Fuel for thought by Matt Harrington, Editor of Freight & Logistics, FTA

Posted on: Monday, 9 January 2017 by Sian Pattenden

Delegates at FTA’s series of Transport Manager conferences have been given food for thought by Martin Flach, Product Director of the events’ headline sponsor Iveco, when he claimed that running an HGV on natural gas could save them up to 40 per cent in fuel costs.

Revealing that 40 per cent of the total cost of fleet ownership is fuel and AdBlue, Flach said, “Everybody worries about purchasing and financing but really you should be worrying about fuel and AdBlue.”

He argued that the annual average fuel costs for a truck to cover 100,000 miles is £44,000, based on the assumption of nine miles per gallon and a contract price of 87 pence per litre for diesel. Flach said, “If you can save one per cent on fuel that’s £440. If the fuel price goes up that’s fuel savings of £500 a year.”

Iveco has spent a lot of time and effort on saving fuel. This includes reducing friction in the engine, low viscosity oils and anti-idling functions. Other features include an alternator, air compressor and steering pump that only run when they need to.

Together with smart EGR (Exhaust Gas Recirculation) for improved combustion, Flach claimed that all of these modifications can give you anything up to a 5.4 per cent saving on fuel.

Iveco has also installed a predictive driving system called High Cruise, linking GPS to cruise control. Flach said smaller engines working harder could achieve much faster rear axle ratios to keep the engine revs down, while on tyres the key point was to fit quality.

With all the technology they had, Flach maintained that with the right operation, you can save 10 per cent on your fuel, worth around £4,400.

Fuelling change
Taking delegates through a history of fuel, from wood in the 1700s to diesel in the 1930, Flach said, “In more recent years, natural gas is a fuel which has become available for commercial vehicles, and now we’re looking at not just natural gas but biomethane as well.”

Arguing that the replacement fuel has to be something that is as good as diesel, Flach said Iveco has examined all the alternatives: hybrids, hydrogen, CNG, biodiesel, ethanol and electric.

Fuel efficiency? It’s a gas
The one that really works for Iveco is natural gas, partly because of its diverse applications. “We can use it in urban environments, regional environments, light off road, and with Liquid Natural Gas long-haul,” Flach said.

While not new technology, Flach said the beauty of natural gas as a fuel is not only cost, but its air quality benefits too. He said, “NOx particulates are way better than diesel and CO2 emissions using fossil natural gas are about 10 per cent better than diesel. If you use a biomethane then you’re getting up to 80-90 per cent better.”

Iveco offers a nine-litre natural gas engine with 400 horsepower, the same power and torque that you get with a diesel engine. Flach said, “We’ve optimised the layout to get as much gas on as possible so you get the longest range possible. We can do LNG we can do CNG, we can do a mixture of the two where that works.”

The other advantage with natural gas is the simplicity of the technology, which Flach contrasted favourably with “the huge chemistry set” of a Euro VI diesel engine. He said, “The argument is natural gas, no EGR, no SCR, no AdBlue, no particulate filter, no post injection, really simple technology. It gives a very clean solution, a very economic solution and a very safe solution.”

And the cost savings? Assuming the contract price of a litre of diesel is 87 pence and the price of a kilo of natural gas is 64 pence, you achieve a 25 per cent saving on a kilo of gas compared to a litre of diesel, and you save about 15 per cent in kilos against litres. Flach concluded, “You end up with something in the region of 30-40 per cent of fuel saving costs against the diesel vehicle.”

 

Read more insights from Matt Harrington, Editor of our monthly magazine, Freight & Logistics. The magazine is free to FTA members or available to purchase via subscription to non-members

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