carrying the same loads as their diesel counterparts to give us a clear picture of how they are performing.

One of the key benefits of conducting real-world trials of new vehicles, especially ones which use new technology, is that our drivers have the opportunity to feedback how they are performing. Are they comfortable? Is safety and compliance impacted in any way? Are there any other concerns that only emerge once the vehicle is out on the road?

We conduct in-depth interviews with drivers to get their feedback, which is vital as it is our drivers who will be working with these vehicles every day.

Drivers involved in the trial will be trained to use the new refuelling pumps, which use a traffic light system that tells the driver when fuelling is complete and it takes no longer than filling up a diesel tank.

Refuelling is also inherently safe and clean due to zero spillage and the driver doesn’t need to stand next to the vehicle during the process.

Additional benefits are obvious, minimised emissions and reduced fuel costs and because the engines themselves are much simpler than modern diesel engines, maintenance costs should be reduced too.

While the latest CNG developments are exciting, we are reserving judgement until a full evaluation of the gas-powered vehicles is complete.

Whilst I’ve known about the potential benefits of gas power in HGVs for a long time, it is only now through these new engines that there is a real alternative to diesel emerging.

I’m excited to understand how these trucks perform in the real world as the potential benefits to the environment and our cost base is significant.

We will test them objectively and if we find that they perform as well or better than our current fleet, that will be a real game-changing moment for Abbey and the wider industry.

Operators needed for free trial of real-time NOx emissions recorder

HGV and van fleets are invited to take part in a free trial of a telematics system called Air.Car that provides real-time NOx emissions data.

Tracker, part of the Tantalum Corporation, said the six-month trial will contribute towards “ground-breaking” research that aims to both reduce air pollution and slash operators’ fuel costs.

For those operators taking part, a telematics unit will be fitted to fleet vehicles by Tracker, with a short training course provided to maximise the benefits of the date they will receive.

Tracker said the units can be easily connected to any vehicles’ existing on-board computers.

Fleet managers will be able to view results through a fleet management website that will display both real-time CO2 and NOx emissions, location, data reporting, driver behaviour and crash reporting.

Tracker said its existing real-time CO2 emissions product has already helped customers save an average of 15% in fuel costs through better driving; it is anticipating the new technology will also reduce NOx emissions by as much as 50% through the same driving guidance.

Imperial College London will assist in the trial by developing and verifying the technology to accurately estimate NOx emissions.

The trial has received funding from Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles.

Tracker chief operating officer David Wilson said: “Towns and cities across the UK have dangerous levels of NO2, significantly over legally allowed limits, and increasing urbanisation and congestion are only set to magnify this problem.

“Air.Car will be able to help deliver much needed emissions reduction in a smarter, cheaper and fairer way than some of the alternatives that are being considered.”

Fleets are being recruited from the public and commercial sectors as part of this trial, which will run within London and other UK cities where Clean Air Zones are to be established.

Businesses interested in taking part can register online for the trial, which will commence in December.

O’Donovan reduces noise impact of skip lorries by 20%

O’Donovan Waste Disposal is deploying noise-dampening skip chain covers across its fleet to enable quieter HGV movements in residential areas.

The London-based operator said the introduction of the new covers – made from woven canvas – has resulted in a 20% decrease in noise levels from its skip lorries.

A regular skip lorry creates, on average, noise levels reaching 85db according to O’Donovan; whereas the same vehicle with chain covers has been recorded at just 65db from two metres away.

O’Donovan delivers and retrieves skips each day as part of its services, and while it says local council restrictions pose significant challenges, aims to ensure deliveries are as unobtrusive as possible.

The skip chain cover initiative was rolled out by O’Donovan as part of its work in TfL’s Retiming Deliveries work group.

MD Jacqueline O’Donovan said: “While it’s vital that we maintain our exceptional customer service levels, respecting the local community remains a priority for us.

“We are conscious that noise levels can disrupt local communities and we believe this is a great solution for all parties,” she added.

Gloria Elliott, CEO, Noise Abatement Society, said: “Skip removal can have one of the noisiest environmental impacts on the community – so it is really heartening to see O’Donovan’s waste company introducing a measure to reduce the loud and intrusive noise of clanging metal skip chains.

The Noise Abatement Society congratulates O’Donovan’s for taking responsible measures to improve the aural environment, a shining example for other waste companies to emulate”.

O’Donovan also recently introduced a new sheeting system to improve driver visibility.



Frevue launches initiative to prove demand for electric freight vehicles

Urban freight operators have been urged to back a campaign to boost manufacturer confidence in electric van and truck demand.

Limited availability and high prices of electric CVs have often been cited as a barrier to operators looking to electrify their fleets.

However, many manufacturers do not believe there is sufficient demand for electric freight vehicles, according to research from the Freight Electric Vehicles in Urban Europe (Frevue) project.

The Frevue team has established a Declaration of Intent for Electric Freight campaign and is urging all operators working in urban areas to support it.

The aim is to persuade manufacturers to start or scale-up development and production of fully electric or hybrid freight vehicles, as well as build the case for financial incentives while they remain dearer than diesel counterparts.

From an operator perspective, Frevue said supporting the initiative will help a business communicate externally that it is committed to sustainable transport. It may also identify joint procurement opportunities with other local firms interested in electric freight vehicles.

So far, 22 Declaration of Intent forms have been signed in Europe, representing a potential market of 1,115 electric vans and 4,115 electric trucks.

The initiative is supported by the LoCity programme in London, which was created to help the freight industry transition towards low- and zero-emission CVs ahead of the Ultra Low Emission Zone rollout in April 2019.

Frevue members include parcel firm UPS (pictured), which has been increasing its use of electric trucks in London as part of its urban fleet strategy.