Can CNG trucks go the distance?

Posted: May 3, 2018 by oldbrew in Emissions, innovation, News, Travel
Tags: ,

CNG truck [image credit: Waitrose]

The idea here is that high pressure carbon-fibre fuel tanks should help to demolish the ‘range anxiety’ of truck operators who need to cover big distances daily, by giving a range of upto 500 miles. America already has some, but these are the first in Europe. Lifetime costs should be lower than regular trucks, but the report doesn’t say where the ‘renewable biomethane‘ fuel is coming from.

Delivery trucking is a dirty business, but the companies that rely on it are working to clean things up – and compressed natural gas is emerging as a useful alternative to our reliance on diesel power.

In the UK, Scania has created a fleet of biomethane fueled trucks for Waitrose, which is looking to reap the rewards with lower running costs and less emissions, reports New Atlas.

To make sure the trucks can stand up to the rigours of delivery driving, Scania has collaborated with American firm Agility Fuel Solutions. The fuelling system relies on two 26-inch carbon fiber tanks, which store enough gas to cover between 300 and 500 miles (483 and 805 km) without refuelling.

The biomethane – which is up to 40 percent cheaper than diesel and emits 70 percent less C02 – is stored at 250 bar of pressure, 25 percent higher than conventional CNG vehicles like the Audi A3 g-tron.

The clever tanks are already in use in America, but the fleet of Waitrose lorries is the first to make use of them in Europe.

They’ve been adapted and certified for European roads, and save a claimed 500 kg (1,102 lb) in weight compared to the eight steel tanks used in most CNG trucks at the moment. They also hold more gas than a conventional setup, which makes for greater range.

Each truck is around 50 percent more expensive than a regular diesel truck, but Waitrose is expecting to save between £15,000 and £20,000 (US$18,800 and $25,100) on diesel each year, meaning the extra cost should have been recuperated within three years.

The trucks are expected to run for around eight years, which means the supermarket is expecting to save £75,000 to £100,000 ($94,100 to $125,400) over their life. Compared to a diesel, each truck will help save more than 100 tonnes of C02 every year.

Full report here.

  1. JB says:

    “…each truck will help save more than 100 tonnes of C02 every year.”

    This is really funny. Save the CO2 from what? Is there some kind of gaseous bank/repository upon which humans draw indiscriminately to operate machines?

    Note the ROI period and capital cost. My son was interested in converting one his vehicles. So I asked him how many miles commuting he would have to drive before he broke even from the capital cost. Then I asked him if he would be OK with having a pressurized fuel tank in the back of his SUV to amount of 3000 PSI in a rear-end collision (drivers are insane where he lives)? On US freeways, trucks are constantly involved in some nasty collisions. During our last move, my wife narrowly escaped impalement while my pickup was totaled by a careless truck driver. He was never penalized because of the incompetence of the investigating officer on site.

    There are hidden costs in running CNG in vehicles that do not appear in ROI ledgers. Fuel tanks atop city busses makes sense. Underslung tanks on trucks traveling at hiway speeds–not my first choice.

  2. Curious George says:

    I wonder why a high pressure instead of dissolving CH4 in water (some refrigeration may be needed).

  3. Graeme No.3 says:

    Curious George:
    86% water to cart around?

  4. Curious George says:

    A high pressure tank to cart around?

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    Water is unlikely the best absorbent. Acetylene is stored in acetone… I’d expect something similar is better than water.

    Often unstated is that the tanks have a legal max life. I was going to buy a Crown Vic for $900 as a great deal. Only 10 years old, in great condition. CNG fuel.

    Being careful, I checked up… Tanks had just expired. $4000 for new tanks… I skipped it.

    That’s why, despite 20+ years of CNG cars in California, you see very few old used ones… and new sales are off as the early adopters discovered their zero trade in / used value…

    Newest tanks have a longer life. I think they are up to 15 years now. But still, realize a CNG vehicle is a fixed lifetime disposable consumable.

  6. oldbrew says:

    How to prep for CNG vehicle fires

    More common than you may think, natural gas-powered vehicles are a serious fire and explosion threat that fire chiefs must plan for
    Oct 3, 2016

    CNG truck fire presentation: To the brotherhood of firefighters

    Video 1 – ‘Debris traveled nearly 1,000 feet and landed in a nearby school yard. ‘

  7. Joe Public says:

    “Can CNG trucks go the distance?” Rather, can biomethane trucks, operating on a lower CV fuel, go the distance?

    CNG is compressed natural gas; biomethane isn’t a substitute natural gas (SNG).

    A CNG truck can be refuelled via the natural gas distribution system (provided the refueller has the compression equipment)

    Biomethane can’t be injected into the natural gas distribution system unless it has its calorific value elevated from (typically) 37.5 MJ/m^3 to 39 MJ/m^3 – usually using propane.

  8. Joe Public says:

    @oldbrew “How to prep for CNG vehicle fires”

    At least CNG & Biomethane don’t ‘pool’ in the vicinity of a vehicle in the event of a ruptured tank. They’re lighter than air, so self-vent.

  9. ivan says:

    Somehow I think the quoted costs are wishful thinking.

    First up, where are they getting all this Biomethane from and how many filling stations do they have or do the delivery routes have to be carefully calculated so that the trucks can return to the depot to be refuelled and is that extra cost added to the overall costs?

    Next, how much energy is used to compress it and is that energy cost included in the overall costs?

    Then we come to the life of the pressure tanks. What is their guaranteed life in truck usage especially where they are situated and are susceptible to damage from objects thrown up from the road?

    Since all pressure vessels have a finite life, what is the cost of replacement and is that cost in the overall costs?

    This whole enterprise smells like very expensive virtue signalling on the part of Waitrose with Scania laughing all the way to the bank.

  10. Joe Public says:

    Hi Ivan

    ” ….how many filling stations do they have or do the delivery routes have to be carefully calculated so that the trucks can return to the depot to be refuelled”

    At present, the UK market is predominantly ‘Return to Base’ deliveries e.g. the heavily publicised Waitrose endeavour.

    Other candidate prospects are local bus depots & council refuse depots where the vehicles don’t travel far from the mothership. Vehicles from those are also the best candidates for environmental benefits – lots of diesel used in heavy stop/start vehicles.

  11. Curious George suggested dissolving CH4 in water, Sorry mate have a look at the Chemical Engineering Handbook on data of CH4. It is very very slightly soluble in water less than CO2. It is possible to liquify CH4, as being done in Gladstone Qld Australia for export to Japan and China but at big cost and not for transport vehicles. It makes sense for use in chemical processes but no sense for burning when there are other fuels available such as coal for power and diesel for vehicles.

  12. Gamecock says:

    “Somehow I think the quoted costs are wishful thinking.”

    Waitrose virtue signalling that they use biomethane fueled trucks – priceless.