Vehicle manufacturers drive down the ‘environmentally friendly’ road

In this latest of LAWE's special series of Tracking Trends Supplements we examine the latest developments in the design and use of vehicles and transport within the environmental services and waste management sectors, where manufacturers are responding to the need to take the 'green' road with lower emissions, quieter engines and innovation in alternative power systems

Local authority and waste management company fleet operators are in the forefront of the “greening” of vehicles and transport, particularly in opting for alternative fuels and power, such as natural gas, electricity and hybrid engines.

Fleet owners are evidently taking seriously the Government’s commitment to wider use of environmentally friendly vehicles – from taxis and buses to refuse collection vehicles, vans and cars – set out clearly in Transport Minister Lord Whitty’s foreword to the Government Response to The Way Forward, the final report of the Cleaner Vehicles Task Force. This body was established by the Government in January 1998 to encourage the manufacture, purchase and use of vehicles which are cleaner, quieter, more fuel-efficient and less resource intensive to produce.

Lord Whitty pledged the Government to take forward many of the Task Force’s recommendations and said that progress was already being made in a number of priority areas to tackle emissions of both greenhouse gases and local air pollutants.

He said: “We have announced a £69 million, package of funding to increase support for alternative fuels through the Powershift programme, expand our Cleaner Vehicles Programme to tackle pollution from existing urban vehicles and to bring forward the introduction of clean, efficient vehicle technologies.

“We have established the Motorvate green fleet certification scheme to help car fleet operators cut their fuel costs and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”

He added that in the Pre-Budget Report, the Government had announced a package of measures that would help households and business support the Government’s environmental objectives, which were:

  • The proposed targeted cut in duty rate on ultra low sulphur petrol will improve air quality and accelerate the introduction of more fuel-efficient petrol technology
  • The proposed reforms to lorry Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) will better reflect the relative environmental costs of different lorries or encouraging cleaner lorries
  • The proposed new £100 million fund will help clean up and modernise the HGV fleet
  • The Green Fuel Challenge will encourage British industry to develop proposals for practical and more environmentally-friendly alternative fuels

    The Minister pointed out that the Government could only do so much on its own. To achieve real progress towards making road vehicles more environmentally sustainable required the co-operation of local government, industry, motoring organisations and environmental groups.

    Record year for clean fuels

    TransportAction PowerShift, the government-backed programme which helps to stimulate demand for clean fuel vehicles, reports that 2000 was a record year for clean fuels.

    In the financial year to date (April 2000 to January 2001), PowerShift received over 1,800 applications for grants to convert or purchase new clean fuel vehicles. These amount to over £8 million committed in grants for over 7,600 vehicles – already more than double the total of vehicles funded in PowerShift’s first four years to March 2000.

    So far this year grants applications split as follows: passenger cars – 36%; vans, light commercials, minibuses, tractors – 63% and large commercial, buses, trucks and articulated trucks – 1%.

    Based on the output of the typical vehicle, emissions of key target pollutants (HC + NOx), will be cut by around 11.4 tonnes a year. The switch to the cleaner fuel will also mean a reduction in the output of carbon dioxide, the main global warming gas, of about 3,400 tonnes.

    Electrically powered vehicles are making major inroads in the municipal market. Newcastle-upon-Tyne City Transport, for example, has chosen a Bradshaw PC40 battery-powered, litter collection vehicle for the pedestrianised City Centre. The new vehicle is the first Bradshaw PC40 in the 800-vehicle fleet operation by the city, and was chosen because of its technical features, and because it is unobtrusive and environmentally friendly. “Other factors,” says Brian Fothergill, the City’s Engineering Manager, “were its manoeuvrability and smart, modern design for the pedestrianised area of the city centre.”

    The Bradshaw PC40 was specified was specified with an aluminium, full tipping body with sliding panels to allow bins to be emptied manually into its 1,000kg capacity load area. This capacity enables the single vehicle to handle all the central area litter bins.

    On the leisure front, Wandsworth Borough Council has taken delivery of three more electric vehicles from Club Car, the manufacturer of golf, transportation and utility vehicles, for use at London’s Battersea Park.

    The addition of two new Carryall® utility vehicles and a new eight seater transportation vehicles, follows on from the performance of two other electric Club Car vehicles added to the park’s fleet last year. The new electric vehicles help implement Wandsworth’s policy to lower fuel and noise emissions.

    Green transport strategy

    Leading UK waste company, Biffa, reports that the conversion of 90% of its 830-vehicle collection fleet to ultra low sulphur diesel and a 95% reduction in particulate emissions from its Isle of Wight fleet are key elements in its transport strategy. This is outlined in a report, One Day, which draws comparisons between today’s environmental achievements and the standards that will need to be met in the future. It marks how far Biffa has gone towards meeting these standards by highlighting the company’s environmental performance over the last two years, showing, for example, how it has reduced the use of solvent-based paint in favour of water-based paints for its truck’s livery.

    Biffa has also introduced a fuel monitoring system at 21 of its depots. Each vehicle and driver has a unique identification key, which allows managers to monitor closely driving patterns and offer advice in more fuel-efficient driving techniques. The company has conducted a feasibility study into the use of dual fuel vehicles and has organised the recovery and recycling of scrap metals from its workshops.

    “Transport is one of the major environmental factors facing Britain,” says Biffa Vehicle Fleet Manager, Sid Sadique. “Cutting back our fleet is not a realistic option, so we have concentrated on making vehicles as non-polluting and fuel-efficient as possible, with considerable success.”

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