The Anonymous Widower

Hauling With Hydrogen: DHL Adding Fuel-Cell Vans To Its Delivery Fleet

The title of this article is the same as that of this article on Forbes.

This is the first paragraph.

Hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but vehicles powered by the clean fuel are somewhat scarce. In the latest sign that that’s changing, DHL is adding hydrogen fuel-cell vans to its fleet to cut carbon emissions with faster refueling time and longer-range than battery-electric vehicles offer.

The whole article is well worth a read.

Conclusion

This initiative by DHL, like the development of hydrogen-powered double-decker buses for London and Liverpool, is another well-thought out project to move the world towards a zero-carbon and low pollution future.

All three projects are multi-vehicle projects, where fuelling can be done on a centralised basis.

Looking at the large cities of the UK, there must be several large fleets, that could be converted to hydrogen.

  • City buses
  • Royal Mail and other parcel and mail delivery vehicles
  • Taxis
  • Refuse trucks

I can see a range of solutions for providing zero-carbon and low-pollution transport, which vary dependent on the application and fleet size.

Specialised bicycle systems – Locally, I’ve seen bread deliveries, a nappy service and a plumber. There was also an item on the BBC about a hospital using a bicycle for local deliveries of samples, drugs and blood.

One-vehicle electric vehicle systems – Many small busineses, trademen and house-owners have a vehicle that they keep off the road in their premises or garage. A pathway needs to be developed, so that they can exchange their current vehicle for a battery-electric one, which also plays its part in storing surplus electricity. The technology is there, but it needs to be packaged, so people can afford to take that route.

Multi-vehicle electric vehicle systems – This is obvious for companies with lots of delivery vans, but this could be extended to blocks of flats and office developments, where all parking spaces have charging points and service charges could be set to encourage electric car use.

Multi-vehicle hydrogen systems – I’That’s where this article started and I think, this could expand, as the technology of both the vehicles and the hydrogen fuelling improve.

,There could be lots of niches, which a tailored-solution could solve.

The Cement Truck Example

I would love to know how many miles the average cement truck does in a day. But obviously the companies know and calculations would show the size of hydrogen tank needed for a couple of days work in a city like Leeds.

  • Range with a full load wouldn’t be more than perhaps fifteen miles.
  • The return trip would be empty and needs less power.
  • The depot would have a hydrogen fuelling system, Fuelling a hydrogen truck should be no more difficult than fuelling a diesel one.
  • Whilst in the depot, if power is needed to turn the drum and mix the cement, this could be provided by a direct electrical connection.
  • The truck could leave the depot with a full battery.
  • Hydrogen trucks might be used for local deliveries with perhaps diesel hybrid trucks for longer deliveries

I suspect that looking at the system as a whole entity could produce a very good system.

If say it cut carbon emissions and pollution by upwards of fifty percent, would it give the company a marketing advantage.

Perhaps, each building should be taxed for the amount of carbon dioxide and pollution its construction created?

 

 

 

May 30, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 9 Comments

Startup Nikola Bets Hydrogen Will Finally Break Through With Big Rigs

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on Forbes.

Read the article, as it is an interesting concept.

  • Nikola Motor will not only build the trucks, but the hydrogen filling station network across North America.
  • They believe big trucks are ideal for hydrogen power.
  • They will also make their hydrogen filling station network available to car makes.
  • The founder of the company; Trevor Milton, claims it’s easier to package hydrogen tanks in big vehicles than small ones.
  • He also claims that hydrogen-powered trucks are much lighter than battery ones.
  • Hydrogen will be produced from renewable sources, where it is needed.
  • They are raising $1.2billion dollars to fund it.

First trucks will be delivered in 2022,, if all goes well with the funding.

I have no idea, whether it will work successfully, but surely a network of hydrogen filling stations, generating their own hydrogen across a Continent could be the kick, that hydrogen power for vehicles needs.

The UK is a small island and comparing it to North America, probably means the concept wouldn’t work in the UK, but if it works in North America, it will work in Europe.

