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Cenex Low Carbon Technology Vehicle Exhibition, Leeds

On the day when a month of rainfall fell in one day in some parts of the UK, resulting in devastating flooding, an event was taking place in Leeds with the aim of encouraging reductions in CO2 from vehicles.

Organised by Leeds City Council and Cenex, the day was opened by Brendan Connor, Chairman of Cenex.

Brendan reminded us that road transport in the UK accounts for 28% of UK emissions, which represents 32.5 million tonnes of CO2 per year. Out of this total, 19.1 million tonnes are from our 30.8 million cars.

There are 26 million individual buying decisions for cars, and cars are replaced on average after 13.4 years.

In comparison, a HGV emits 20 times the level of CO2 of a car, and there are only 425 main operators of HGVs in the UK. Therefore HGVs are an obvious target to reduce emissions. Powering HGVs by gas is seen as an important way forward, and there are currently only a few hundred right hand drive gas powered HGVs in the UK – a very different story to mainland Europe. To make this work, we need to ensure gas is connected to motorway filling stations.

LGVs are the fastest growing sector, so vans also need attention.

Buses are also a nightmare! The Bus Service Operators Grant is the biggest inhibitor to improving the technology, as this grant rebates 70% of the tax on diesel, thereby securing diesel as the lowest cost fuel choice.

Moving cars to lower emissions is ‘being handled’ by the EU, through its legislation for carbon limits.

Brendan made the point, also frequently quoted by Green-Car-Guide, that there is no one technology that will be the magic bullet.

Brendan finished by saying that there is money to give away for low carbon technology demonstrations for small fleets. So if you are a private or public sector fleet operator, and want to try some new green vehicles, get in touch!

Dave Cherry, Environmental Assessment Manager for Leeds City Council, was next on the podium, talking about the Draft Climate Change Strategy for Leeds. The aim of the strategy is to achieve a 60% reduction in CO2 by 2050 (from 1990 levels). Themes include areas such as the built environment, the natural environment, transport etc, and the strategy looks at both mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

Appropriate on the day of the floods, Dave confirmed that climate change results in more energy in the atmosphere, which leads to more rain, and greater frequency of extreme weather events.

He finished by stating that there is an urgent need to reduce transport emissions.

Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex, talked about the role of Cenex in the Low Carbon Automotive Sector. This involves bringing together UK expertise and getting technologies to market.

Robert explained that we need to know why to make changes, and to know how – and this is where demonstration can help. Cenex is looking to influence the creation and deployment of fleet-scale demonstrators, and to facilitate affordable market entry.

Cenex technical demonstration projects include electric vehicles (such as the Smart EV and Modec), hybrid vehicles (especially diesel-electric hybrid delivery vehicles and buses), hydrogen (such as the EnV bike, but this area is difficult bearing in mind that hydrogen vehicles are not road legal in the UK), and biofuels (biodiesel – a difficult area! – and biogas, ie. waste to energy).

Cenex also gets involved in public procurement, such as with local authority fleet operators, and can take a brokerage role in such projects with vehicle developers.

Robert also finished by stressing that there is money available for small fleet demonstrations of environmentally-friendly vehicles.

Trevor Fletcher from the Hardstaff Group talked about the use of natural gas in the haulage sector. The message was all about using LNG (liquefied natural gas) rather than diesel. This reduces the use of oil, lowers costs, and reduces emissions. Biogas from landfill or a digester can be used, or biomethane from waste.

Hardstaff runs 86 gas vehicles, and this has resulted in an 80% reduction in diesel use. For instance, their vehicles require just 9 gallons of diesel driving to Cornwall and back. It’s claimed that this results in a CO2 saving of 20% – and a 35-65% reduction in NoX. A truck averages 7.5 mpg which means that this saves 23-26 tonnes of CO2 per year.

To make it easier to run on natural gas, Trevor stressed the need to have the gas at the right place at the right pressure. At the right pressure, a vehicle can be filled in 3 minutes (this used to be 8 hours!).

Gas is 40% of the cost of diesel, fuel consumption isn’t affected, and some vehicles are exempt from the London Congestion Charge.

The future? Dual fuel hybrid diesels – especially for urban areas – in applications such as buses and refuse collection trucks.

James Rosson from Traction Technology talked about Hybrid Buses. These should deliver 35% fuel savings. The technology is moving from lead acid batteries to lithium ion. But the best solution is a ‘tribrid’; a diesel with super capacitors and a battery.

Andrew Whittles from Cenex gave a presentation about ‘Strategies for Fleet Improvements’.

Andrew started off by reminding us of the fiscal drivers for low carbon vehicles such as the increasing price of fuel, the London Congestion Charge, and road user charging. Andrew also touched on vehicle labelling, which is proving increasingly successful, the fact that more work is needed to ensure that we know the source and the sustainability of biofuels, and the new landfill directive may have important implications for road transport – organic waste in anaerobic digestion leads to the production of methane, which can end up being carbon negative in vehicle applications. Biogas (biomethane from landfill, or from animal slurries) can lead to a 75% to 200% CO2 reduction, allowing fleets to be run carbon negatively! (methane is more than 20 times more damaging to the atmosphere than CO2).

