Green-powered revolution needs to step on the gas

In the latest of LAWE's series of Tracking Trends Supplements, freelancing specialist writer; Mike Gerber, who was formaly editor of Waste Transport and Deputy Editor of the Waste Manager, reviews developments in the marketplace and runs the rule over equipment in this sector on show at this year's IWM Torbay event.

Electric power offers an option at the lower end of the vehicle market: Ransome has introduced the new versatile XI-875 burden carrier

Electric power offers an option at the lower end of the vehicle market: Ransome has introduced the new versatile XI-875 burden carrier

ERF is promoting its new ECU low entry cab
Fleet managers in the waste sector, as elsewhere, are coming under mounting pressure to switch to greener fuels, and also where possible to shift loads off the roads, on to railways and inland waterways.

Only two exhibitors showed intermodal equipment. Translift Nederland NV presented the IES integrated system. This is a neat system for swiftly transferring large transportable waste containers from truck to train. A turntable fitted to rail wagon is the centrepiece of the system, which has been at IWM before when Zoeller promoted the system in the UK. Now OMB has taken over this role.

Haller was the only other company exhibiting a demountable refuse collection system, known as Lotus, for intermodal applications. The Lotus system was shown in the UK for the first time at IWM 2000. Haller's Maureen Hatley said that, though there had been no orders yet, visitor interest was even keener this year.

That, along with Translift's perseverance, were the only glints of hope on the intermodal front. Railfreight operator EWS, the main transporter of train-borne waste in the UK, did not book a stand this year.

Moreover, an IWM workshop in the Ratcliffe Hotel on intermodal transport attracted only a handful of delegates. Alex Cordiner, Operations Director of Shanks waste management group, who addressed that workshop, told LAWE: "Only half a dozen people came, though 80 companies booked. The amount of feedback was nil." The workshop was held on Thursday afternoon on the last day of the exhibition, so people had had enough anyway, Mr Cordiner said.

At least British Waterways had a stand, pushing the case for transporting waste by barge.

Mr Cordiner also remarked on the relative dearth of gas-powered trucks on display. The government publicises gas as a clean, green and cheap vehicle fuel, and awards grants for fleet conversions, so why the apparent lack of enthusiasm at IWM?

"There's a dawning realisation that gas is not the way forward," said Mr Cordiner. "It's seen as an interim step. We're all waiting to see where the hydrogen fuel cell is going." There was also a gas supply distribution problem, and companies were risking as much as £30 million to switch.

"Shanks conducted split engine tests throughout Europe and could see no benefit to Shanks in changing yet unless requested to do by a customer such as a local authority," he said. "Better technologies will be available in the next 10 years."

Dual-fuel diesel system
Chassis-maker Isuzi had brochures pushing a promising Canadian diesel/gas dual-fuel system called DDF marketed in the UK by Clean Exhaust Emissions Ltd. Dual-fuel systems tend to be petrol/gas and therefore only suitable for vehicles of up to three-and-a-half tonnes. What is interesting about DDF is that it enables diesel engines to operate on a mix of diesel fuel and compressed natural gas (CNG), which means it is geared to larger vehicles such as RCVs and buses.

The system utilises computer and high-speed solenoid technology, with multipoint port injection, to continuously vary the proportion of diesel and CNG depending on operating conditions. Typically, the replacement of diesel by CNG, which is much cheaper and, we are told, less polluting, is "in the order of 70%t to 80%", says its promoter.

Isuzi spokesman Keith Child said its truck fitted with DDF was "out on demo somewhere with a potential user".

Smaller scale
Making its UK debut on the Isuzu stand, fitted to that company's chassis, were scaled-down rear-loader RCV bodies from Coleshill Municipal, including the 7.5 ton Super Series billed as "the smallest of the small". The bodies - the other is the slightly larger Royal GT - are curved for strength, says the manufacturer.

Unlike last year, none of ERF's chassis this time round featured gas-power. Spokesman Trevor Longcroft said; "It's because we were pushing the new ECU cab." This cab is low-floor for easier entry, has a single piece windscreen for improved visibility, and, says ERF, "offers the best in driver ergonomics".

