Ocado says gas is “here and now” as a fuel

Published: 29 April 2019

Ocado says gas is “here and now” as a fuel
Manager of fleet manager services at Ocado: Graham Thomas – spoke on his experience with gas trucks during the Bath Clean Air Show. Gas vehicles raise comparison with diesel, matching their appearance and power, but with this comes a £20,000 capital cost premium for gas solutions.

The only way in which a business case could be made for gas was if it generated a total cost saving over the life of the vehicle. Trailing an Iveco CNG demonstrator against a diesel Mercedes showed that he gas truck generated a fuel cost saving of £13,000 a year, meaning that the extra cost of a gas truck would be paid-back in less than 2 years.

Speaking on the matter, Graham said: “Gas is getting there in terms of infrastructure. In terms of its everyday work, a gas truck is no different for us than a diesel. Gas should not be seen as a fad; Scania and Volvo are now involved with gas trucks as well as Iveco. The CNG truck’s range of 550 km was fine for us, using liquefied natural gas extends the range to 15,000 to 17,000 km: ot 800 km if a 6x2 chassis is required. We had early anxieties, we pushed one truck to the limit to find the true operational range.”

He warned that the fuel gauge offers an estimated reading, with pressure from the tank providing a more accurate indication, especially while refuelling.

 “Is gas future fuel or for the here and now?” Graham questioned.
He explained: “Well, we’ve got 29. We took the first five trucks in August, and had the rest by the end of the year. The drivers like them; they don’t seem to notice that at 400 hp they are 30hp less than the diesel trucks they replaced. In terms of noise, they are 10 dB quieter.”

“So they are for the here and now: they are the ideal alternative to diesel for 4x2 trunking operations. Our operation lends itself to CNG, because our deliveries are almost like bus routes in their predictability. The only problems that may arise are if roads are closed unexpectedly and traffic congestion and long diversions result.”

“When it comes to acquisition, building the gas refuelling structure takes longer than ordering the truck and taking the truck and taking delivery” he had three tips for fleet managers considering gas trucks:
1) Have a demonstration 
2) Interact with internal stakeholders
3) Consider infrastructure early on in plans

Our gas trucks are leased: the manufacturer is supporting the residual value and is itself working away from diesel. We have had no issue with insurance: either for the trucks or for the refuelling facility: and no issues with planning.”
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