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.

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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