LoCITY Fuels in Action helps freight operators understand market for alternative fuels

By Christopher Walton and Colin Barnett

A Fuels in Action event at Kempton Park in Surrey last week (20 March) was the culmination of a year of activity from LoCITY featuring roadshows on gas, electric and hydrogen.

It brought together operators, manufacturers, fuel suppliers and policy experts to explore the multitude of options on the market.

Up for discussion were the latest developments and operational impacts across all alternatives to diesel, as well as the effect of legislation such as ultra-low-emission and clean air zones on freight movements.

There was also the latest in alternative fuel technologies on display, from the likes of Mercedes-Benz Trucks, Scania and Iveco – including an early outing for the FUSO eCanter.


The infrastructure and vehicle options for the widespread adoption of gas-powered commercial vehicles is there, delegates heard, but there is more to it than simply swapping diesel for gas in the tank.

In comparing the multiple options of gas fuels on the market, from LPG to LNG and CNG, James Westcott, business development director at Gasrec, said that the different types of gas would have different applications depending on the type of work the vehicle conducts.

For 3-axle artics, he believed LNG would be the best option “because that offers the range over long distances”.  For refuse vehicles and the mid- to lower-rigid range that encompasses elements such as back-of-store deliveries, “CNG will have a greater impact”.

Westcott said that with major manufacturers bringing on 13-litre engine options, “this is almost parity with diesel, particularly when it comes to torque,” while 450hp gas vehicles will provide near parity when it comes to torque.

Fuel options also make a substantial difference to the total cost of ownership, explained TRL gas expert Tim Barlow. Citing the example of £600,000 to run a 36-tonne rigid averaging 10,000 miles annually over a seven-year period – including costs such as licencing, congestion charge, taxes, fuel, maintenance and depreciation – the use of CNG would reduce that cost by £80,000, LNG see £40,000 of savings, while LPG would see a saving of £8,000

Justin Laney, fleet manager, John Lewis – which runs a fleet of 53 gas-powered trucks – said that the legislative environment was also there to encourage take-up: “Fuel duty uncertainty was a big risk. If the Treasury increased the fuel duty [on gas] it would destroy the business case, but that is now fixed until 2024.”

Equally, on the John Lewis home delivery fleet, he said that the proposed 4.25-tonne arrangement for alternatively fuelled vans offered 50% extra payload and gives a business case straight away for the use of such vehicles.

In a separate session on gas, Adrian Heath, national accounts manager – transport, at Calor, discussed the possibilities for regional distribution into urban environments

He said that the concept is about to become reality in the shape of a 16-tonne rigid being built for Calor by Dutch specialist EMOSS on a Daf base, for use in delivering the firm’s bottled gas products.

The truck’s only direct drive is from electric motors powered by a battery pack giving a 40-mile range. Obviously this isn’t enough for serious operations, and that range is extended to 250 miles by the use of a range-extending power unit. That unit is 2.0-litre Toyota engine running on LPG and designed to be used at a constant speed for maximum efficiency. It has no connection to the driveline, though, and is used solely to generate charge for the batteries.

Compared with a conventional diesel truck, the range-extended 16-tonner will initially cost 2.0 to 2.5 times as much, but Heath calculates that based on a seven-year service life, it will have a payback after four or five years, without accounting for any grants or incentives.

Using bio-LPG, which Calor is just beginning to supply, it combines ultra-low emissions with a CO2 reduction up to 94%. It will operate out of Calor’s Coryton depot covering London and the south-east, and if successful, could be the first to replace up to 100 such vehicles on the Calor fleet.

Renewable fuels and retrofit options

Martin Brower, which handles McDonald’s logistics in the UK, has a target of reducing its fossil fuel usage by 80% by 2020, and believes its use of biodiesel – based on waste product from the restaurants it delivers to – will help it hit that target.

Speaking to delegates, Tony Winterbottom, GM – Operational Support, at Martin Brower said that when they set the reduction target back in 2007 they initially believed it would come from elements such as  route optimisation and reducing fuel consumption caused by bad driving.

Servicing 1,369 McDonald’s locations in the UK and Ireland from four distribution centres, Martin Brower delivers some 70 million cases a year – and that is a volume of goods that has risen from 40 million cases a year back in 2007. As a result its fleet now runs 27 million km a year.

