What are the vehicular & fuel options for our logistics services & citizens of our ever growing cities?
As another British city has announced a city wide diesel vehicle ban from 2021, what are the alternatives for transportation in the UK? The public transport structure is changing, but does not appear to be keeping up with the needs of an ever growing population. With a continued fixation on electrification for the automotive industry to adhere to, are there any alternatives being developed to meet the needs of our climate & the needs of people functioning within their daily lives?
Following our most recent article about the outcomes of the Clean Air Summit in London, it has now been announced by Bristol City council that they will be banning all diesel vehicles from their city from 2021. In an attempt to reduce the NO2 emissions & having been one of 24 authorities ordered in 2017 to comply with legal limits; Bristol City Council have announced that all diesel vehicles apart from ambulances, taxi’s & blue badge holders, will be banned from the centre of the city between the hours of 7am-3pm. (1)
The ways in which Bristol city centre aim to reduce their emissions & air pollutants, again seem to affect those on lower incomes who rely on their vehicles to gain access to work. Banning diesel cars (which are still being used by those on low incomes as they available to purchase at a cheaper rate) & expanding charging zones for vans, cars & trucks; will impact working people’s daily incomes. Despite the facts being proven that air pollution is responsible for hundreds of thousands of premature deaths every year; the infrastructure to support those who rely on their vehicles for their income, would not appear to be keeping up with the expectations & legally binding need to reduce CO2 & other emissions known to harm health.
This year the City of London expanded it’s congestion charge zones & the ULEZ.
However, despite the percentage of compliant vehicles rising from 60.9% in March to 70.7% in April & 72.5% in July; (2) income from the ULEZ for 2019/20 is currently forecast to be £51m, down 34% on a previous projection of £77m. (2)
While the health benefits have been welcomed by the mayor’s office, the success also translates to millions of pounds less income than projected by Transport for London (TfL). (2)
Despite the continued condemnation of the use of diesel vehicles (we are aware of their overall contributory damage to the climate & contribution to air pollution thus far) clean diesel & zero emissions diesels do exist & are constantly being developed.
DieselForum.org have their finger on the pulse when it comes to the latest news on diesel developments & the science behind the research & performance of modern diesel fuels & in particular the engines which are being developed to accommodate the need for zero emissions.
“Clean diesel fuel containing 97 percent less sulphur is now the standard for both on-highway and off-highway diesel engines nationwide. Using this ultra-low sulphur diesel (ULSD) immediately cuts soot emissions from diesel vehicles and equipment by 10 percent. Reducing the sulphur content of diesel fuel is similar to removing lead from gasoline during the 1970s.” (3)
Sadly, regardless of the ever growing evidence that diesel can & does still have a role in the fuelling of, in particular our trucks & haulage logistics services; the condemnation of this fossil based fuel is heard loud & clear & will continue to be targeted in the interim, until air pollution can be seen to be being tackled.
Despite the surge in electric vehicles being built, the slow rolling our of charging networks across the UK & Europe & in some cases incentives being given for scrappage schemes & cash back; we have, as has been explored previously, known about the impact of ever growing populations/cities emissions & pollutant levels for decades. Therefore, it beggars the question, why has this not been tackled before? How far back do we need to look to see who was developing what in the race to reduce emissions produced by the automotive sector?
In 2008 Honda were already considering the zero emissions automotive conundrum & released the Honda Clarity in response to this.
The Honda Clarity was a hydrogen cell fuelled vehicle. Despite the fact that these vehicles were only released in very small numbers in the US & Japan; the technology did & does answer one of the issues regarding power density with low refuelling times & long range.
