DAF new generation distribution truck

DAF Trucks has revealed it is in the final phase in the development of an “entirely new generation of distribution trucks” that will share many of the features of the New Generation XF, XG and XG⁺ ranges launched in 2021.

DAF said: “The field-tested New Generation DAF distribution trucks make use of the same platform as the award-winning, new long-haul and heavy duty trucks, the first commercial vehicles developed with the new European masses and dimensions regulations in mind. Obviously, just like their stablemates, the new series of distribution trucks will push the boundaries in terms of road safety, efficiency and low emissions, as well as driver comfort.”

Rumoured to be called the XD when it is introduced in the second half of 2022, the new range will not immediately replace the existing CF line up which still has a strong order book stretching out beyond the launch of the new model.

The new distribution range is likely to be launched with single drive only with double drive versions following later, so to ensure DAF can meet all applications it is expected to continue selling the current CF until the new line up is complete.

Before the arrival of the New Generation, the role of the LF, CF and XF models was fairly clear, but the fact that the XF designation was retained in the new line up has caused some confusion. DAF said that the current CF will not be equivalent to the new distribution truck and the previous XF is not comparable to new XF.

The new XF cab has been designed with better direct vision, getting three stars under the London Direct Vision Standard whereas the CF scores zero, and so is actually better suited to urban and regional operations than the old big cab XF which was targeted on long haul and has been replaced by the new XG⁺.

So the new XF will become the natural replacement for the higher power CF tractor for many operators such as dairy companies who currently prefer the CF because of its lower cab height and laden weight.

LF future

What is less clear is the future of the LF, which is built in Britain and spans the 7.5 to 19 tonne GVW weight range. While current LF will continue to be developed, there are no plans for a New Generation version with DAF pinning its colours to the battery electric mast for this weight of vehicle in the longer term.

The New Generation X of diesel tractors and rigids offer fuel savings over the previous generation that will go a long way to meeting DAF’s mandatory EU Vecto target of a 15% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2025. But the proportion of zero emission vehicles the OEM sells will have to rise significantly to hit the 30% reduction in emissions required by 2030. The UK has however just approved the revised masses and dimensions legislation to enable elongated cab designs that deliver fuel and carbon savings through aerodynamic improvements. Due to Brexit this legislation wasn’t automatically rolled into GB regulations.

Even if the UK decides to drop the Vecto targets following Brexit, no OEM is going to develop a UK-only range of engines emitting more carbon – though it might mean they could continue to sell more diesel and gas trucks in the UK after 2030. Vecto uses a theoretical average of CO2 emissions across an OEM’s range over 7.5 tonnes based on a benchmark of 2019 for the 2025 target and 2020 for 2030.

Despite the allowances given in the Vecto calculations for gas powered vehicles, DAF has chosen not to develop a gas engine. Instead it is promoting the environmental benefits of biodiesels such as hydrotreated vegetable oil (HVO) and fatty acid methyl ester (FAME). These are drop in replacements for fossil diesel that can be used in most DAF trucks today but because there is no guarantee what fuel the truck will run on when it leaves the factory gate they do not count towards Vecto targets.

DAF points to a growing band of operators seeing the carbon emissions benefits of biofuels including McDonalds’ haulier Martin Brower, Howard Tenens, Hermes, Riverford, Frontier Agriculture, Ceva Logistics and Peak Oil.

HVO optimised

DAF said that it is theoretically possible to develop an engine be optimised to run on HVO, to suit the slightly different characteristics of this fuel. But while this engine could run on fossil diesel, it may then be less efficient than a standard engine. DAF believes that around 20% of the diesel currently required to power the UK truck fleet could be met by available supplies of biofuel though if demand increased additional sources of feedstock could be found.

While biofuels can reduce carbon emissions by up 90% compared with fossil fuels, the government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles (OZEV) is not keen on biofuels long term because they make no contribution to improving local air quality. DAF however points out that HVO does deliver air quality as well as carbon saving benefits because lower oxygen content cuts NOx levels and HVO contains just about zero sulphur and no aromatics.

OZEV believes that low carbon fuels (LCFs) can contribute a significant proportion of the carbon emissions savings in the transport sector and play an important role in reducing emissions from HGVs by displacing fossil fuels, and so it expects long-haul HGVs to remain a “significant user” of LCFs for “decades to come”.

But because they offer limited air quality benefits, OZEV sees them as less suitable for urban areas and the government’s “ultimate ambition” is to support the development of zero harmful tailpipe emission HGVs powered by batteries or hydrogen.

The UK government has decided that the sale of new, non-zero emission HGVs under 26 tonnes will be banned from 2035, and all new HGVs must be “fully zero emission at the tailpipe” from 2040.

OZEV has said that in recognition of the complexity of HGV use cases, it will consult with industry in 2022 to exceptions for vehicles below 26 tonnes that may need further time to transition.

Urban air quality

The issue of poor urban air quality in a number of UK cities diminished during lockdown as traffic declined but it has not gone away and there is little doubt that, while Euro-6 diesel will be enough to comply with most of the current planned clean air zones, the London mayor for example is committed to supporting London boroughs’ plans for zero emission zones. These would require the use of zero tailpipe emission vehicles and so either exclude or heavily penalise all current internal combustion engine trucks, even those running on biofuels.

OZEV has also clarified its definition of “zero emissions”, acknowledging that some manufacturers are working to build internal combustion engines running on “green” hydrogen that are truly zero emissions, conceding that, if a hydrogen internal combustion engine can be demonstrated to emit zero greenhouse gas emissions and zero pollutant emissions through its full duty cycle, it would be permitted.

DAF already has zero emission battery electric LF two-axle rigids and CF two-axle tractors and three-axle rigids on the market. But uncertainties over the long term cost and availability of vehicle batteries mean its parent Paccar is also developing both fuel cells and internal combustion engines that can run on hydrogen.

OZEV believes that low carbon hydrogen for road transport will be “vital” for meeting the UK’s legally binding commitment to achieving net zero by 2050, but this will be only part of the government’s approach.

It invested £20m in 2021 in the ‘Zero emission road freight trials’ to support the industry in developing cost-effective, zero-emission HGVs and their refuelling and recharging infrastructure. The government’s ‘Net zero strategy’ also said it will expand the programme to trial three zero emission HGV technologies at scale on UK roads: hydrogen fuel cell, catenary electric and battery electric HGVs. This will then inform the commercial roll out of this new technology before the end of the decade.

Many of these issues should be resolved when the government publishes its ‘Future of freight’ plan in spring 2022.