March 25, 2019

Driving on gas

With many companies in the transport and logistics business looking for an alternative to diesel, European truck and van manufacturer Iveco believes the future is gas-powered. Dan Gilkes reports.

Electric drivelines are being explored for lighter commercial vehicles and for trucks operating in an urban environment, but for long-haul efficiency, compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquified natural gas (LNG) deliver a low emission solution, without compromising range or load carrying ability.

The major benefit of CNG is that the engine produces 60% less NOx than a Euro VI diesel and 99% less Particulate Matter (PM). Iveco also claims that a gas engine creates 10% less CO2, where the gas is provided from fossil fuels. An operator using sustainable biomethane can see that drop to 95% less CO2 on a well-to-wheel basis.

Iveco now offers gas engines in its light and heavy delivery truck ranges and will add multi-wheeler construction trucks in 2019. CNG is also becoming an increasingly popular option for the Daily van.

The Daily Natural Power van uses a 3.0-litre F1C CNG engine, delivering 131hp and 350Nm of torque. That compares well with the firm’s 3.0-litre diesel engine, which can be had with 150hp and 350Nm, though the diesel is also offered with considerably more power and torque for heavier van use.

You can have the CNG engine with a six-speed manual gearbox, or with Iveco’s eight-speed Hi-Matic automatic transmission. The CNG Daily is also available in single or twin-real wheel layouts, with gross weights of 3.5, 4.0, 5.0. 6.5 or 7.0-tonnes. It is offered as a van, a chassis cab or a minibus. A minibus application in particular will benefit from the lower noise emissions of a gas engine.

Cost savings

Gas powered vans are also less expensive to run, though cost savings will depend on taxation. Running on gas can currently cut fuel bills by as much as 40% though, according to Iveco.

The recent budget confirmed that the government will maintain the difference between alternative and main fuel duty rates until 2032, to support the de-carbonisation of the transport sector.

Unlike electric vehicles, there is no difference in the cab for the driver with gas, apart from those lower noise levels. The van starts and drives in much the same was as a diesel Daily and the CNG engine works particularly well with the Hi-Matic auto transmission, which slips between its eight ratios unnoticed, to always put the van in the best gear.

For urban distribution it is perhaps an even more compelling combination than Iveco’s own electric Daily.

Infrastructure demands

The adoption of gas vehicles can only be realised if there is a refuelling network to provide easy access to the fuel. Across Western Europe there are around 300 filling stations open to the public, though this is expected to rise to 400 by the end of the year. Iveco is predicting at least 500 filling stations on major European trunking routes by the end of 2019.

The alternative is for companies to install CNG stations within their own premises. In many cases the gas refilling station can be installed with no initial investment, with the gas provider adding a rental charge to the cost of the fuel.

Refuelling with CNG is a simple process, requiring little driver training.