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18/05/2020
Buses and trucks heading for a transition towards clean energy

Road haulage 

Massimo Condolo

Hydrogen, batteries and liquid natural gas: buses and trucks begin the transition to clean energy even in areas that were previously unknown, such as long-distance electric trucks and LNG buses. We will not travel on diesel fuel much. At least not always. Trucks and buses are also trying, if not to say goodbye to diesel, to reduce the number of kilometres travelled using liquid fossil fuels. The alternative with the best chances of finding immediate application is liquefied natural gas (LNG), which reduces carbon dioxide emissions by 20% if it is of fossil origin and up to 90% (considering the whole well-to-wheel cycle, i.e. from production to emissions) if it is of natural origin. However, we should not forget that battery-stored electricity, can also be used in medium and medium-long distance applications. Furthermore, and just around the corner, we find fuel cells, an established technology that is looking for a low environmental impact extraction system of hydrogen from water or methane. That is why city buses, the first type of vehicle to adopt fuel cells, are being used in areas where it is possible to produce electricity in significant quantities from renewable sources. An evidence of this are the twelve Solaris Urbino Fuel Cells currently in service in Bolzano. Powered by a 60 kW cell, they have a range of 350 km and can carry 29 seated and 58 standing passengers.

 

Nikola “electrifies” Iveco

In 2021, the first Nikola Tre destined for the European market will leave the Iveco plant in Ulm, following the three-axle version for the USA.  Two fully electric two-axle road tractors capable of towing 40-ton articulated rigs with a range of around 400 km. These will be the first long and medium haul trucks on the European market. Their production is the result of a joint venture between CNH Industrial, the group that owns Iveco and FPT Industrial, and the American Nikola Motor Company, producer of state-of-the-art batteries and fuel cells for a number of vehicles. CNH is the main investor in Nikola's 4th phase of capitalisation. The first two models of the US company, One and Two, are destined for the overseas market. Tre, on the other hand, is destined for both the United States and Europe and is based on Iveco’s S-Way, on the market since mid-2019. "The joint venture and the following announcement of the start of production of the Nikola Tre," said the CEO of CNH Industrial Hubertus Mülhäuser, "are proof that zero emission heavy road transport is becoming a reality”. The joint venture between CNH Industrial and Nikola poured 40 million euro in the transformation of the Ulm plant.

The official presentation of the battery-powered Tre (Bev) will take place in Frankfurt in September. In 2021, the first fuel cell Tre (Fcev) will be tested within the EU-funded H2Haul project. These use the same modular structure of the Tre Bev and their production is scheduled for 2023. The powertrain and integrated on-board electronics, which controls the engine, infotainment, telematics, safety and A/C systems, stem from Nikola's experience. Chassis, cabs and axles, instead, come from Iveco's Spanish plants in Valladolid and Madrid (awarded with the Gold level of World Class Manufacturing), where the company's trucks are produced. The scale model of the Tre was unveiled in January; Italdesign, already involved in the first prototype of the Tre presented in April 2019, contributed to its design. After the two-axle tractor, the joint venture will also present its 4x2 and 6x2 trucks, destined for urban distribution.

 

LNG also on buses

"Liquid natural gas," stressed Licia Balboni, president of Federmetano, "is the next frontier of sustainable transport. Until last year, buses made use of gaseous fuel, while LNG was reserved for trucks. LNG made its debut on an intercity bus thanks to Scania, which mounted cryogenic tanks in the luggage compartment of a medium-floor intercity bus, the Interlink MD, for which they guarantee a range of over a thousand kilometres. Thanks to the first European competition for LNG intercity buses, organised by Tper (which manages public transport in the Bologna basin), LNG arrived also on the normal flatbed versions. The fifteen Interlink LD, supplied to the Bolognese company, boast a 320hp 9-litre engine with 1500 Nm of torque, combined with a six-speed ZF automatic transmission (or, alternatively a Scania manual eight-speed). 12.2 metres long and capable of carrying 55 seated and 16 standing passengers. The cryogenic tanks are located on the roof of the Menarinibus Citymood 12 LNG produced by Industria Italiana Autobus. An Urban bus with a lowered floor, the Citymood is powered by an 8.7-litre FPT Industrial Cursor 9 engine that delivers 359hp at 2000 rpm and 1640 Nm of torque; the after-treatment relies on a three-way catalytic converter. The three-door version is capable of accommodating 23 seated passengers and 86 or 90 standing passengers depending on whether or not the bus has a dedicated place for wheelchairs. A two-door suburban version is available on request. It is 12.1 metres long and uses a modular structure with many parts common to other Citymood models such as the 10.6, 12.1 and 18 metres, using compressed natural gas or diesel and weighing 12,900 kg. The automatic gearbox is a six-speed ZF Ecolite.

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