Bio-LNG emerges top in IRU report

As emissions bans are stepped up across Europe, the IRU tips biogas, HVO and diesel hybrid drives to take over from Euro VI diesel.

The report, Coach of the Future, is compiled by IRU’s worldwide membership and predicts the growth in low-emission or even no-emission zones will continue, with the C40 meeting of nations in 2016 seeing several cities pledging to ban diesels by 2026, and developed countries now having set a date for complete conversion to emissionless vehicles.

‘These developments are very concerning for the coach transport sector, as commercial vehicles are often the primary victims of these bans,’ notes the report. The IRU points out that coach travel represents 40% of the EU collective road transport activity, with some 400,000 coaches in Europe covering distances of 500km per trip on average.

‘The fuel used to power those coaches therefore needs to be suitable for long-distance journeys and the charging and refuelling infrastructure needs to be readily available,’ says the report. ‘Despite the willingness of coach operators to shoulder their responsibilities and make their activities as efficient and environmentally friendly as economically possible, there are simply no viable alternatives to diesel vehicles presently available on the market.’

In the short to medium term, the IRU identifies Liquified Natural Gas including biomethane (bio-LNG), Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) and diesel-electric hybrid as being the three most appropriate technologies to reduce both localised pollution and reduced CO2 emissions.

IRU writes off electric coaches altogether for medium- to long-distance travel due to the battery weight needed, and believes hydrogen fuel cells may prove expensive and require wholesale changes in infrastructure to work. For ‘well to wheel’ emissions reductions, the IRU says that bio-LNG can deliver 50% reduction in NOx and 90% reduction in PMs.

The IRU also says bio-LNG could deliver the easiest transition and an overall reduction of 3.7% in running costs, even when balanced against the higher capital outlay for the vehicle. Hybrids, on the other hand, would have a 4.3% higher overall cost due to higher purchase price and maintenance.

However, the report notes that the European Commission aim to remove diesel vehicles from the road by 2035 is a worrying prospect: ‘… potential bans on diesel vehicles before 2035 would still leave almost half of the EU coach fleet without the possibility to complete their natural renewal cycle and to fully depreciate, thus exposing coach transport operators to significant financial losses for minimal environmental benefits as compared to Euro VI vehicles.’

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