“We started a process in 2007 where we were bringing back waste from restaurants. We return 20,000 tonnes of cardboard, that was originally collected by waste contractors, but we do it on behalf of the restaurant. We also collect 3,500 tonnes of organic waste, 4,000 tonnes of grease trough waste and 4.2 million litres of used cooking oil.

“The used cooking oil we recycle. We turn it into biodiesel for our fleet and that is where the challenge started. We bring it back from all the restaurants and that 4.2 million litre produces 3.8 million litres of biodiesel,” Winterbottom added.

“Our projected biodiesel use is 7.7 million litres in 2018 – 8 million would be our target for an 80% reduction in fossil fuel use.”

The ultimate measure of carbon reduction though is CO2 output per cage delivery. For the optimum result, the best vehicle for carbon reduction is an artic, which has a CO2 output per cage delivery of 0.65. This is a result of the trailer capacity being 42 cages. A van can only carry four cages, so it takes 11 vans to do the work of one biodiesel-powered artic. For one van the CO2 output per cage delivery comes in at 5.24.

“We hear it all the time about these big vehicles entering the city causing air pollution, but maybe they are not quite as bad as you think,” he told delegates.

“We have actually set another target, now looking for a 51% reduction in CO2 emission reductions from our 2012 base by 2025. That is a stretching target but we will continue to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.”

This approach will be encapsulated in a new livery on the fleet: ‘We recycle all our cooking oil to power this truck’.”


Improved collaboration between electric vehicle operators and electricity distributors will see a substantial increase of battery-powered vehicles on the roads of London.

Steve Halsey, distributed energy resources development manager at UK Power Networks – which owns, operates and maintains the electricity distribution in London, the east of England and south-east of England –  said: “We predict we could end up with 8 gigawatts of electric vehicles on our network by 2030, that is about half of our current peak time demand.”

While he conceded that bus and taxi operators were leading the way in overall adoption, he did say that commercial vehicle operators were looking at innovations, citing the example of UK Power Network’s collaboration with UPS, which has seen it increase the number of vehicles running from its Camden depot from 65 to 170 on the back of improvements to recharging capabilities.

“The Camden UPS depot,” he said, “is the largest electric vehicle fleet in the UK. It required intelligent network analysis to release capacity.”

The move to electrification is being seen elsewhere in the capital and Vince Dignam, business improvement and performance manager at the City of London, said that the corporation was already trialling electric vehicles against diesel for refuse collection.

“We have just put our waste and cleansing contract out for tender, due to start two days before the ultra-low-emission zone comes in. It will be interesting to see what kind of technology they come back with,” he said.


Hydrogen is, in theory, one of the best solutions for sustainable transport. However, progress towards widespread acceptance is slow, amid concerns over its availability and, more crucially, the environmental impact of the current manufacturing process.

A LoCITY Fuels in Action Roadshow session discussed the limitations of hydrogen as a fuel, as well as its benefits.

Hydrogen’s use in commercial vehicles is as an energy storage medium, which is normally utilised as a complement to diesel in an internal combustion engine, or by reacting with a fuel cell to create electricity to provide motive power. It’s relatively simple to manufacture and as easy to transport as diesel.

The only tailpipe emission of fuel cell vehicles is water, they have fewer moving parts, hence lower running costs and a hydrogen tank’s 20-year life is only limited by legislation.

C6543 UlemCo Company vehicles at Matalan

However great the benefits, though, you have to find the hydrogen. The investment in creating a private hydrogen producing facility is high, and the publicly accessible infrastructure is still in its infancy.

More significantly, the process of extracting hydrogen requires energy, and its overall environmental credentials are only as good as the source of that energy.

If electricity from truly renewable sources, such as the wind-powered installation of leading supplier ITM Power, at Rotherham, is used, the overall CO2 footprint is negligible, but most production still uses fossil fuel as the source.

Looking much further ahead, TRL’s hydrogen specialist, Dr Anthony Velazquez, predicted a possible situation when the existing national gas supply network could carry hydrogen when fossil fuels are outlawed, but don’t count on that just yet.