Bio-hydrogen can even be produced from waste, as opposed to conventional hydrogen production, which uses lots of electricity. Local authorities need solutions to deal with waste, and some major local authority biogas projects currently exist; other local authorities could follow!

Other developments include Tesco adopting quiet electric vehicles for night deliveries, and the new Thames Gateway bridge being cheaper for low emissions vehicles.

Andrew concluded by talking about public procurement generating a ‘pull’ demand for innovation from low carbon vehicle manufacturers.

Tony Martindale from Connaught Engineering talked about hybrid cars and vans.

Although primarily known for the forthcoming Connaught hybrid sports car, the company has also developed a retro-fit hybrid system – with Tesco being one of the first companies to adopt this on their delivery vans.

All Connaught’s hybrid systems are based on using normal braking to recharge the system. The conversion adds less than 50Kg of weight to a Ford Transit and fuel costs are lowered by 25%.

The integrated petrol-hybrid engine on their sports car is a V10 that shuts down one bank of cylinders for city use, resulting in emissions of less than 120g/km of CO2 – from an Aston Martin-rivalling sports coupe!

A super-capacitor is used as a solution in preference to a battery, as it offers the best energy absorption and the longest life.

Simon Sheldon from Amberjack talked about Electric Vehicles and Plug-in Hybrids.

Simon reminded us that electric vehicles have a limited range, a lack of charging infrastructure, high battery cost, a limited life, and heavy weight.

Hybrids have marginal increased efficiency and old battery technology.

Biofuels are problematic as there is not enough farmland in the world to grow the crops, there is the food v fuel argument, fuel consumption is worse than fossil fuels, and emissions aren’t much different.

Fuel cells are appallingly energy-inefficient, the technology has been 20 years away for the last 20 years, CO2 increases can result from production, and there is no infrastructure.

Therefore… an interim answer is a plug-in hybrid. This has a huge overall fuel efficiency – 100mpg+, ‘marginal’ cost for conversion, it’s charged using the base electricity load, at home, and there is no range limit. The Amberjack conversion has 7 x more energy storage than the standard Prius.

They take a second generation Prius, remove the old battery, fit a lithium ion phosphate battery with a new battery management system, a new vehicle communications interface, and a charger. The car is only 40Kg heavier than the original car, and it retains its spare wheel and a tool tray.

In a 40 mile mixed cycle test drive, the car the car will do 17.5 miles on battery operation, and achieve fuel economy of 104mpg.

In electric mode, the car costs 78p per 100Km (or 62 miles), in mixed mode it costs £2.30 per 100Km, compared to the standard Prius that costs £4.34 per 100Km.

Chris Maltin from Organic Power finished the event talked about Biomethane in the Automotive Sector.

Chris started off by suggesting that food shouldn’t be used as a fuel. He also said that less than 50% of all food grown in the world is consumed. He gave the figures that 1 hectare of rapeseed allows you to drive 23,000km, 1 hectare of sunflower oil allows you to drive 60,000km, and if digested, this will allow you to drive 100,000km.

Therefore Chris suggested the use of biogas for transport should be considered more seriously. Barriers include the vested interests of oil companies and government regulations in the UK. LPG was encouraged in the UK, but it’s possibly not the best solution, and now government support for this is reducing. Methane is 21 times worse than Co2, so we need to capture it. And 8.6% of drugs in the NHS are spent on health issues arising as a consequence of poor local air quality; the conclusion from all this was that “government is not necessarily influenced by the right things”. Chris was also concerned about hydrogen!

Chris finished by suggesting that biomethane would be a good fuel in hybrids, and that “fleet managers need more balls!”

The event finished with a panel session, in which Chris Maltin was an enthusiastic contributor.

One of the questions was “who is leading the world in low carbon vehicle technologies?” – and the answer was NOT the UK! Despite the image associated with George Bush, the Americans (ie. the rest of America, especially California) is actually leading the way; the UK was described as the one country with innovation, but that’s not good at commercialising, and the funding is poor. The problem in the UK was put down to short term government thinking and lack of impetus to move this agenda forward. The venture capital economy in America is much more conducive to successful low carbon technology development.

In addition to speakers, there were also vehicle demonstrations throughout the day, with the following vehicles on show:

• Modec electric delivery van

• Connaught hybrid Transit

• Saab BioPower

• Diesel-electric hybrid bus

• Organic Power Mercedes Biomethane Natural Gas EcoVito van

• Amberjack plug-in Prius

Finally, a new company, Green Motion Vehicle Rental, exhibited a Citroen C2.

Green Motion Vehicle Rental is Europe’s first environmentally friendly car and van hire network. Their aim is to provide customers with the choice and ability to hire environmentally-friendly vehicles so they can play their part in reducing carbon emissions.

Green Motion offers a choice of vehicles for rental with the latest environmental technologies and lowest CO2 emissions from Volkswagen – Polo and Golf clean diesel, Toyota – Prius Hybrid, Honda – Civic Hybrid, Lexus – GS and RX hybrid and biofuel cars from Saab – 95, and FordFocus and Focus C Max.

They also offer light commercial vans for hire, featuring stop and go technology.

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