Technology

Greening the construction industry fleet

6 April 2018 | By Shaun Stephenson

Iveco’s new Stralis LNG engine delivers the same output as its diesel equivalent with reduced emissions

As environmental legislation tightens, truck and van manufacturers which supply the construction industry are exploring greener options. Shaun Stephenson looks at the eco-technology being trialled.

Shaun Stephenson

Given how much construction relies on road transport, recent environmental legislation is going to have a significant impact on the industry’s operations. Low emission zones (LEZ) are now at the consultation stage in a number of UK cities and the government will ban all diesel vehicle engines from 2040.

In response to these developments, the major commercial vehicle manufacturers are developing new eco-technology.

Some sectors of transport will see a greater short-term modal shift to alternative fuels – urban delivery for example – but the lessons learned will be passed on to all other transport sectors in time, including construction.

Ryder, a supplier of commercial vehicles to the sector for contract hire and rental, is waiting for delivery of the Iveco Daily Electric van, a 100% electric vehicle with zero emissions. The Daily Electric offers three payload options, with one, two or three batteries –  more batteries mean a lighter payload but enable longer range deliveries.

The recent payload lift of driver licensing and operator licensing – from 3,500kg to 4,250kg for alternative-fuelled vehicles – is significant as it negates some of the negative impacts of the weight penalty currently associated with battery technology in light commercials.

Mercedes-Benz will unveil a fully electric vehicle in the fourth quarter of this year. Ryder will look to trial one of these assets once they are available.

For greater distances, hybrid options are more attractive than electric-only, particularly diesel-electric. These vehicles use diesel power for long-haul runs on trunk roads, then switch to electric at city outskirts to meet the LEZ requirements. DAF is the latest manufacturer to explore this technology, unveiling a concept vehicle last year.

Reduced operating costs

A greener form of hybrid is hydrogen-electric. In the USA, Ryder recently became distributor and maintenance provider for the Nikola One hydrogen-electric truck. Energy is supplied on the go by a hydrogen fuel cell, which has a range of 1,300km to 1,900km.

“The Iveco Stralis LNG tractor unit recently completed the 1,347km from John O’Groats to Land’s End on a single fill.”

The Nikola One’s appeal is reduced operating costs – the manufacturer estimates half that of a diesel vehicle – and zero emissions.

Gas is another alternative fuel system becoming more common, chiefly in the USA and continental Europe where the refuelling infrastructure is more extensive than in the UK.

That said, gas vehicles can have a big range, negating the need for regular refills. The Iveco Stralis LNG (liquefied natural gas) tractor unit recently completed the 1,347km from John O’Groats to Land’s End on a single fill, pulling a laden trailer.

The Stralis LNG engine delivers the same output as its diesel equivalent and offers reduced emissions, quieter operation, fuel costs around a third lower than diesel, and an excellent power-to-weight ratio. Ryder is trialling the Stralis LNG with major customers. Other manufacturers have also announced gas vehicles.

Recovering kinetic energy

Beyond engines, other technologies are contributing to the greening of commercial vehicles. Ryder has worked with partners, including Howdens Joinery and Imperial College London, to secure £2.2m of funding from Innovate UK for testing a kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) for trailers.

With this technology, the tractor unit communicates with the trailer to manage the power boost provided by the trailer’s electrically motorised axle. During braking, the motor becomes a generator, recovering kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost as heat, and storing it in a bank of ultracapacitors.

Given the stop-start nature of urban deliveries, this technology has significant potential. Ryder is assessing this technology in operations and analysing the outputs.

Overall, the commercial vehicle sector has made great progress in cutting emissions. The most recent EU emissions regulations – Euro 6, introduced in 2014 – upped the game considerably, and recent tests show the technology used by Euro 6 vehicles has virtually eliminated particulates.

As the technology develops, eco-friendly commercial vehicles will allow the industry to make a significant contribution to cleaning up our air.

Shaun Stephenson is director of engineering at commercial vehicle provider Ryder UK

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