But, if Trevor Milton’s mathematics work for big trucks in North America, they may well work with trains in the UK. A few hydrogen filling stations for trains and locomotives at strategic depots might power a whole new generation of rail vehicles. The rail filling stations could be co-located with filling stations for hydrogen road vehicles.

Trucks In Cities And Large Urban Areas

As I walk around London I see lots of large trucks, that can be put into a few categories.

  • Articulated delivery trucks, often for the big supermarkets.
  • Eight-wheel rigid trucks moving loads of building materials or soil and rubble dug out of construction sites.
  • Refuse trucks.
  • Skip trucks
  • Cement mixer trucks

With the exception of the first, many of these vehicles don’t do a large number of miles in a working day.

Will we see companies like Nikola Motor and others developing hydrogen or battery-powered trucks for these niches?

If they do, I can see some interesting working and fuelling strategies developing.

Would Hydrogen Trucks Be Ideal For Cross-Channel Traffic?

Imagine a journey between Stuttgart and the Toyota plant in Derby.

  • Using the European hydrogen network, the truck arrives at Calais with a low hydrogen level.
  • On arrival in Dover it goes to a convenient hydrogen station and fills up with enough hydrogen to make the five hundred mile return journey to Derby.
  • The return journey to Stuttgart, would use a hydrogen filling station at Calais to speed the truck on it’s way.

Because of the distances involved, I’m sure hydrogen would work for regular high-value truck journeys across the Channel, even if different tractors were used on either side of the Channel, as they often are now!

You could also argue, that this journey would be better done by rail. But if that is the case, why is it so much cross-Channel freight moved by trucks?

Conclusion

Hydrogen will continue to attract innovation and it is not time to write it off yet.

April 16, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 2 Comments

A High Visibility Truck

I saw this concrete truck outside Kings Cross station.

I hope the concept works!

It’s a Mercedes-Benz Econic.

There is a review on this page.

April 15, 2019 Posted by | Transport | | 1 Comment

‘Self-driving’ Lorries To Be Tested On UK Roads

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC. This is the first three paragraphs.

Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.

A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.

Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.

It is a long time since I used to hitch-hike all over the UK in the 1960s and had many a ride in the front of a truck.

One of my memories is sitting there and watching how cars kept jumping into gaps between the truck I was riding in and the one in front.

I have a feeling that platooning is one of those automation ideas, that will work well in theory and practice to a certain degree, but that the behaviour of individuals will give it problems.

Generally, this idea hasn’t been well received, by commentators.

The Greener Alternative

I feel that overall we need to move freight from the roads onto the railways.

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier, I proposed converting redundant four-car electric multiple units like the Class 321 trains into 100 mph bi-mode parcel and pallet carriers, which I dubbed High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train.

HSPTs would have the following advantages for parcel and pallet traffic.

  • Stations could be used as terminals, especially at night!
  • As they are 100 mph trains, they would probably be faster over long distances.
  • They would probably emit less carbon emissions.
  • Capacity per crew member would be higher.
  • There are few parts of the UK, the trains couldn’t go.
  • Class 321 trains are built from steel and are as tough as the proverbial brick outhouse.
  • The trains could carry a fork-lift if needed.
  • The trains could be wrapped in advertising.

The trains would be the ultimate green long-distance delivery truck.

  • Recycled trains.
  • Proven technology
  • Electrically-powered where possible.
  • ;Using existing infrastructure where possible.

They wouldn’t be the most expensive trains to create and run.

August 25, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , , | 2 Comments

Ban Lorries From Using Car Sat-Navs, Say Councils

This is the title of an article on the BBC web site.

After a number of high-profile incidents where lorries have got stuck and caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage, something needs to be done.

Perhaps driving a truck, through an area it is banned, should be considered dangerous driving!

January 28, 2017 Posted by | Transport | , | Leave a comment

Could Hamilton’s 55-Place Penalty Be Good For The World?

If you want a good explanation of how Lewis Hamilton ended up with a 55-place penalty in a 22-car race, then this article on the BBC, which is entitled Belgian Grand Prix: Lewis Hamilton’s grid penalties explained.

