Hydrogen, EV, biofuel, clean diesel all fuels for future

For National Road Carriers

There will not be one transport fuel for the future – hydrogen, electric, biofuel and clean diesel energy will all play a part as the sector transitions to support the Government’s goal of net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

That was the consensus of all the presenters at National Road Carriers’ (NRC) Future of Freight breakfast seminar in Auckland today (Wednesday 31 July 2019) held to inform transport company owners about future fuel options to reduce carbon emissions.

About 125 NRC members ranging from truck fleet owners to individual owner operator drivers heard the pros and cons of the four different fuel sources laid out by:

  • Dr Linda Wright, CEO of Hydrogen NZ,
  • Sam Donaldson, Senior Project Engineer EV at Waste Management NZ,
  • Mike Bennetts, CEO of Z Energy,
  • Pieter Theron, Senior Manager with Daimler Truck and Bus NZ,

“We won’t be transitioning from one fuel to another – we will transition to a range of solutions,” said Dr Linda Wright. “It will be horses for courses.

“Transport companies will weigh up where are the boundaries that different fuels become affordable and provide operational advantages.”

Dr Wright said the hydrogen provided an opportunity for New Zealand to transition to a low emission economy domestically and also to export green hydrogen produced from the country’s abundant but intermittent renewable electricity sources including solar, wind and hydro.

“Trillions of dollars are being invested in hydrogen – the world is looking for renewable hydrogen. New Zealand can punch above our weight in this sector – we are seen as innovative, dynamic and versatile, and we have bi-partisan political agreement on the need to reduce carbon emissions which reduces the risk for investors. We need to grow our capability here and get onto the agenda of international investors.”

Dr Wright said hydrogen light trucks were just coming on to the market now but heavy trucks were not yet commercially available. Buses are being produced but are unavailable because there is such a massive demand for them.

Sam Donaldson said Waste Management started its EV truck journey four years ago speaking to companies around the world before partnering with Dutch company Emoss for support and components.

Waste Management set up a workshop on Mt Wellington, Auckland to convert diesel trucks to electric power. The company now has eight EV trucks on the road with two currently being converted and plans to have 15 EV trucks by the end of this year.

“We are on an aggressive path to electrify our entire fleet,” Mr Donaldson said. Waste Management has 850 trucks, one of New Zealand’s largest fleets, using 100,000 litres of diesel a day.

He said the waste industry lent itself perfectly to electrification because vehicles stop 1,300 times a day and every stop provides regeneration charge for the battery and saves the brakes.

Another key point is that Waste Management’s trucks are on relatively short routes of 200 to 300km a day and return to base at night where they can be recharged. “This technology is perfect for what we are doing.”

Mr Donaldson said driving an electric truck was a bit different and operator buy-in was essential. “They need to understand the system and what we are trying to do.

“Drivers love these vehicles. They have near instant torque so they accelerate like a car. They are silent and there are no gear changes, which is important for us because we have a lot of stop start driving.”

Waste Management’s electric vehicles offer a lower total cost of ownership through significantly reduced fuel costs, with 20% of the energy coming from regenerative braking, and reduced maintenance costs including brake wear.

Mike Bennetts said Z Energy was embedded in the fossil fuel industry but was committed to moving from being a part of the climate change problem to the heart of the solution.

He said New Zealand lagged behind other countries. “In Norway one in two new cars sold is electric. Europe has had biofuels since the mid-1990s. China has 500,000 electric buses and the infrastructure and supply chain to support that. And Singapore shows how to put the regulations place to change the way consumers act.”

Mr Bennetts said the Business Energy Council had modelled New Zealand’s energy demand out to 2060 and had come up with two scenarios: Cohesive (or waka) with an orderly transition to low carbon emissions, and Individualistic (or kayak) which is not co-ordinated and messy like battling white water.

Z Energy spent $40 million building a plant in South Auckland that turns tallow (waste animal fat) into biodiesel that can be added to diesel at a rate of five per cent to reduce emissions. Air New Zealand, TIL, Fonterra and Downer all committed to buy biodiesel from Z to make the plant viable.

Mr Bennetts said Z Energy’s biodiesel plant used 15% of New Zealand’s tallow supply and it would build more plants if there was market demand.

“We need the village of New Zealand to work together to make this transition. It emphasises the need for systems thinking. If we all take a selfish view nothing will change.”

Pieter Theron said Euro 6 standard diesel trucks were significantly reducing carbon emissions, particulate and nitric oxide emissions through technological advances.

“We are now designing very efficient drive trains to reduce fuel consumption by seven to 10 percent and that correlates directly to reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. We can make further savings with telematics and driver training. We even save an additional two percent by redesigning wing mirrors – which again saves two per cent of carbon emissions.

“The road to heavy EVs is long and diesel still has a job to do. We have 154,000 trucks in New Zealand. We sell 2,500 new trucks of all brands each year and overall those new trucks lead to a seven per cent reduction in fuel – that’s a lot of carbon dioxide emissions saved.”

Basil Issa gave attendees a rundown on Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority’s low emission vehicle contestable (LEVC) fund which is intended to encourage innovation and investment to accelerate the uptake of electric and other low emission vehicles in New Zealand.

Two NRC members – Waste Management and Foodstuffs, which is operating a 28 tonne electric vehicle – have received grants under previous (LEVC) funding rounds. The next round opens in August.

At the event National Road Carriers CEO David Aitken also acknowledged Rosie Mercer, Hydrogen Project Manager at Ports of Auckland and thanked Teletrac Navman who sponsored the seminar.

“Since last year National Road Carriers has looked to take a leading role in sustainability and environmental issues,” said Mr Aitken. “The road freight sector is a responsible and professional industry, so it is great to receive this high level of sector support.”

He said the aim of the seminar was to give trucking companies a clear picture of what the future holds for each fuel source, the rate of change and how realistic each are to help them understand and start thinking about future decisions.

“The Government has set a target of zero carbon emissions by 2050.  With transport making up about 20 percent of New Zealand’s total greenhouse gas emissions, we need to be looking seriously at the options if we are to do our part in meeting this target.

“This can be a win-win. If we make this transition to a reduced carbon emission world in a smart way we can do better economically as well as environmentally. We have people in our membership who are quietly moving to sustainability not because they are trying to save the world but because they see it as a competitive advantage. Others like TIL Group and the Ports of Auckland who are working in the hydrogen space and Foodstuffs and Waste Management are running electric trucks because they know this is the future. So it is doable.

“When it comes to reducing New Zealand’s carbon footprint, although transport is one of the biggest emitters, it’s actually one of the easiest to deal with. So, we are making it our mission at National Road Carriers, to lead the way on this. Our aim is to give transport operators the information, the inspiration and the confidence they need to make the decisions and changes that will be better for future generations – and better for their businesses.”

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