Hit the Gas

In late 2021 IVECO Australia stalwart, Marco Quaranta, assumed the position of Strategic Relations and Industry Relations manager with a focus on future propulsion.

Commencing work with IVECO 34 years ago, Marco Quaranta has held technical and sales roles and more recently product management.

A certain level of exposure in the industry comes with that. Quaranta is also involved in meetings with the Truck Industry Council and Heavy Vehicle Industry Association, but the institutional relationships are not all he does.

PRIME MOVER: What is it about alternative fuels that has helped prepare you for this new role?
Marco Quaranta: I follow special projects including the evolution of our factory. With alternative fuels it’s my prolonged exposure with the product development and evolution in Europe where my contacts provide a certain level of the knowledge of market segments and customer demands.

PM: Is the lack of facilities the main reason gas hasn’t been successful in Australia?
MQ: No. Gas fuelling facilities have grown in Europe and now there are 4,000 stations spread between CNG and LNG. There was growth because there was demand. The large fuel companies would never have started to build an infrastructure unless they were sure that there were manufacturers supplying the vehicles and customers buying them.

PM: What has driven the growth in gas?
MQ: They key to the current growth of gas trucks in Europe, and also in the near future of electric vehicles, are the incentives and the benefits that, first the central government in Europe, and then the individual country governments, put on the table. This has filled the gap in the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) of the gas truck. Today driving a gas truck is pretty much the same as driving a diesel truck in terms of cost of operations.

PM: Does gas still have a future in Australia?
MQ: Gas had a spike in 2009-2011 when the diesel price was up and it looked like it was getting some momentum so there was some LNG trucks produced but when the diesel price went back to normal everything died because there was no support or incentive to create infrastructure and to create the demand.

PM: Is that support what we are going to need for EVs?
MQ: Australia has taken a big commitment recently to achieve certain targets as promised at the recent COP26. The discussions, which I have been having with the industry organisations and the government, are now quite different and at the moment there are tangible signals of investment. It’s happening in Europe where 30 per cent of the new trucks on the road need to be zero emission by 2030 because that is what has been imposed by the government. The German Government were the first to offer incentives for gas trucks and they have been the first to put on the table incentives for EVs and the infrastructure is actually being created there. It is not by chance that our first customer for the first batch of the Nikola which will come out of the Ulm factory in 2022 is the German Port of Hamburg.

PM: Is there a future for diesel other than niche applications?
MQ: Once you have a radical change of technology like battery and hydrogen, which in my view go hand in hand, probably in 20 years’ time it will not be efficient to produce both kinds of vehicles. I don’t see two different technologies which require constant development in terms of safety, emissions and so on, go hand-in-hand because you would duplicate all the investment. Eventually you will see a future only of electric motors. The technology of batteries will evolve because it’s only a matter of how much money you throw in. Batteries will become more and more affordable as the technology develops.

PM: How far behind Europe will Australia be in implementing zero emission vehicles?
MQ: In Europe the objective is that you will not be able to achieve the CO² reduction which will be regulated unless you have 30 per cent of the new vehicles sold with zero emissions ten years from now. In 25 years, 100 per cent of new vehicles will have to be actually zero emission to achieve that reduction. In Australia, well, who knows? It all depends how much support, incentive and infrastructure for refuelling will be available. Australia has a big challenge because the distance to be covered by long haul trucks can be ten times what is in Europe between one city and another. So refuelling stations will need to be created in quite remote locations. If Australia will follow Europe in the implementation of the CO² emissions and we call for zero emissions as promised, probably it will only be two or three years after Europe. There is also another factor if the manufacturers will produce more electric trucks and less diesel trucks which will effectively push for electric trucks to be in production in Australia because we all know the difficulty of maintaining different platforms. The same thing is happening with Euro 6 engines because it is more convenient for the manufacturers to have Euro 6 production for Europe, Australia and all the rest of the world rather than having a Euro 5 right hand drive here, or a Euro 4 there. The day will come when no more diesel trucks will be produced for anywhere in the world. It is a mandatory path we have to take because if we don’t we’re out of the market. We will not be able to sell our trucks because we will have to achieve that zero emission with the reduction of CO² holistically. It’s almost a domino effect if you take the whole CO² generated in building a truck and all of its components and carrying it forward for the lifetime of the vehicle, the actual driving represents up to 70 to 80 per cent of the total CO². If you reduce that you already have a big achievement in the whole picture of the CO² reduction.

PM: Is IVECO ready for these challenges?
MQ: At IVECO we are ready to supply. We will have the Daily Electric for export from end of this year in Europe and it will come to Australia the following year. The Nikola is very much a public project and every month or two we achieve another milestone. We opened the Ulm factory late last year. My appointment in this role is the evidence that IVECO is not just looking at Europe because there is a regulation there, but because it believes this is a global effort.

PM: Are you excited about it?
MQ: Very much, because I’ve always been intrigued by new technologies such as ESC, ABS and automatic transmissions and the evolution of the generations of them. I’m interested when the technology actually marries safety, efficiency and so on, and it’s always fascinating to find out how. We are now talking about totally different trucks. An electric motor can give you infinite opportunity in terms of safety, efficiency and a quieter truck. In fact, we are facing the problem of how to make people hear the truck coming because it doesn’t make any noise. Before the problem was to keep the noise down to 85dB, now the problem is to produce some noise so that cyclists and pedestrians can actually hear it and they don’t cross the road. This is really a total change of shape for the technology in the industry.