Nicholls Transport has opened a refuelling station for pumping liquified gas (LNG) from its Kent base.

It will be used to support an initial order for 10 IVECO Stralis NP 460 6x2 tractor units from local dealer Haynes Trucks.

The Sittingbourne-based operator said the move underlines its commitment to transitioning away from diesel and the environmental and business case for running heavy trucks on natural gas.

The new Stralis NPs are expected to cover up to 175,000km per year when being double-shifted, and are planned to remain in service for a minimum of five years.

Compared with Nicholls’ Euro-6 diesel vehicles, each emits around 90% less NO2 emissions, 99% less particulate matter and 50% less noise. They also reduce CO2 by as much as 95% when being fuelled on biomethane.

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The LNG Gasrec refuelling station is the first of its kind in Kent and aims to provide a perfect location for freight traffic bound for the continent, being less than five miles from Junction 5 of the M2 – with Nicholls making the site available to third parties by arrangement.

The company said its 'seven-figure' investment in IVECO’s LNG vehicles represents the most significant change in course in its 50-year history.

“Moving to alternative fuels has been high on our agenda – but gas is currently the only technology that’s ready for 44-tonne operation," explained Nicholls Transport MD Paul Nicholls. "Gasrec has been hugely proactive and gave us the confidence to switch fuels, following experiences with demonstrators organised through IVECO and Haynes.

“Moving to natural gas shows how much we care about our planet. It’s our collective responsibility as an industry to do something to tackle climate change and make road transport more sustainable, and by opening this LNG station and investing in the Stralis NP fleet, we’re showing our customers and competitors that’s possible to do today. We very much hope other local businesses in North Kent share our vision for a sustainable future and buy in to LNG in the same way. As an industry, we really need to make this happen.

“Margins are tight in haulage so you need to consider every possible angle to make a return as soon as possible. When we looked at total cost of ownership, the arguments in favour of LNG stacked up well.”

Commenting on the refuelling infrastructure, James Westcott, chief commercial officer of Gasrec, explained: “We have installed a pumped mobile refuelling station which we use to seed new locations where we want to get LNG into an area quickly. It’s ideal for an early adopter like Nicholls, being capable of supporting as many as 30 gas vehicles from a single location. This is the pre-cursor to a larger and fully open-access development we are looking at for the Nicholls site.”