Alternative fuels are made up of any material or substance that can be used to fuel vehicles instead of fossil fuels. Some well-known alternative fuels include bio-diesel, refuse-derived fuel, chemically stored electricity (batteries and fuel cells), hydrogen, propane and other biomass sources. HGV vehicle fleets are the primary users for most of these fuels, however individual consumers are increasingly interested in them.
Using alternative fuels such as hydrogen is another way to a carbon neutral future, particularly for vehicles where electric isn't an option. At Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, we've successfully converted several of our customer fleets to alternatively fuelled vehicles and continue to pioneer solutions for all fleets and vehicle types.
Bio-CNG (Compressed Natural Gas)
Reduce Carbon Emissions
up to 84% reductions in C02 emissions
There is 6300km of gas pipeline along major HGV routes
Up to 40% cost savings when switching from diesel to CNG
What is CNG?
Bio-CNG, differs from fossil-fuelled CNG/LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) as it is a bi-product of food and animal waste that is safely collected and injected into the National Grid.
It is a cleaner and cheaper way to fuel and run an HGV fleet than diesel, with some engines offering ranges of up to 500 miles.
Few know more about CNG than Philip Fjeld, CEO and C-Founder of CNG Fuels, a company at the forefront of the Bio-CNG industry in the UK. We spoke to Mr Fjeld about the possibilities of Bio-CNG, as well as the barriers to greater uptake.
CNG filling stations
Most fleets with CNG HGVs have fuelling stations fitted at their depots. However, there are 5 public filling stations acorss the UK with the first launching in March 2016 by CNG Fuels which can refuel 500 lorries a day.
Philip Fjeld, has said he expects 30 to 50 such stations to open around the country over the next decade, which will no doubt be helped by the £80m funding pledged by Foresight Group to help CNG Fuels develop the network for new zero carbon fuelling stations for the nation’s HGVs, enabling the development of a further 14 public access stations on major routes over the next two years.
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles (HFCV)
What are HFCV's?
Most electric vehicles rely on batteries that are either charged in motion or by plugging them into the National Grid, whereas HFCVs are fitted with tanks that accommodate hydrogen in a gaseous form. This hydrogen gas is stripped of its electrons by special fuel cells, providing a steady stream of electricity to power the vehicle itself. The stripped-down hydrogen is combined with oxygen to produce the only emission from HFCVs – water vapour.
One tank of hydrogen can power a HGV up to 300 miles, which compares favourably to the more limited ranges of battery electric vehicles. Refilling a hydrogen tank also takes much less time than recharging a battery, however, it should be noted that hydrogen gas, once it has been produced, is flammable and requires specialised storage conditions.
Are there many HFCV available?
Hydrogen vehicles may have a small market share at the moment, but manufacturers appear determined to increase it. At a World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, several automotive companies, including the BMW Group, Honda and Toyota, helped to launch the Hydrogen Council, which will invest $10 billion to develop hydrogen technology and infrastructure over the next decade.
Even our own Government, which isn’t as committed to hydrogen as other alternative fuels, has established a £23 million fund to help encourage the uptake of HFCVs.
Besides, many of the Government’s general policies to support zero Emission Vehicles also apply to HFCVs. For example, the Plug-In Truck Grant will take up to £25,000 off the cost of a hydrogen vehicle. HFCVs will also face lower CCT rates, lower VED, and avoid any extra charges in London and other Clean Air Zones.
Throw in the fact that some vans and HGVs can be converted to dual-fuel vehicles, running on both diesel and hydrogen, and it’s easy to see why so many manufacturers are interested. This is an alternative fuel with a great deal of potential – and that potential could yet be fulfilled.
Hydrogen filling stations
Hydrogen Fuel Cell Vehicles are making their way onto our roads, but there are only around a dozen public filling stations for them in the UK, most of them in and around London.
More are on their way, though. ITM Power has partnered with Shell to open hydrogen filling stations on existing forecourts. The first of these, at Cobham services on the M25, was opened in February 2017.
And it's not just here in the UK, politicians in Germany are planning for 400 hydrogen filling stations by 2023 and Japan is pushing for 160 by 2021.