If the UK transport sector is to reduce its emissions in line with government targets, alternative fuels like natural gas will be crucial to the mix. 2018 was the year natural gas went from a relatively niche technology to a viable mass-produced alternative to diesel. With hydrogen and electric still some way off becoming a practical reality in heavy-duty transport, we’re expecting the natural gas vehicle market to grow massively over the next decade or so.
In 2019, you will be hard pushed to find a diesel vehicle that does not have a gas equivalent. So who is producing them? What trucks are available and how do they work?
Three major manufacturers have made the move to gas in the UK heavy-duty market: Iveco, Scania and Volvo.
From an operational perspective, the main point of difference is Volvo have decided to go with LNG whereas Scania and Iveco have released CNG and LNG models. For more info on the fuels take a look at our blog post here about the differences between CNG and LNG.
Volvo – 4×2 and 6×2 tractor units up to 460hp
Volvo launched their gas range in May 2018, offering both 4×2 and 6×2 variants of their LNG compression ignition system.
Iveco – Full range
Iveco have offered gas trucks in the UK for 2 years now but now have their full range available in gas, including 3.5-tonne vans, various rigids, and both 4×2 and 6×2 tractor units up to 460hp.
Scania – 4×2 tractor units up to 410hp
Scania were the first manufacturer to offer a high horsepower dedicated gas truck in the UK and in 2018 increased the horsepower of their offering to 410hp, available as a 4×2 tractor unit. They also offer various rigids in both LNG and CNG.
How far will they go?
Now the numbers – first the 4×2’s. With LNG being the denser fuel, it attains a longer range than CNG models. The maximum any CNG model can do is around 500km. For LNG, the longest is Iveco’s Stralis Natural Power 4×2 which, in October, travelled all of 1,700km on one tank of LNG. Scania’s 4×2 LNG can cover around 1000km and Volvo’s around 750km.
The 6×2 models available from Volvo and Iveco have a reduced fuel storage space (due to the 3rd axle), and are therefore only available in LNG, offering 750km range – comfortable for a day’s work.
Over the years, Gasrec has run numerous trials with all three of the major manufacturers covering the length and breadth of the country. From courier and postal routes to frozen and chilled food operations. We’ve found that all the gas models wash out at roughly the same fuel cost saving – something in the range of 30-40% compared to a 10-12MPG diesel. In terms of cash that means a saving of £15-20,000, per year on fuel versus diesel (based on 160,000km per year operation).
Our data suggests – without exception – you’ll save an awful lot of money over a truck’s lifetime, even after accounting for the premium on gas trucks.
Under the bonnet
Whilst all of these are gas trucks, there are some differences in the way each manufacturer has approached the technical side of things. On one hand, Volvo employs at High-Pressure Diesel Injection (HPDI) system, essentially injecting natural gas and a small amount of diesel into the compression chamber, using the same compression ignition engine as diesel trucks.
On the other hand, Scania and Iveco use spark ignition engines to ignite the gas in the compression chambers, like in petrol engines.
To achieve their compression-based system, Volvo have employed a small diesel tank (as well as AdBlue) onboard which operates at around an 5-10% substitution rate. Therefore, the Volvo is only suited to LNG, with the reduced gas storage on the chassis suited better to the greater range of LNG.
The spark-ignition engines of Scania and Iveco do not use diesel. They are available in both CNG and LNG, with the operator able to make a choice on the fuel that best suits their operation.
What should I choose?
Gas vehicles are now providing the same performance as their diesel equivalents and saving hauliers and fleet operators large amounts of money. If you’re not sure which one is right for you, then the answer is simple – try them.
All three manufacturers have demo units and trial vehicles available in the UK. We’d be very happy to introduce you to any of the manufacturers and help advise on and organise a trial – just get in touch at email@example.com.