A green future
In the final instalment of our three‑part special on the sustainability of Australian road transport, we look at some of the most innovative initiatives that are already underway to improve the green rating of our industry.
With an eight-week marathon election campaign now officially underway in Australia, environmental policy could quickly regain the attention of Liberal candidate and reigning Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, as he tries to rally the nation behind him – even though it may not be on his agenda just yet.
But, with the latest budget failing to clarify just how the Government will fund its much-publicised pledge to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent by 2030, Turnbull could soon be facing headwinds if the topic won’t be sufficiently addressed during his campaign.
In 2012, US President Barack Obama laid a precedence when he was widely faulted for failing to address climate change, so it’s safe to say that Turnbull, who replaced Tony Abbott as leader of the Liberal Party and thus Prime Minister in September last year, will eventually have to bring the topic back on the agenda at some stage during his campaign.
With that in mind – and coinciding with the official signing of the United Nation’s climate accord in New York last month – the final instalment of our three-part special on the sustainability of Australian road transport will dare a glance into the future to find out which ideas and technologies could assist both the transport community and our future government in responding to the environmental challenges of tomorrow.
Daimler has recently released new test data on the Fuso Canter E-Cell model, saying it is on track to bringing electric-powered trucks to market.
According to the German OEM, the electric Canter was able to reduce operating costs by 64 per cent and CO2 emission by 37 per cent compared to a diesel-powered alternative when tested in a real-life scenario in Portugal.
The yearlong field trial was carried out with eight pre-production models that were operated by couriers and freight forwarding agents as well as by municipalities and public works departments. “On average, the electric Canter trucks travelled 50km a day, but ranges of up to 109km were achieved in practice. All in all, the vehicles travelled 51,500km without any problems,” the company said.
In the US, meanwhile, US-based electric vehicle startup, Nikola Motor Company, has just revealed the prototype design for its first electric-driven prime mover, the Nikola One.
According to Nikola, the ‘One’ is capable of pulling a total gross weight of 80,000 pounds (36.3 tonnes) and offering more than 1,200 miles (1,931km) between stops. It boasts a 335hp electric motor that puts out more than 2,000hp and over 3,700 ft/lbs (5,000Nm) of torque before gear reduction. A prototype is expected to be revealed later this year.
Fuel cell technology
In the US, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been working on developing a fuel cell-based refrigeration unit since 2013, but the commercial application stage has not been reached just yet. For now, all that Kriston Brooks, who has been overseeing and evaluating the project on behalf of the DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, can share with Prime Mover is that fuel cells can “potentially provide a clean, quiet and efficient alternative by powering the electric motor [on a fridge unit].”
Engine technology start-up, Dearman, has recently developed a new refrigeration system that makes use of the rapid expansion of liquid nitrogen, which – unlike conventional systems – emits zero NOx and zero pollutants associated with combustion. “Utilisation of liquid nitrogen for both refrigeration and power is an exciting concept, especially for transport applications. The technology can provide not only potential savings in fuel consumption and emissions, but also better cold chain temperature control and stability,” says Jon Trembley, COE Lead Cryogenic Applications at Air Products, a company collaborating with Dearman on projects that have received millions in government grants to ensure the UK will be part of the expected cold chain boom in the developing world.
UK retail chain Sainsbury’s has taken it on itself to progress natural refrigeration technology and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by committing to trialling a prototype in the field. The custom unit is based on Carrier’s NaturaLINE refrigeration system and assembled inside a traditional Vector chassis. The prototype is powered by existing E-Drive electric technology and uses carbon dioxide (CO2) refrigerant, which is a safe, non-ozone depleting gas with a global warming potential of one. “Our ultimate vision is to see temperature-controlled units running on natural refrigerant in mainstream production,” David Appel of Carrier Transicold, comments on the trial.
Fuel efficiency is the number one sustainability outcome engine developers around the world are targeting at the moment – not only because it will lead to a direct bottom line advantage, but also because less fuel burn will decrease an engine’s CO2 output, thus enhancing the vehicle’s overall green rating. While some OEMs now bank to next-gen hybrid technology to achieve maximum efficiency (see Smart Vehicle Design), others focus on getting the maximum out of the diesel engine design we’re already using today to bridge the gap until the next large-scale engine technology revolution.
Mack, for example, has just upgraded its North American 11 and 13-litre MP range to boost fuel efficiency from 2.1 to 8.8 per cent for the 2017 season.
In Europe, meanwhile, Mercedes-Benz has launched a Euro VI-compliant version of the OM 471 – the European version of the DD13 – that can boast a three per cent drop in fuel consumption over the last version.
