Waitrose showcases 500-mile biomethane truck fleet

Waitrose is operating a new commercial vehicle fleet that runs on compressed natural gas (CNG) biomethane fuel in order to lower transport emissions and boost the driving range of its low-carbon freight fleet.

The John Lewis-owned company announced today (9 February), that 10 new CNG trucks were used for deliveries last months for stores across the North of England and the Midlands. Purchasing the fleet cost 50% more in upfront capital compared to purchasing diesel alternatives, but Waitrose claimed that each truck will generate fuel savings of around £20,000 in three years.

“With Europe’s most advanced CNG trucks, we will be able to make deliveries to our stores without having to refuel away from base,” John Lewis’s general manager of central transport Justin Laney said.

“Using biomethane will deliver significant environmental and operational benefits to our business. It’s much cleaner and quieter than diesel, and we can run five gas trucks for the same emissions as one diesel lorry.”

According to CNG Fuels, the firm that will supply the renewable fuel to the fleet, biomethane is around 40% cheaper than diesel fuel and emissions from vehicles are 70% lower as a result. Using natural gas for freight fleets is viewed as a “bridge fuel” until electric vehicles (EVs) can overcome range and power issues associated with truck travel.

CNG Fuels, a UK supplier, originally launched the biomethane fuel in December 2016. The fuel is derived from food waste, and Waitrose were joined by John Lewis and Argos in trialling the fuel upon its announcement.

Figures from the Department for Transport state that heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) travel an average of 49,000 miles each year, and there were concerns that low-carbon HGVs would be unable to cover this much ground.

To navigate the issue, the Scania-built trucks became the first gas-powered versions in Europe to be fitted with a 26-inch diameter carbon fibre tank, which boosts average travel ranges from 300 miles to 500 miles.

Keep on trucking

the freight industry accounts for 30% of the UK’s CO2 transport emissions and more than 4% of overall carbon emissions and operators of high-mileage fleets have been exploring low-carbon alternatives for some time.

Heathrow Airport now uses an emissions reduction blueprint that puts an emphasis on tackling freight emissions through an online data portal. Elsewhere, Sainsbury’s became the first company in the world to trial a refrigerated delivery truck cooled by a liquid nitrogen-powered engine.

The UK Government has also pledged to accelerate the decarbonisation of freight fleets, through a £20m investment for firms developing low-carbon vehicle projects as part of an overarching plan for all new cars and vans to be zero-emission by 2040.

Last year, Transport for London launched the LoCITY initiative to create a new environment operating standard to be followed by freight and fleet operators, vehicle manufacturers, fuel providers and the public sector.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie