Cost-Effective Clean Fuels: How to Comply with the EU’s New Emissions Targets and Come Out Ahead

Cost-Effective Clean Fuels: How to Comply with the EU’s New Emissions Targets and Come Out Ahead

With the EU having set aggressive new targets for lowering emissions and decreasing oil dependence by 2030, European transit fleets are poised for a shift. The 2030 targets for public procurement of zero- and low-emission fleet vehicles and municipal fleets now require 33% to 65% of public fleet acquisitions to be made up of clean vehicles, depending on a country’s population and GDP. What doesn’t vary by country is the fact that public authorities will have to use more alternatively fueled buses and trucks, including electricity, hydrogen, biogas and natural gas-powered vehicles.

The new, stringent rules, signed into effect in June 2019, update the EU’s 2009 Clean Vehicles Directive and require national governments to apply them within two years. Countries will also have to submit a first report on the rules’ impact to the European Council by April 2026. So, there’s no question that Europe is aggressively moving to reduce emissions; the only question is what’s the best, fastest, most cost-effective way to comply with these requirements.

Half of the new targets will have to be met with zero-emission vehicles. According to the EU clean transport lobby group Transport & Environment, this means that in Germany, for example, nearly a quarter of new public buses should be zero emission by 2025. Meeting such ambitious targets is possible, thanks to industry leaders like Agility Fuel Solutions and its parent company, Hexagon™ Composites, a leading global manufacturer of clean energy systems for mobility and storage applications.

Agility is already helping Germany with cleaner energy alternatives, and the company’s exponential growth in the UK is a clear indicator that they and their peers are providing products that were in demand even before the new targets.

Entertain the Idea of Biogas

One of the best ways fleet operators can prepare for compliance with the new regulations is to embrace biogas. It is a cost-effective, low-emissions alternative for both buses and trucks and—thanks to newer CNG storage technology—can deliver long range. Two UK fleets, Waitrose and Nottingham City Transport, are great examples of what’s possible.

Waitrose’s new fleet runs entirely on biogas, letting them run five CNG-powered trucks for the same overall emissions as one diesel truck. Even better, Waitrose’s biogas is a product of the company’s own food and agricultural waste, which now powers their fleet instead of filling landfills. As for Nottingham City Transport (NCT), they’ve implemented 120 Alexander Dennis buses with Agility CNG fuel systems and were amazed by the results. “When [biogas] is used, emissions are 84% lower than their diesel counterparts,” NCT Engineering Director Gary Mason explains, “[Ours] is the largest order for gas double decks in the world and is the culmination of our extensive research into alternative fuels.”

NCT’s large order makes sense once you do the math. Bio-CNG is 35-40% cheaper than diesel, amounting to £17,000 savings in fuel cost per truck per year meaning that the high-mileage vehicles will repay the increased upfront cost in just two to three years. Additionally, biogas vehicles will likely operate for at least five years longer than their diesel counterparts, generating overall lifetime savings of £75,000 to £100,000 per vehicle. And yet, for some fleets, that’s still not enough.

“A lot of fleets need vehicles that are capable of a full day’s driving,” explains Eric Bippus, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Agility, “That was the case with Waitrose, who didn’t want to be refueling.” Agility’s Type 4 carbon fibre composited cylinder-based fuel systems store gas at 250-bar pressure, 25% higher than the 200-bar pressure possible with steel tanks. With these advanced fuel storage systems, Waitrose can get over 500 miles of range, which is key given their need to transport goods across the UK. Additionally, Agility’s CNG fuel system is 54% lighter than a 945kg system based on steel tanks—a weight savings of over half a tonne—which allows Waitrose to haul more freight. Waitrose’s fleet now completes round trip deliveries on a single fill and, unsurprisingly, Agility now holds leading market positions in both North America and Europe.

Hydrogen Is More Than Just Hype

Another winning strategy for fleets looking to comply with new emissions targets is to incorporate hydrogen-powered vehicles. “Hydrogen is the zero-emission solution for heavy-duty applications,” says Jacob Krogsgaard, CEO of Everfuel, “Hydrogen can efficiently be produced from renewable electricity and distributed in high capacity hydrogen trailers to bus depots.” For long-haul, hydrogen trucks have a huge advantage over battery rivals as heavy batteries can reduce cargo capacity and require longer charging times. When it comes to eliminating emissions, hydrogen is increasingly viable.

Last year, Hyundai Motor announced they’d be selling 1,600 hydrogen-powered trucks in Switzerland over the next five years in partnership with Swiss hydrogen company H2 Energy. This was a clear—and not unwise—bet that the vehicles could beat battery-powered models sold by the likes of Tesla. Hyundai’s hydrogen trucks are expected to deliver a single-fueling travel range of around 400 kilometers.

And, in the transit sector, leading players in the hydrogen fuel cell electric value chain recently announced that they are joining forces to form the H2Bus Consortium. This consortium consists of Everfuel, Wrightbus, Ballard Power Systems, Hexagon Composites, Nel Hydrogen and Ryse Hydrogen. Members are committed to deploying 1,000 hydrogen fuel cell electric buses, along with supporting infrastructure, in European cities at commercially competitive rates. “[At bus depots] a hydrogen bus can be fueled in five minutes. This is comparable to diesel,” says Krogsgaard. “We are setting up a dedicated hydrogen value chain to cut costs and, in doing so, to approach operational parity with buses which use traditional fuels.”