Shell opens second hydrogen fuel pump, but remains focused on full ‘mosaic’ of alternative fuels

By the end of 2018, Shell will have opened three new hydrogen refuelling pumps on sites around London.

But the fuel giant says that its hydrogen network won’t stop there, and that it’s also committed to other alternative fuels.

In February 2017, Shell opened its first UK hydrogen refuelling point in Cobham, which was followed by a new site at Beaconsfield services today (27 March). A third, located at Gatwick North, is in the final stages of production and, while the business is yet to confirm when this will open, it’s certainly not far off.

Shell’s hydrogen business development manager Mike Copson told Freight in the City that London was a natural starting point for its hydrogen network.

“The reason that London came out as a focus was really driven by policy,” he said. “If you look at clean air policy, London really has taken the lead. Also it’s where some sites were already, and it’s got a cluster in one place. So London was the natural first.”

Opening sites in London also meant Shell had proximity to the UK H2Mobility consortium, of which it is a part. The new pump at Beaconsfield services is the firs to be opened in collaboration with the project, and was also built in partnership with ITM Power.

But Copson said Shell’s current focus on London doesn’t mean it won’t be adding hydrogen pumps further afield.

“There are going to be other cities I think following close behind. Manchester’s been quite vocal and there are other clean air city proposals on the table.

“Plus elsewhere in the UK there are already  other hydrogen sites. One in Sheffield, there’s some in Swindon. There are proposals in Cardiff. There’s a cluster in Aberdeen.”

He added: “So I think this lends itself to the point around we have to make sure we’re collaborating. When I say ‘we’ that means the energy providers, the vehicle manufacturers and the policy makers are collaborating to make sure hydrogen is deployed in a coordinated manner. We all need each other; we can’t do it on our own.”

Copson said that Shell’s focus is on the spectrum of available alternative fuels, and that he doesn’t see hydrogen as the only viable option, but rather one of many.

“Hydrogen is actually part of a range of transport fuels that we need to make a lower carbon UK a reality. So it’s actually part of what we call the fuels mosaic.

“To put it more simply, it’s not about backing a winner. It’s about saying as we move forwards, depending on the sector you’re working in and driving in and the location that you’re in, then there are going to be different fuel solutions co-existing as we go through the energy transition.”

He added that the commercial vehicle sector is “one of the most diverse sections of the industry and there are a lot of opinions as to what the next thing is going to be in terms of future fuel. And that’s because they’ve done a very, very good job of making a diesel engine that’s very clean and efficient”.

While Shell is already engaged with commercial vehicle OEMs around the world, Copson said the firm is keen to engage with the logistics industry and get to grips with its refuelling needs for the future.

“A lot of light and heavy duty OEMs are our customers, so the dialogue is happening. But we shouldn’t limit ourselves to the people we already do business with.

“We should also be speaking to industrial bodies that represent the industry to consult with them on what their take on fuels is.

“It’s a huge subject that we need to engage in pretty quickly But also understand that we’re in an energy transition, we’re not in a flicking a binary switch mode.

“We’re working towards a point in the future that no one has the answer for yet and also the timelines are a little bit elastic. So it really depends on collaboration between energy providers truck manufacturers fleet operators as well and as making sure that the policies are supporting that.”

Electric vehicle uptake would improve with better distributor and operator collaboration

Improved collaboration between electric vehicle operators and electricity distributors will see a substantial increase of battery-powered vehicles on the roads of London, delegates at the LoCity Fuels in action roadshow heard.

Steve Hasley, distributed energy resources development manager at UK Power Networks – which owns, operates and maintains the electricity distribution in London, the east of England and south-east of England –  said: “We predict we could end up with 8gigawatts of electric vehicles on our network by 2030, that is about half of our current peak time demand.”

While he conceded that bus and taxi operators were leading the way in overall adoption he did say that commercial vehicle operators were looking at innovations, citing the example of UK Power Network’s collaboration with UPS, which has seen it increase the number of vehicles running from its Camden depot from 65 to 170 on the back of improvements to recharging capabilities.

“The Camden UPS depot,” he said, “is the largest electric vehicle fleet in the UK. It required intelligent network analysis to release capacity.”

The move to electrification is being seen elsewhere in the capital and Vince Dignam, business improvement and performance manager at the City of London, said that the corporation was already trialling electric vehicles against diesel for refuse collection.

