Keep on trucking: Germany roars ahead with natural gas-fueled vehicles

Germany has notched up another first for Teva in the crusade for clean air and less pollution in the environment. In April 2018, Teva successfully tested the new natural gas-fueled trucks for six months in Ulm. The truck is now powering along the autobahns of Germany.

Teva is working towards a greener planet by researching new methods of transportation. Previously, the company has focused on use of electric cars and the implementation of renewable energy.

Bernd Schlumpberger is head of the fleet and transport management in Germany. He is in charge of 75 trucks, trailers and vans that transport pharmaceuticals from Germany to EU and back, and particularly enthusiastic about new methods to improve transportation.

“For me, one of the biggest points was to look to the future to see what we can do for our patients and people of the world to have better days. The technique has been researched for a few years, but today's setup is still very young.”

An alternative solution

The natural gas-fueled truck is the latest venture in energy savings plans. The vehicle, which uses liquefied natural gas (LNG), was tested against a diesel truck for six months, over a distance of 75,000 kilometers.

Both vehicles drove exactly the same distance with the same cargo. The results proved that the natural gas-fueled truck performed better in many ways. It was much more efficient, with fewer nitrous gas and CO2 emissions.

“The natural gas-fueled truck engine noise is much lower than the diesel, because the LNG truck is controlled by a different combustion technique. This is especially valuable when driving at night,” Schlumpberger says. “It’s a distinct advantage to be able to use the vehicles around the clock, as you can drive it in areas which have a low-noise policy.”

The natural gas-fueled truck test-piloted at Ulm is streets ahead in terms of energy savings. According to Bernd Schlumpberger, Head of Fleet & Transport management in Ulm, fuel consumption of the natural gas truck is 22.1 kilograms for every 100 kilometers, which is substantially less than a diesel truck at 24.6 liters. That’s a savings of around 7,640 euros a year. There’s also a CO2 reduction of 6,698 tons, and the motor is much quieter than a diesel engine, adds Schlumpberger.

Competition among Ulm drivers to test the new truck was fierce. Although the natural gas-fueled trucks look exactly the same and drive in the same way as diesel vehicles, many jockeyed for position to be the first in the driving seat.

“For me, the driver is the most important part of the project,” says Schlumpberger. “Their input is invaluable as they can tell us what was working and also the ways in which we needed to improve.”

Many cities are tightening emissions rules and new models of diesel and petrol vehicles have to pass a strict assessment of emissions before they are passed as roadworthy. This move comes in advance of a change to rules in 2020 which will tighten the restrictions on nitrogen oxide.

Navigating the obstacles

One of the challenges in rolling out more of these trucks is the lack of natural gas petrol stations. Currently, Schlumpberger says the LNG is purchased directly from the dealer (Liquis) of Iveco, the truck manufacturer. However, there is a special petrol station at the Ulmer Iveco site, situated near the logistics center. There are also other gas petrol stations at strategic points along the journey, so a fuel supply is guaranteed.

So far, the gas truck is able to take over about two-thirds of Teva’s national tours with a range of 1,300 kilometers. With approximately five loading and unloading points, the truck can travel to Teva depots and warehouses within a 600-kilometre radius of Ulm.

Another factor that hinges on whether more natural gas-fueled trucks will be used depends on the price. As Schlumpberger cautions: “LNG trucks cost 40,000 euros more than diesel trucks.”

Moving forward, Schlumpberger is enthusiastic about the plans implemented. “In the future I think we will buy more trucks fueled by natural gas. We won’t completely rule out diesel trucks which are still good but we will keep an eye on what is going on in the industry.

We’ve also had very good feedback from customers, who see and notice the trucks. They like that fact that Teva, a big pharmaceutical company, is doing good things not only for efficiency but also for the environment.”

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