It was sheer coincidence that the bi-ennial transport seminar hosted by ACEA, the European Association for Automotive manufacturers, was held at the Autoworld Museum in Brussels. During the afternoon session, the inevitable question was asked, in line with the overall theme, Powertrain Options for Commercial Vehicles – would the internal combustion diesel engine be destined for inclusion in the museum some day soon? The answer was a strong ‘no’, not in the short term at least, as there are a number of large and small pieces of the alternative fuel source jigsaw to be completed first. Diesel’s future is strong, considering that it powers over 90% of trucks, vans and buses today.
A broad spectrum of speakers explored the strengths and weaknesses of the alternative fuel options available today such as Natural Gas, Biogas, Electric, Hybrid and Hydrogen Power.
As the European Commission has just announced an €800 million action plan to boost investment in alternative fuel infrastructure, together with a new Mobility Package, it seeks a realistic scenario for trucks, vans and buses to make the switch.
But as Preston Feight, President DAF Trucks and Chairman of the ACEA Commercial Vehicle Board said there is no one magic solution for decarbonising road transport. The US native outlined that commercial vehicles have more alternative fuel options than cars and that a number of criteria needs to be adhered to before major take up is implemented in order to reduce transport’s future carbon footprint. He mentioned safety, cost, environment, reliability/durability and range. Linking to the last point was meeting infrastructure requirements.
The meeting also highlighted the role for sustainable biofuels as the ultimate alternative that has multiple benefits all round. Delegates discussed Commercial Vehicle access restrictions in cities and how it can serve the growing ecommerce sector.
ACEA Secretary General, Erik Jonnaert, who chaired the event, expressed caution not to forget the people involved as all this new technology which not only covers alternative fuels but also autonomous driving and platooning, how it may affect the labour force and as a consequence, a serious impact on the jobs market. He does realize that different transport needs require different solutions and while the OEMs are doing their work, Governments need to do more, offering tax breaks and financial incentives for transport operators investing in this greener technology. While the recent EU Mobility Package covered cars and vans, the next phase due next Spring will legislate to trucks and buses, regarding CO2 reduction targets.
At the conference, delegates were presented with the opportunity to discover first-hand a line-up of various trucks, buses and vans powered by a wide range of innovative propulsion technologies – electric, hybrid, gas, diesel, biogas and biodiesel.
The exhibition was divided into two areas, representing the different applications and operational uses of the vehicles:
- Regional and long-haul transport;
- Urban transport of goods and people.
The display provided an overview of all the different powertrain options – alternative and conventional, available from commercial vehicle manufacturers today and tomorrow.