…but says the the jury is still out on e-HGVs
Global freight operator Rhenus has confirmed its commitment to electric vans, adopting e-LCVs to fulfil the delivery of goods in Germany. However, while the use of battery-powered vans is gaining momentum in the UK, too, the company believes the future of electric HGVs is less clear.
Gary Dodsworth, UK director at Rhenus, explained: “While the impact of London’s ultra-low emission zone is filtering through the transport sector, we think it will be infrastructure and technology challenges, not legislation, which will ultimately determine the fate of long-range electric HGVs. Most transport experts think the market is not ready to embrace pure EV trucks here in the UK.”
According to Rhenus, the biggest challenge for EV trucks will be the development of cost-effective, lightweight batteries with the required public charging infrastructure to support them. For the HGV market to switch to pure EV, batteries will need to deliver the equivalent range and payload capacity of a conventional tractor unit, and this will require battery developers to make enormous strides over the next few years. Beyond this, it will require logistics companies to install large rapid charging points at depots.
Meanwhile, engineers from Horiba Mira, the automotive engineering and development consultancy, think there will always be a place for Euro VI diesel-powered trucks, particularly those carrying heavy loads on long journeys.
While electricity seems to be gaining wide acceptance for urban vans, gas-power seems to offer a viable way ahead for trucks that do not undertake city deliveries. The argument goes that trucks fuelled with gas have cleaner characteristics than those powered by diesel, and the upfront cost of producing gas-fuelled trucks is cheaper than diesel.
Looking further ahead, Rhenus is not discounting the possibility of duel-fuelling or even hydrogen as potential fuel sources for HGVs, but the challenges of infrastructure, refuelling and investment make it more attractive to public transport and refuse trucks (frequent depot visits).
Dodsworth concludes: “While we will be using EV vans on these shores in the future, whether that extends to battery-powered, long-distance HGVs becoming a common sight on the UK motorway network remains unlikely.”