To keep engines both green and clean, most OEMs now use a combination of several technologies at the same time, including diesel particulate filters (DPF), cooled high-pressure Exhaust Gas Recirculation (EGR) as well as Supplementary Catalytic Reduction (SCR) , which inject AdBlue urea fluid into the exhaust.
Smart vehicle design
The US Department of Energy recently set aside US$80 million (AU$107 million) in funding for a research project titled SuperTruck II. The goal is to develop a long-haul truck and trailer combination boasting all the latest technology to improve fuel, engine and drivetrain efficiency. The undertaking is building on the much talked-about SuperTruck venture from 2010 (pictured above), which got the ball rolling on many a ‘green trucking’ project globally.
“Improving the efficiency of commercial trucks is critical to reducing our petroleum consumption, strengthening our clean energy economy, and further reducing our contributions to climate change,” says Reuben Sarkar, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Transportation in the US – pointing out that it should not just focus on accelerating innovation, but also foster rapid market adoption.
A key element of the project is the development of medium-duty plug-in hybrid technology, with Bosch, Cummins and even McLaren all committed to progress the concept to a scalable stage.
The European Truck Platooning Challenge – an initiative organised by the Netherlands as part of its six-month EU Presidency – recently made headlines as a range of high-tech trucks designed by DAF, Iveco, MAN, Daimler, Scania and Volvo travelled from their respective countries of origin via platoon to the port of Rotterdam. As part of a platoon, the trucks closely followed each other at a predetermined distance by using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. Acceleration and braking were fully synchronised, as was lane changing.
Unlike regular trucks, which need to leave a 50m gap to the next vehicle, autonomously controlled truck platoons can sit just 15m apart. That means a convoy of autonomous trucks takes up just 80m of highway space, as opposed to 150m for a normal convoy of trucks under human control.
Some experts argue that Australian road trains already engage in ‘mechanical platooning’, thereby making them some of the most advanced green vehicles in the world.
Kinetic energy recovery
German ultra-capacitor expert, Skeleton Technologies, and French company, Adgero, have developed what is said to be the world’s first Kinetic Energy Recovery System (KERS) for road freight vehicles.
The KERS system made its debut at the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham this April, featured on a 13.6m curtain-sider built by SDC and managed by TIP Trailer Services on behalf of Eddie Stobart.
The hybrid system consists of a bank of high-power ultra-capacitors, working alongside an electronically driven axle to capture energy and use it to re-power the vehicle. During braking, the motor becomes a generator, recovering kinetic energy that would otherwise be lost as heat and storing it in the ultra-capacitors.
The technology is controlled by an intelligent management system that tracks driver input in order to control the boost and regenerative braking provided by the trailer. The KERS curtain-sider is expected to achieve a reduction in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by up to 25 per cent.
Oil and lubricant specialist, Castrol, has announced that its Vecton range is now certified as carbon neutral.
According to Ash Kochar from Castrol, switching to a carbon-neutral oil is one way truck operators can “make a stance” for the environment. “Carbon neutrality is when the net greenhouse gas emissions of a product are equal to zero,” he says. “That’s exactly what we’ve achieved in Castrol Vecton’s case, marking an Australian-first for the heavy vehicle industry. The net greenhouse gas emissions for the entire life of every product in the range are now equal to zero.”
Achieving carbon neutral certification is no easy task, though. “It usually takes six to 12 months to achieve, and takes into account data from production plants, product formulations, manufacturing, packaging and logistics. The process covers the product’s entire life cycle,” he says. “And that’s only the beginning. You then have to decide on a carbon reduction plan and commit to a certification process that will demonstrate that you’re serious about meeting the National Carbon Offset Standard. This usually involves a process called carbon offsetting, which offers benefits on several levels.”
According to Kochar, carbon offsetting is all about balance. “It’s a case of what you put in, you must also take out. The CO2 we produce during the life of Castrol Vecton is offset by supporting projects that either avoid the release of CO2, or by supporting projects that absorb the amount of CO2 from the air that would have otherwise stayed in the atmosphere.”
In Castrol’s case, the company sources its carbon offset credits from the ‘Redd Forest Grouped Project’ in Tasmania, with Kochar saying this project focuses on the protection of a Tasmanian native rainforest, and also involves an agreement with local farmers to leave tracts of land unfelled and timber unharvested for the 35-year duration of the project.
The story has appeared in the June edition of Prime Mover. To get your copy, click here.