“We have Just put our waste and cleansing contract out for tender, due to start two days before the ultra low emission zone comes in. It will be interesting to see what kind of technology they come back with,” he said.

CitySprint trials hydrogen-powered van and boosts cargo bike fleet in London

CitySprint is trialling its first hydrogen powered van in London and has more than doubled its fleet of cargo bikes.

The carrier plans to have an emission-free fleet in the city by 2020.

CitySprint has developed the van with Renault, and its client Mitie will run the vehicle in the capital for the next six months.

CitySprint will compare the vans performance to that of other green vehicles on its fleet; the courier runs four electric vans and a fleet of cargo bikes in the city.

The new van has a range of 200 miles and runs on electricity generated by hydrogen reacting with oxygen within the vehicle. The only result of the chemical reaction is water.

CitySprint has also more than doubled its fleet of cargo bikes, and now runs a total of 22, each of which can carry the same 50kg load as a small van.

Each of the bikes, that carrier claims, saves 4 tonnes of GHG emissions a year and on average  completes delivery routes 50% faster than a small van.

CitySprint CEO Patrick Gallagher said: “Since the launch of our green fleet this August, we’ve already cut back on our CO2 emissions by as much as 10 tonnes. The trail of a hydrogen van is on a long list of environmentally friendly vehicles we have tested over the years.

“We hope that along with our growing cargo bike fleet, this can prove to be a sustainable option and continue our commitment to reducing air pollution across the UK cities we operate in.”

Mercedes-Benz adds 12-speed PowerShift gearbox to UK Econic lineup

Mercedes-Benz has made its Econic more attractive to general haulage operations with the addition of a 12-speed gearbox, with Travis Perkins taking delivery of the first 10 UK equipped examples.

The low-entry vehicle has previously only been available with an automatic six-speed Allison transmission gearbox.

This Allison option, according to Mercedes, remains the most comfortable option for the refuse operations with which the Econic is more traditionally associated with.

But market demand has prompted it to introduce a 12-speed Mercedes PowerShift 3 system for both the 4×2 and 6×2 Econic axle configurations, which is intended to provide better fuel economy for haulage operations.

The 229hp Travis Perkins trucks have straight-six engines and are fitted with Massey Engineering dropside bodies and HMF long boom cranes.

Dressed in the traditional green and gold Travis Perkins colours, the trucks will work in and around London with two already on the road in Sutton.

Travis Perkins central fleet manager James Taylor said: “We have been leading calls for the Econic to be offered with the Mercedes PowerShift transmission, and it is gratifying that the manufacturer has listened to what we’ve been saying and acted on it.

“The Mercedes-Benz system offers improved fuel economy and significant cost savings, compared to the Allison version. It is our intention, therefore, to standardise on Mercedes PowerShift when placing future Econic orders.”

DfT preparing for national roll out of lane rental scheme to cut congestion


The government is now considering the national roll out of a lane rental scheme, which could see councils charge utility companies up to £2,500 a day for carrying out roadworks at peak times.

The decision follows the successful piloting of the lane rental scheme by Kent County Council and TfL, which reported significant cuts in the disruption caused to drivers during roadworks.

Both trials, which were due to end in March 2019, have now been extended indefinitely by the DfT.

The TfL and Kent trials found the scheme discouraged utilities from carrying out roadworks at peak times and incentivised them to collaborate on works to avoid the same stretch of road to be dug up twice.

TfL’s pilot scheme reported a 55% decrease in serious and severe congestion caused by planned utility works in 2015/16, and a 616% rise in the use of collaborative work sites, compared with the 2010/11 baseline.

The average number of days in which disruption was avoided also rose 221% from 110 to 353 in the same period. Kent reported similar results from its pilot scheme.

Announcing the extension of the two pilot schemes following a consultation on the subject that attracted positive support, DfT confirmed that it is “considering rolling out the lane rental scheme to other areas in England”.

It added that the roll out would begin in 2019.

Image: Shutterstock

What effect will a low emission zone in Glasgow have on hauliers?


First minister Nicola Sturgeon announced in October last year that Glasgow would become the first city in Scotland to establish an LEZ in a bid to eliminate air pollution hotspots.

