A £23m trial to encourage the use of low carbon HGVs by road haulage operators is to receive over £11m in government support.

Freight accounts for roughly 21% of emissions from the transport sector and 6% of total emissions from all sectors in the UK. The Low Carbon Truck Demonstration Trial programme will attempt to tackle this by bringing together a range of partners including fleet operators, vehicle convertors, gas hub providers and universities.

It follows a call for participation made by freight minister Mike Penning, who said that “the trials will reduce CO2 emissions from freight and provide important information from a range of real-life situations that will increase industry confidence in low carbon trucks in the long term".

Amongst the 13 companies taking part are Tesco, the John Lewis Partnership, Robert Wiseman Dairies and the BOC Group.

Penning said that operators often cite lack of gas refuelling infrastructure as a barrier to the take up of alternatives to diesel. Therefore, these trials "include £2.4m funding for publicly accessible gas stations which will encourage investment in low carbon trucks, and other vehicles”.

The funding will help operators establish and run fleets of alternative and dual-fuel heavy-goods vehicles by meeting part of the difference in capital cost between traditional vehicles and their low carbon equivalents.

The funding will also help meet the cost of the refuelling points for use by the trial fleets, including the provision of eleven new public access refuelling stations around the country that will be available for use by other operators.

Over 300 low-carbon commercial vehicles will be involved in the programme, which will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board in partnership with the Department for Transport and the Office for Low Emission Vehicles.

Iain Gray, chief executive of the Technology Strategy Board, said: "This trial will enable commercial vehicle operators to showcase alternative-fuel commercial vehicles. It will help to accelerate a wider understanding and acceptance of low carbon vehicle technologies, while enabling the development of alternative fuel infrastructures”.

The scheme involves a variety of different technical demonstrations.

The John Lewis Partnership, together with its partners, is to demonstrate a 70% reduction in carbon emissions in a wide range of articulated vehicles by combining recent research into truck aerodynamics with technology that substitutes the majority of the diesel used with biomethane, amongst other things.

Another project, led by G-Volution, will trial ten 44 tonne dual-fuel commercial HGVs using their patented dual fuel technology ‘Optimiser’ and biomethane. The articulated trucks, converted to dual-fuel, will be trialled alongside diesel equivalents, providing direct comparison data for different operating environments.

A further project proposes to exploit the value in used cooking oil by creating a renewable fuel solution for use in 44 tonne articulated vehicles. It is being led by United Biscuits.

J.B. Wheaton and Sons Ltd will trial, with other fleet operators, the use of 28 vehicles fuelled from compressed natural gas or liquid natural gas blended with renewable biomethane, to run dual fuel gas converted trucks. The project will also provide seven fixed refuelling stations and five mobile stations, which can be shared with other fleet operators.

Finally, Robert Wiseman Diaries, collaborating with Chive Fuels, Cenex and MIRA, will trial the use of 40 new warranted dual fuel 40 tonne articulated trucks substituting diesel with natural gas from two upgraded public access liquefied natural gas stations, one in the West Midlands and one in Scotland.

The demonstration trial fleets will be run for two years, during which time usage data will be gathered and analysed by the Department for Transport, after which results will be made available.

The full list of participants is: Ascott Transport Ltd (Derbyshire), Brit European Transport Ltd (Crewe), CNG Services Ltd (Solihull; 2 trials), G-Volution Ltd (Newport, Gwent), Howard Tenens Associates Ltd (Gloucestershire & Wiltshire), J.B. Wheaton and Sons Ltd (Somerset), John Lewis Partnership plc (London), T Baden Hardstaff Ltd (Nottingham), Robert Wiseman Dairies (Glasgow), Tesco plc (Northants), The BOC Group (Guildford) and United Biscuits UK Ltd (Leicestershire).

The Environment Agency advises that lorry owners should use low rolling resistance tyres on HGVs which, on average, could reduce CO2 emissions by 5%.

The Department for Transport offers a Best Practice programme as well, for freight operators to improve their fleet efficiency.

Plugged-In Fleets

The scheme is being run in parallel with the Plugged-In Fleets programme that is managed by the Energy Saving Trust, and is designed to promote the uptake of electric vehicles by fleet managers.

In the UK in 2011, 58% of all new cars were bought by fleets, and 68% of vans, therefore this market represents a significant market driver for electric vehicles.

20 organisations have signed up to this initiative, including Boots UK, London Fire Brigade, Network Rail, Surrey County Council, Southwark Council, Tristar, the University of Cumbria, Wm Morrisons PLC, and York City Council. They receive guidance and a strategic plan for the introduction of electric vehicles into their fleets.

The project has three aims. Besides providing a tailored report for each participating organisation, outlining the benefits, it is offering wider practical advice for all business fleets, thereby enabling fleet decision-makers to purchase and use electric vehicles where they work best.

EDF Energy is providing advice on vehicle charging.

Software is provided by Route Monkey that shows which existing routes are suitable for electric vehicles before the organisation makes a purchasing decision. Once the vehicles are in operation, the software, called EVOS, maximises their use and helps fleet operators achieve the best possible reduction in fuel and emissions.

Final results from this pilot scheme will be available in January 2013.

Story: David Thorpe, News Editor