Scania too had brought along its Lowline Crew Cab, a conventionally fuelled 18-32 tonner, but it also had a factory-prepared gas vehicle at the show. The Lowline was shown in prototype form last year, but is now for up for sale. The P114 N2 260 gas vehicle, with a CNG engine, is also now available.

Exciting news over at the Iveco stand was the company's development of a concept vehicle, the EuroTran, which could be out within four years. Half truck, half van, it is being specially designed for multi-stop delivery applications such as e-shopping, and its engine will be able to run not only on diesel, but on CNG (compressed natural gas) and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas). If required, says Iveco, it could even use hybrid electric power or a fuel cell.

The Iveco's Cargo Tector chassis made it first IWM appearance. Cargo Tector's diesel engine, says Iveco, combines improved drivability with significantly reduced gaseous and noise emissions.

Iveco showcased an array of engines, including a CNG model, adapted to comply with the latest Euro 3 emission standards, which will be applicable to vehicles over three-and-a-half tonnes registered after 1 October later this year. Seddon Atkinson's Euro 3 Pacer range was also shown on the Iveco stand.

Over at the DAF Trucks stand, where the recently launched, conventionally fuelled LF and DF ranges were exhibited, Sales Manager Mike Pickett maintained that the latest Euro 3 compliant diesel engines, fitted with devices such as catalytic converters, were a match for gas on emissions, "and there's Euro 4 and Euro 5 to come".

Steve Currey on the British Gas stand took issue with that view, stating: "The market's now moving to LPG." Conceding that LPG was slightly less green than CNG, Mr Currey said it was far better because it used similar tanks to diesel, gave double the range compared with CNG on a full tank, and there was increasing refuelling infrastructure. "That's why people are moving to it. And the government made a long term commitment to maintain the price differential favouring LPG against diesel."

Electric-powered option
Perhaps there was an increased presence of electric-powered vehicles this year, but, if so, it was incremental.
SEV, which specialises in electricity-propelled kit for the municipal market, unveiled its new ST150. Because it weighs 7.5 tonnes and takes a 3.5 tonne payload, SEV is using it with a new braking system. "A council is road-testing it in an urban area," said Sales Manager Michael Weatherill. "It's being tested to go to 30mph. We're still working on it. If we can get the speed, all the better."

Two electric vehicles made their debuts on the Textron stand, amid the Ipswich firm's customary Ransome street sweepers. Textron showed off the Diabline utility vehicle, the first all-electric vehicle with an aluminium monocoque chassis and integrated hydro-pneumatic suspension developed from racetrack technology. The upshot is an exceptionally light but strong road-going vehicle capable of carrying half tonne payloads at close to 30mph, said Product Manager Richard Comely. The Diabline has a range of around 40 miles, but this can be extended to 140 miles with a bi-energy version combining electrics with petrol or LPG. The other electric unit from Textron was the XI-875 multi-purpose utility vehicle with a top speed of 12mph. Both these vehicles are available with a litter cage body option.

Ford caused a stir with its electric-powered Th nk car and bike. The car comes outfitted in a recyclable polyethylene body, and can zip around town at 50mph. The official launch of both items, LAWE understands, is 12 months away. A Ford LPG-powered minibus goes into production this month (July), LAWE learned.

Tucked away on the South Green was Reliant Cars, the company which brought the world the famous three-wheel van beloved of Del Boy. Reliant has an import agreement with the Italian manufacturer Piaggio whose Ape 50 is a three-wheeler. Ape 50 is available with a mini urban body with lockable storage bin, removable collection trolley and bag holder for refuse collection purposes.

Four-wheel model
New was Piaggio's Porter Refuse 106 - a four-wheeler this time. Designed as an urban shuttle refuse vehicle, it features a 90° twin ram, hydraulic operated aluminium or steel hopper for unloading into compactors or central collection skips. An electric-engine option is available.

To Reliant goes the LAWE accolade for
the dinkiest vehicles at the show. Or as Del Boy would probably put it, "Cushty, my son!"


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