Business

The latest in European fuel and vehicle technologies

31/10/2012 - Fuels

At Z, we’re interested in new technologies for the energy industry. To find out what’s at the cutting edge around the world we sent Dom Kalasih, our Logistics Manager to the Heavy Vehicle Transport Technology symposium (HVTT12) in Stockholm, Sweden. Here’re a few innovations that interested us that we’d like to share with you.

There were presentations on a whole host of different technologies, but one area that really interested us was work by Dr. Michael Krail and Andre Kuhn, both of Germany, on The potential of alternative fuel technologies and Efficiency technologies for heavy goods vehicles.

Krail and Kuhn note that in Europe, one of the main challenges of the freight transport sector is reducing carbon emissions. There’s technology out there that’s providing better efficiency but studies confirm that there’s still significant potential for improving fuel efficiency of trucks.

Another area of technological advancement is in the research and development of alternative fuels. Trucks running on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and electricity are already on the roads in Europe.

The pair presented a paper that looked at the benefits in fuel efficiency versus the cost of implementing the technology. They found that one of the alternatives to traditional diesel combustion engines was hydrogen technology. “The high share of fuel costs in the overall costs and the high demanded range of vehicles make hydrogen technology competitive.” Or, put another way, the savings that can be made outweigh the cost of the technology.

Unfortunately, we’re not that close to having hydrogen technology in Europe let alone New Zealand. Diesel looks set to dominate until at least 2030. CNG fuelled vehicles have a part to play in bridging the current diesel technology and the hydrogen technology, but this won’t be a long term solution.

Are we closer with electric technology?

Electricity is the future of heavy vehicle transport according M.Winter and S. Pretsch, who also presented at the HVTT12 in Sweden last month. They looked at how electrifying a commercial vehicle’s auxiliaries could reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions.

Winter and Pretsch had seen that electrifying a vehicle’s auxiliaries, like steering pumps and air compressors, had already had positive results in passenger cars, but hadn’t seen the technology applied to heavy vehicles.

The pair undertook research to test the potential fuel savings of a heavy vehicle’s steering pump and air compressor and were pleased with the results. Simulations have shown that the total fuel consumption of a truck on a long haul run can be reduced by 1%, on average, for electrification of the hydraulic steering pump and by around 2% due to electrification of the air compressor unit (Pretsch & Winter, 2011).

Siemens Company in Europe have taken electrification one step further. They’ve built an ‘eHighway’ system in Germany.

“Worldwide traffic is predicted to increase for all modes of transport,” according to Siemens, Germany. “The growth is going to cover all modes of freight transport, via rail, road, water and air. Freight rail in Europe will continue to grow but will not be able to increase its share versus truck transport, due to the priority of passenger trains on most railway networks.” With this in mind, Siemens sought to assess the possibility of providing an electrified highway. It had to guarantee a safe, economical, and ecological solution for electrified trucks on public roads.

For passenger vehicles, the energy required can be supplied by vehicle mounted energy storage, or electric engines. However, for heavy vehicles an on-board energy storage system has been ruled out due to restrictions around weight and space.

To electrify heavy vehicle transport the solution is a ‘conductive system of continuous power supply’ or, put simply, power lines. The option they went with is contact lines above a normal highway. If you’ve ever been to Wellington, you would have seen the trolley buses operating in the same way. General traffic can still travel along the same route, but the buses can connect to electrified lines. This is the same principal for trucks on the German eHighway.

What does all this mean for us in New Zealand?

Because Z is not wedded to fossil fuels, as we’re not in the business of oil exploration, we’re interested in new technologies like these. We might not see hydrogen powered trucks or eHighways in New Zealand anytime soon, but other innovations will make a difference here.

We already have an electric charging station at Z Harbour City, Wellington, for electric passenger vehicles and we’ll be leading the debate on other energy industry innovations, which we’ll share with you through the energy drop. We also have Fuelwise, our programme to work with customers to help them use less fuel – read on for more details on this.

At Z, we’re committed to a sustainable future and reducing carbon emissions and we’re committed to Z having a leading role in four key sustainability areas by 2015. These are:

  1. Using less and wasting less in our own business
  2. Reducing the carbon intensity of our customers
  3. Reducing the reliance on fossil fuels
  4. Supporting New Zealand businesses and communities.

 


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