The environmentally friendly method for producing Hydrogen gas is through electrolysis of water. Energy is used to split Hydrogen from the oxygen. The reverse electrolysis or oxidation process that occurs within the fuel cell returns some of the initial energy in the form of electricity, which can be delivered to the vehicle wheels through a battery or capacitor & electric motor system with water as the only waste product. (4)
The inherent issues with the use of hydrogen as a fuel are the infrastructure needed to not only transport it, but to store Hydrogen needs to be stored at high pressures (350- 700bar) to get good energy densities, it has a high calorific value & can combust at very low air fuel ratios so the systems need to be safe to ensure there are no leaks. As a positive point, the low mass of Hydrogen means that the gas tends to escape very rapidly upwards which reduces the risk in an open area. Hydrogen has been handled for decades in industry, so these problems are well known & can be factored into new designs.
‘Honda, like other Japanese companies in the fray, have redoubled efforts to develop hydrogen filling stations, as well as electric charging stations, to create an alternate infrastructure which is clean and green for future personal mobility’ (4)
The challenge is to alter the public perception that is still haunted by the Hindenberg disaster. Despite the Hindenberg tragedy having happened some 80 years ago, the echo’s of this tragedy, still make some potential consumers concerned about the safety of hydrogen gas.(5)
One company who are seeking to dispel the myths about the volatility of hydrogen as a fuel, is British energy storage & clean energy provider ITM Power.
ITM Power promotes the use of fuel cell electric vehicles (FECVs) powered by hydrogen gas, as a realistic way help the balance needed in the clean energy infrastructure currently being implemented across the UK & into Europe. The vehicles provide a range of over 300 miles from one tank of hydrogen, & refuel in less than five minutes, & the only emission is water vapour.(6) With distance anxiety & current re-charging times being a issue for many wanting to make the shift to a zero emissions vehicle, in particular an electric vehicle; hydrogen fuel cell technology really does seem to answer an immediate question of range & re-fuelling.
ITM Power have recently announced that they are now in working in collaboration with H2ME which is the largest European project of it’s nature & is based around an alliance of the four most ambitious hydrogen mobility initiatives in Europe: H2 MOBILITY Deutschland, Mobilité Hydrogène France, Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership & UK H2 Mobility. (6)
The initiatives spearheaded by H2ME, will now be working together to make hydrogen-fuelled transport a reality in Europe. Under H2ME they will deploy 200 FCEVs, 125 fuel cell range-extended electric (FC RE-EVs) commercial vans and 29 new HRSs in 10 countries (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the UK) by 2019. (6)
Therefore, to achieve zero emissions the cities of the UK, Europe & the rest of world know they have some considerable work to do to reduce the crippling pollutants in the air.
However, there does need to be some balance for the use of a wide variety of differing fuels for the needs & necessary performance of certain vehicle types. Despite the absolute need to reduce the city pollutants which are literally killing people; the day to day consumables those people need, are still being transported through a logistics network heavily reliant on traditional diesel powered, heavy duty vehicles.
Dolphin N2 have been developing their Thermopower & CryoPower diesel engine which promises up to 90% reduction in engine out emissions.
Diesel was chosen as the first fuel because of the available infrastructure and the emission benefits can be attained without additional infrastructure investments or change to user behaviour. However, the technology can be adapted for a wide range of fuels including Hydrogen, Methane or synthetic fuels.
When coupled to after treatment the resulting tailpipe emission is near zero impact. The 30% reduction in fuel consumption and relatively low cost of installation, using predominantly current automotive components means that the payback periods for long haul freight are short and could be as low as one year depending on usage profile. (7)
As the DieselForum.org announced only recently:
‘Diesel is the most energy-efficient internal combustion engine, one that now achieves near-zero emissions with increasing fuel efficiency (which means lower CO2 emissions) and is capable of utilizing low-carbon renewable biofuels. The latest generation of advanced diesel technology is working today to help cool a warming planet’ (8)
With the technology ever changing & biofuels being produced from everything from algae to soya beans, internal combustion engine technologies developing to accommodate an ever changing landscape of alternative fuels; we consider what Dr Robert Morgan of The University of Brighton stated at the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK – ‘How low can you go?’ seminar, 3rd April 2019 “We can solve the toxic emissions with combustion engines! If you take control of the chemistry, you can take control of emissions”
Written by Katy-Jane Mason for & on behalf of Dolphin N2.