Transport Scotland has said it intends to have the Euro-6-level LEZ in place by the end of this year, and that Aberdeen, Dundee and Edinburgh would follow by 2020.

However, hauliers running into Glasgow will not have to comply immediately, as the city council plans to target only buses initially; HGVs, taxis, vans, cars and motorbikes will be included at a later date.

Transport minister Humza Yousaf said: “Our position is that local authorities should be ambitious and that all vehicles, including private cars, should be included in a LEZ in a phased manner.

“Equally, low emission buses are at the heart of improving air quality and the bus sector has a key role
to play.”

Blunt instrument

But the use of an LEZ to tackle air quality has been described by freight groups as a blunt instrument that might not solve the problem.

Chris MacRae, FTA head of policy for Scotland, said: “Our stance on Glasgow, or for any other city in the UK, is that we think LEZs are the wrong tool if the objective is improving air quality. It’s seen as the solution to a problem. It is a potential solution. They are just a tool in a toolbox; they need to be considered as part of a total solution.”

Quite how Glasgow’s LEZ will affect operators is difficult to predict.

Plans are at an early stage, with so far only the Euro-6 requirement known. Transport Scotland has spent the past few years developing a national strategy, and only now is this being fed down to local councils so they can wrestle with the practicalities of implementation.

A Transport Scotland spokeswoman said it was for individual local authorities to decide the size and
scope of each LEZ, and that responses to a consultation that ended in November last year have yet to be published.

But MacRae said the retail distribution sector involved in local haulage could be hit hardest, as they tend to rely on older vehicles undertaking lower mileages. “And then there are other commercial vehicles, in utilities and specialist contractors,” he said. “The vehicles could be ancient because they don’t do very high mileages. It’s difficult to generalise for freight.”

Practical problems

Asked what concerns the FTA has about the LEZ, MacRae said: “Basic, practical ones. Details of what is included and when, and the exemptions for different categories of vehicle. If this goes wrong, and
this includes buses as well, there can be unintended consequences.

“For example, buses can’t serve parts of the city, or freight becomes too expensive to service some parts of the city. That is extreme, but the feeling from operators – certainly our members – are the classic issues from a budgetary and operational point of view; what they need to do and when.

“Is it this year? 2019? 2020? They need to know the basics. They have said 2018, but it’s not for lorries. So when is it for lorries? These are questions operators are asking.”

The RHA described the LEZ as a blanket ban that fails to take into account the needs of Glaswegians and Glasgow businesses. RHA Scotland director Martin Reid said: “We have asked the council to look at different delivery schedules away from peak times as an alternative. What we are saying is consider all options rather than coming in with punitive measures.

“There are a lot of Euro-5 trucks running around and a lot of companies using them. The majority of fleets are taking on Euro-6 because they want the greater efficiencies and so they tend to be used on longer runs; motorways rather than local deliveries. So for the shorter journeys they use Euro-5.”

For now, the RHA believes that many hauliers are sitting tight and waiting for confirmation about who will be affected, when and where.

“There is an entire industry out there that underpins the Scottish economy and the government seems to be altering the curve of natural proceedings,” Reid added.

“With that comes a cost. It’s about £100,000-plus per truck. That’s a lot for an operator of any size. There’s little doubt it will have an effect.”

Air quality, Smith Electric Vehicles demise and Direct Vision Standard are most read in 2017

Smith Electric Vehicles

With air quality one of the major themes dominating the political landscape and by association the road transport industry in 2017, unsurprisingly some of the most read content on Freight in the City this year related to exactly that.

However it was Smith Electric Vehicle’s demise at the start of the year that was one of our most read and by association made a story about it’s bold plans from the end of 2016 another our hit of the year, as people digested the news that a technology firm who’s time had come, had indeed come but not in the sense must of us had expected.

Arrival, previously Charge Automotive, has had a high profile this year, appearing at our own Freight in the City Expo and launching a trial of its exciting electric vehicles with Royal Mail.

It had the consequence that an older story on the site, detailing where Arrival had come from, was very well read.

Autonomous vehicles were another theme in 2017 that started to generate interest. Some love the concept others think it science-fiction but Volvo’s use of the technology for refuse trucks in Sweden caught people’s attention.

