Medium & Heavy Duty Fleet Decarbonization

Medium & Heavy Duty Fleet Decarbonization

The Government of B.C. recently announced funding for the CleanBC Heavy-duty Vehicle Efficiency Program. This is a great development that will drive the transition to a sustainable economy, help commercial truck drivers spend less on fuel and potentially increase the use of local energy resources. – The Province of British Columbia Photostream – The Trans-Canada Highway

To reduce or completely eliminate Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions from the tailpipe, several technologies exist. Choosing the right one for your business depends on many factors such as:

  • Environmental Performance
  • Technology Performance (Power & Range)
  • Operation Disruption Risk
  • Capital Cost
  • Operational Cost

This article considers the different technologies currently available for medium and heavy duty vehicles. Operational risks and infrastructure can be very specific, therefore are not discussed. If you have any questions, please contact us as we would love to help and learn more about your business.

Four Realistic Options – Renewable Fossil Fuels & Electric

While a vast amount of different technologies are often presented that reduce environmentally damaging emissions, this article discusses solutions available today or in the coming years. For instance, the nuclear powered car is an interesting concept, however, PH Technologies is providing rapidly deployable decarbonization strategies that can be implemented in practice.

The main technologies currently deployed around the world are Renewable Compressed Natural Gas (RCNG), Renewable Diesel, Hydrogen Fuel Cell and Battery Electric.

Renewable Diesel

Renewable Diesel is a fuel produced from biological sources and is chemically similar to diesel from petroleum (petrodiesel). Contrary to biodiesel which is comprised of mono-alkyl esters (i.e. biodiesel contains oxygen). Because of this different composition, biodiesel is often blended with petrodiesel.

Renewable diesel can be used directly with an existing fleet of diesel vehicles because it is chemically similar to petrodiesel. There is no capital cost associated with the fleet conversion. However, operational costs are likely to increase as the fuel is more expensive.

While renewable diesel can reduce the overall GHG emissions of a fleet by capturing carbon using biological sources, they still pollute the local environment through tailpipe emissions of NOx, Particle Matters, carbon monoxide (CO) and Hydrocarbons (HC).

Renewable Compressed Natural Gas

Switching to Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) consists in keeping an Internal Combustion Engine but changing the fuel source for a less carbon intense one. CNG engines are slightly less efficient than Diesel engines, however, result in lower local emissions as indicated in the table below and by the study from Hauser, L. D. (2015). Evaluating the Air Emissions from Solid Waste Refuse Trucks. University of Nebraska – Lincoln.

Diesel | CNGCO2
Minimum 2.60 | 1.770.20 | 8.230.59 | 1.371.87 | 0.190.01 | 0.002
Maximum 2.63 | 2.0118.67 | 17.60 7.89 | 4.4426.49 | 1.080.65 | 0.004
Average 2.61 | 1.846.16 |12.272.04 | 2.5014.58 | 0.520.19 | 0.003

CNG does have positive effects on the CO2, NOx and Particle Matters compared to Diesel but it intrinsically does not eliminate them, nor is it better on a CO and HC perspective. Overall GHG emissions can be reduced by using Renewable CNG produced from organic waste.

City of Surrey, BC and City of Toronto, ON both have examples where waste is converted into Renewable CNG. The use of Renewable CNG can make an operation almost carbon neutral (without considering the energy usage to produce the fuel). However, it does not change the impact it has on the local environment and air quality, which is important in urban areas.

Another aspect to consider is the impact that a CNG fleet of vehicles has on the demand for natural gas. If a biofuel plant producing renewable CNG cannot supply this additional demand, the carbon benefits are voided as it could have been used in the gas network. Municipalities managing those plants and fleets need to consider this aspect as part of their overall GHG reduction strategy. For example, the Surrey Biofuel Facility’s production of Renewable CNG has a capacity to heat about 1,100 homes per year. Using this for transportation prevents houses to use this resource.

Battery Electric

Battery Electric vehicles have enormous benefits as there are no direct emissions from their operation. As the electrical grid is generally becoming cleaner, these vehicles are indirectly emitting less CO2.

The vehicles need to be charged overnight or en-route which is a new operating model for Heavy Duty operators. Clearly understanding the impact and the benefits of owning the charging infrastructure is important to derisk the decarbonization transition.

Lion Electric Class 8 Refuse Truck

The electrified fleet can support other aspects of the business operation by acting as a giant local energy storage. Additional revenues are also possible depending on the region it is operated. The operation cost is greatly reduced thanks to the high efficiency of electrical motors.

Hydrogen Fuel Cell

Hydrogen has a high energy density which is useful in weight constraint applications. Two methods are currently on the market for hydrogen transportation: burn it through internal combustion engine or use a fuel cell to generate electricity and power an electric motor. The latter has a significantly better well to wheel efficiency and does produce only water (while burning it still produces NOx).

The reason hydrogen is considered for medium and heavy duty is because some applications have very high utilizations or weight constraints. Also, depending on the type of operation performed, hydrogen production may already be available or may be used for other local operation that could benefits from local hydrogen production.

Selecting a Long Term Solution

Choosing the right technologies for your vehicle fleet should be focused on the long term life-cycle cost of your operation. It may be costly to not invest in the right technology. While a technology may look very complex, it may not be and can offer cost competitive advantages.

Picea Hoa Technologies Ltd developed a platform to identify the technologies that deliver the best life-cycle cost for a specific operation. By modelling your operation, the tool estimates the forecasted cash-flows from different energy sources.

Find more information about our Approach.