It does what it says in the title.

This extract, which describes the new technology in Formula One, is significant.

Governing body the FIA realised that the turbo-hybrid engines were highly complex pieces of kit, as well as introducing revolutionary new technology.

How revolutionary? A road-car petrol engine has a thermal efficiency – its ability to convert fuel-energy into usable power – of about 29%, a figure they have been stuck at for decades. A road-going turbo-diesel can be as efficient as about 35-40%.

Modern F1 engines, the best of which produce more than 950bhp, are approaching 50% thermal efficiency – and exceed it when the hybrid system is on full energy deployment.

It is a truly amazing step forward in technology in such a short amount of time, and these advances will soon filter down to road cars, which was the whole point of introducing them into F1.

So that means that if your vehicle does say 29 mpg, then in perhaps a decade, its equivalent will be doing over 50 mpg, as increased thermal efficiency translates into less fuel usage.

There is a lot of innovative technology generally getting itself involved with the humble internal combustion engine and where they are used.

  • Engines, whether petrol or diesel will get more efficient, in terms of energy efficiency.
  • Engines will get lighter and smaller.
  • Transmission and braking will increasingly be electric, with onboard energy storage.
  • Energy storage for larger applications like buses, trucks and trains, will use alternatives to batteries.
  • Engines will become more complex and will be controlled by sophisticated control systems.

It is definitely a case of |Formula One leading the way.

But I suppose Formula One is one of the few places where there is an incentive to be more efficient.

With passenger cars, more efficient vehicles have generally sold better. But an incentive is probably needed to get people to scrap worthless and inefficient vehicles.

Perhaps a properly thought out carbon tax, would accelerate more efficient buses, trucks and trains.

It is interesting to note, that hybrid buses are commonplace, but when did you see a hybrid truck?

Could it be, that local politicians have more control over the bus fleets in their area and many of the worst trucks are run by cowboys, who don’t care so long as they earn their money?

It is also easier to complain about your buses, than say trucks moving builders rubbish around, if they are noisy, smelly or emitting black smoke.

But I do think the key to more efficient buses, trucks and large off-road construction equipment, is probably a mixture of better engines and some better method of energy storage, that means say an eight-wheel thirty-tonne truck, could sit silently at traffic lights and then move quietly away, when the lights go green. A lot of buses can do that! Why not trucks?

I also think that the next generation of trains will use onboard energy storage.

  • It enables regenerative braking everywhere, saving as much as a quarter of the electricity.
  • Depots, sensitive heritage areas and downright difficult lines can be without electrification.
  • It enables a get to the next station ability , if the power should fail.

As modern trains from many manufacturers, are increasingly becoming two end units with driving cabs, where you plug appropriate units in between to create a train with the correct mix for the route, energy storage and hybrid power cars will start to appear.

Intriguingly, Bombardier have said that all their new Aventra trains will be wired for onboard energy storage.

So a four-car electric multiple unit, might be changed into a five-car one with on-board energy storage to run a service on a short branch line or over a viaduct in an historic city centre.

 

August 28, 2016 Posted by | Sport, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do We Want Platoons of Trucks?

I first read about this idea in the Sunday Times, but I have found a detailed article on the bbc.com website. Here’s the lead paragraph.

Convoys of wireless-linked semi-autonomous vehicles could soon be hitting our roads, giving drivers a chance to put their feet up on the morning commute.

I don’t drive and I miss driving, like you miss the teenager next door, who thinks he’s the best drummer since Ringo, who has just left home.

The technology may well work, but it’s in the same category as driverless cars and unmanned level crossings. They’re all perfectly good and safe until something goes wrong. How many air accidents were never envisaged, when the aircraft was designed?

The thing though about this technology, is there is already a proven alternative in the UK. It’s called freight trains. The money would be better spent removing trucks from the roads, as far as possible. Obviously for long distances across countries like the US, Canada, Australia and Russia, it may well have a place.

 

August 17, 2014 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 2 Comments