The forthcoming Direct Vision Standard continues to prove controversial, and an update at the start of this year setting out it that would be enforced under criminal law proved one of our most read of 2017.

Clean air zones have gathered pace this year, and will no doubt dominate next, and details of Southampton’s plans to address poor air quality and demand HGVs are Euro-6 to enter the city also proved popular.

Red Route price hike will unduly penalise those delivering goods into London

TfL’s plans to increase penalty charges for vehicles stopping illegally on London’s Red Routes will penalise freight operators and could drive up delivery costs across the capital.

The warning came from the FTA, which expressed “bitter disappointment” after TfL revealed its intention to increase Red Route PCNs from £130 to £160.

The RHA echoed TfL’s concern, condemning the move as a way of raising funds to pay for London mayor Sadiq Khan’s fare freeze.

The proposal, announced this week follows a TfL consultation on congestion charging and remains subject to a review by transport secretary Chris Grayling.

The FTA argued that the lack of loading bays in London means that many truck and van drivers have no choice but to park on Red Routes during deliveries.

Natalie Chapman, FTA London policy lead, said: “The plan to increase the penalty charges for Red Routes is ill-considered.

“The fact that there’s been an increase in repeat offenders suggests these vehicles are making multiple journeys into London and they could well be van and truck deliveries.”

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “It’s a punishment tax on motorists and goods vehicle operators. London is one of the world’s major business centres and tourist attractions – for the city to work it needs the goods moved by the road haulage industry.

“Current policies being promoted by the mayor are increasing congestion and attack motorised mobility of all types, including the essential movers of goods.”

Chapman added: “In many cases, there is simply nowhere for drivers to stop and deliver legally. It could also be that the operating hours of loading bays and red lines do not meet the needs of businesses or residents receiving deliveries and need to be changed.”

She called on TfL to increase the number and size of loading bays and extend loading times as alternative ways to ease congestion along London’s routes.

She added that the FTA is contacting transport secretary Chris Grayling to raise its “very serious concerns” about the increase.

“Without solid evidence to support these higher charges, they could prove pointless and may end up punishing all of London’s residents and workers, who will have to pay the increased cost of deliveries,” Chapman added.

A TfL spokeswoman told Freight in the City that TfL plans to raise Red Route PCN charges have yet to be reviewed by the transport secretary.

She added:  “Our stakeholder team has engaged with the freight industry during the consultation period and its views are being taken very seriously.”

Image: PA Images

UPS to trial extended range fuel cell electric vehicles

UPS fuel cell electric vehicle

UPS is to trial a fleet of extended range Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) delivery trucks on California’s highways.

The trial, which is set to begin in Sacramento before the end of the year, is part of a project UPS is working on with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to design a first-of-its-kind, zero tailpipe emissions, Class 6 medium-duty delivery truck that can match the range of UPS’s existing conventional fuel vehicles.

Unlike fuel cell auxiliary power units, the FCEV vehicles will use an onboard fuel cell to generate electricity to propel the vehicle and will be tested on UPS routes for a minimum of 5,000 hours during the trial. The test vehicles will join UPS’ Rolling Laboratory fleet of alternative fuel vehicles.

Each FCEV produces electricity which continuously charges the batteries, providing additional power and an extended range of 125 miles. The UPS trucks are retrofitted with a 32kW fuel cell coupled to 45kWh of battery storage and 10kg of hydrogen fuel. The drive train runs on electricity supplied by batteries, which, unlike other fuel cell applications, will support the full duty cycle of the truck, including highway driving.

Announcing the project, UPS said it was “an important step toward demonstrating the commercial viability of zero tailpipe emissions trucks to fleet operators and the developing FCEV supply chain.”

Mark Wallace, UPS senior vice president global engineering and sustainability, added: “The challenge we face with fuel cell technology is to ensure the design can meet the unique operational demands of our delivery vehicles on a commercial scale.

“This project is an essential step to test the zero tailpipe emissions technology and vehicle on the road for UPS and the transportation industry.

“We have a long history of developing and promoting the use of more sustainable alternative fuels with our Rolling Laboratory, and hope that by bringing our unique expertise to the development of hydrogen fuels, we can help advance the technology.”