The use of renewable ‘drop-in’ fuels, such as HVO (hydro-treated vegetable oil), to reduce the carbon impact of HGV fleets was the focus of the latest Freight in the City webinar.

In partnership with DAF Trucks, the topical webinar looked at the government’s ambition to move towards net zero carbon by 2050 and the role sustainable fuels would play to achieve this aim.

Phil Moon, marketing manager at DAF Trucks, acknowledged the significant task that lay ahead of both manufacturers and operators when it came to reducing CO2 emissions.

The short-term target for truck-makers is to achieve a 15% carbon saving by 2025 against values of emissions set in 2019/20.

DAF is well on the way to achieving this goal, with its recently announced next-generation of trucks taking advantage of new weights and dimensions regulations to improve aerodynamics.

Alongside more efficient drive lines, advances in driver controls and Predictive Control Systems, “we can achieve up to 10% fuel efficiency and therefore carbon efficiency on those vehicles”, said Moon.

Tough targets

“But we have even more challenging targets ahead. We've got to double that saving to 30% overall by 2030 and we have to go fossil free by 2040. Then we're looking at a net zero ambition from 2050.”

He added: “These targets are all very well and good. But in terms of climate change, one of the most important things we must all remember is that doing this quickly is really important. In order to reduce the impacts of global warming, we need to take as many steps as we can as early as possible.

“And that's why we believe that HVO as a renewable diesel alternative is something we should be embracing today, whilst we look towards new technologies coming into play in the future.”

For example, while electric vehicles will provide a significant role in the decarbonisation of urban, short distance and lightweight transport, the well-to-wheel carbon reduction will only be seen when the majority of the UK’s electricity comes from renewable sources.

The samen goes for hydrogen, which can provide a viable green alternative when produced sustainably through electrolysis using renewable electricity. Today however it is predominantly generated through a process that relies on fossil fuels.

Make a difference today

“So with these challenges still to face, what we really need to do is look at relatively easy to deploy technologies that can decarbonise transport today,” said Moon.

“And one of the ways that we feel we should be doing more to do this is through the use of paraffinic fuels, drop-in alternatives to diesel. In particular HVO, because this does not rely on fossil fuels as a production, it's actually manufactured from waste oils and fats.

“Its real benefits are that it's completely interchangeable with conventional diesel without any modifications required for engine. The fuel is biodegradable, and alongside carbon saving, it also results in cleaner burning and lower levels of levels of NOx and particulate emissions.”

Moon added that the fuel is easy to distribute because it uses existing infrastructure, and is very stable, particularly in cold weather.

It can also be mixed at any percentage with conventional diesel, which eliminates any range anxiety concerns operators may have.

Green D+ HVO

Fuel technology firm Green Biofuels produces its own Green D+ HVO, which is already used by a number of large fleet operators including CEVA Logistics, Hackney Borough Council and Hovis.

Magnus Hammick, chief operating officer at Green Biofuels, explained some of the key properties of the fuel, including: it is manufactured from renewable, waste-derived feedstocks; it is clear and odourless; is biodegradable; can reduce engine noise; and it does not go off in the tank.

On a well-to-wheel basis when compared with traditional diesel, it can reduce particulates by up to 85% and NOx emissions by up to 30%, with greenhouse gas reductions of up to 90%.

Green D+ HVO is certified under global sustainability scheme ISCC, as well as the UK’s recently launched Renewable Fuels Assurance Scheme, run by the Zemo Partnership.

Hammick explained that HVO is only part of the road transport sector’s overall journey to net zero carbon, but can play a significant role today, with customers in the past six months saving around 35,000 metric tonnes of CO2 by making the switch.

One such customer, Hovis, also took part in the webinar to bring the operator experience of using HVO to life.

The bakery now uses Green D+ across its entire fleet of around 400 trucks and 250 trailers, which comprise marques including DAF, Iveco, MAN and Mercedes-Benz on a range of journey types including urban and long-distance.

Hovis has a robust emissions-reduction strategy in place across its business, which includes optimising the type of vehicle used on routes to improve payload and reduce mileage, investment in the latest telematics and focusing on driver behaviour.

Alternative fuels

As part of its roadmap to continually lower emissions, the bakery decided to explore non-diesel fuels and technology.

When researching options, Tony Stuart, head of logistics operations support at Hovis, was alerted to the potential of HVO for his fleet following attendance at an industry conference in 2018 and was impressed with its simplicity.

“I looked at it and thought there's a drop-in fuel available that you can put in your vehicles to reduce emissions, with no additional infrastructure. And the only real difference I could see was a slight increase in cost potentially between diesel and HVO. So I thought it was a bit of a no-brainer to trial,” he said.

Hovis began a trial at its largest site in Dagenham in 2018, before rolling Green D+ HVO out across its entire operation. To date, it has used more than 9 million litres of HVO and the fleet has covered 30 million miles on the fuel.

Stuart told delegates how the switch from traditional diesel to HVO has had no impact at all when it comes to fleet performance, mpg or on refuelling infrastructure, making it an easy transition.

Drivers are very positive about the new fuel, as it doesn’t smell or leave any residues in the way that diesel would, and supply of Green D+ has been readily available nationally.

He also pointed out that if the need ever did arise to use traditional diesel, the switch back would be instant because of the same infrastructure being used.

In terms of cost, Stuart added that the use of HVO has been by far the most economical way to reduce significant amounts of CO2 emissions from the company’s fleet. By the end of 2022, Hovis expects to have saved around 40,311 metric tonnes of CO2 from switching to HVO.

You can watch the webinar on free of charge, and also see the answers to a wide range of questions posed from the audience on the day, covering topics such as sustainability of source materials; cost versus diesel; vehicle warranties and maintenance; and much, much more.

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