Navigating the commercial vehicle sustainability conundrum

18.06.2024

By David Wilson, Business Development Advisor, NEOL Copper Technologies Ltd.

Introduction

As road transport companies implement their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies to ensure they are contributing positively to the planet and society while also being run ethically and transparently, they are faced with a conundrum.

With increasing regulatory and social scrutiny on carbon emissions, the transportation industry which is the second largest (20%) contributor to carbon emissions worldwide, faces growing pressure to meet the near-term net-zero targets, requiring an immediate move to being more sustainable.

The industry has recently undergone significant changes that have impacted the cost of running a successful business. Factors such as high fuel costs, increased labor expenses, and maintenance costs, as well as excessive costs to renew the fleet, have all contributed to this. Additionally, businesses now need to consider how to incorporate the future of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Integrating the ESG into a transport company | Teleroute

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The future of electric vehicles

ESG strategies such as investing in fuel-efficient, low-emission technologies and adopting alternative sustainable fuel sources are essential to reduce carbon emissions, air pollution, and preserve natural resources while protecting the industry’s long-term viability.

In order to make the industry more sustainable electric trucks will need to play a significant role. The migration to electric trucks is also an option for the fleet manager but there is presently a narrow choice of vehicles, an associated high procurement or lease cost, and a lack of public charging infrastructure.

Most commercial vehicle OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) now offer a range of electric trucks that are specifically designed for zero-emission deliveries. However, the use of heavy-duty electric trucks for long-range transport is not feasible yet, mainly because the batteries and charging power are insufficient. The large-scale adoption of electric trucks is going to take time, and it may not be until 2035 – emphasizing that the electrification of the trucking industry is around 10 years behind passenger cars in terms of electrification.

Transitioning away from fossil fuel is a complex challenge for fleet managers. It will take time for a complete shift of the 600,000+ heavy good vehicles currently navigating the UK roads to electric power. To address the issue promptly and enhance the fuel efficiency and sustainability of the current fleet, proactive measures are imperative to optimise their performance and curtail emissions immediately.

Addressing the sustainability conundrum

The vast majority of today’s commercial vehicles on the road today are powered by internal combustion engines (ICE) that run on diesel fuel. Since the first introduction of European exhaust emission standards in 1993, more stringent guidelines have been released every four to five years to reduce and eliminate harmful pollutants such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide, hydrocarbons, and particulate matter from new vehicles sold in the EU.

To meet the latest Euro VI (2015) emission standard, trucks are now typically equipped with diesel particulate filters (DPF) to capture particulate matter and lubricant ash, and selective catalytic reduction (SCR) technology to convert harmful nitrogen oxides to nitrogen and water, and exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technology to lower the combustion temperature, reduce nitrogen oxides, and improve engine efficiency.

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Euro VI engines are advanced and highly sophisticated systems that offer dependable and efficient performance. Together with the correct low-SAPS (sulphated ash, phosphorous, and sulphur) and low viscosity e.g. SAE 5W-30 engine lubricant, the fleet manager will benefit from reduced fuel consumption and warranted protection of the engine and exhaust aftertreatment devices (ATD).

As engine hardware has advanced, so has the lubricant technology. However, even with the latest low-viscosity oils, levels of fuel saving at 1-1.5% (compared to higher-viscosity oils) have not reached its full potential. Moreover, the continued use of metal-containing detergents and ZDDP (zinc dithiophosphate) antiwear components risk negatively impacting the performance and efficiency of the DPF, as well as the precious metal catalysts & sensors in the SCR units. This can lead to unplanned service and replacement of one or more of the ATDs, causing costly downtime for fleet managers.

Euro 7 emissions regulations will be implemented in a few years, and it will require ATDs to perform as new for 200,000 km or 10 years. Therefore, the lubricant industry is facing a new challenge of lowering the levels in engine lubricants even further.

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) - Rudolph and Hellmann Automotive

Reducing unexpected downtime with technical lubricants

The fleet manager has access to high-quality diesel engines and lubricant technology, but they are concerned about unplanned mechanical issues due to the wear and tear of components from extended use. Additionally, the blockage of DPFs (which creates backpressure and increases fuel consumption) and the possible failure of sensors may lead to faults being registered on the truck’s OBD (on-board diagnostics) computer systems, still causing great concern for managers as they strive for maximum productivity and profitability.

Whilst the use of fossil fuels will remain crucial to power heavy-duty diesel engines, we must wait for further advancements in electrification. However, we can improve the lubricants currently being used to make commercial vehicles more efficient, with lower emissions and greater fuel economy. By doing this, we can reduce unwanted unplanned downtime for repairs or component replacements.

It is easy to see the clear link between reducing wear to increase the longevity of your machine assets. Additionally, by reducing friction, we can improve fuel savings which helps to increase efficiency, all essential steps towards acting more sustainably and making changes for a better future.

Reference Images:

[1] https://teleroute.com/en-en/blog/article/transportation-increasingly-integrated-with-esg-criteria/

[2] https://www.rh-automotive.co.uk/insights/environmental-social-and-governance-esg/

 

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