“I’ve seen the future and it works”

2nd May 2017


It’s a great quote, originating from an early (and obviously totally inaccurate assessment) of the Soviet Government post 1917 – ironically made at the time by a US journalist.

Well I did see the future last week, in the form of gas powered HGVs, when I paid a visit to the CNG filling station at Leyland. And what’s more, it clearly works too.

The site is, apologies to its backers, underwhelming, some would say boring/uneventful/bland – take your pick really but for our industry, in many ways, that’s a compliment. It does the job, safely, securely with the minimum of fuss. And yet, it serves household name companies with the vital task they have of distributing goods in the UK food supply chain. Frankly, with Waitrose plastered all over the vehicle, it couldn’t be more visible.

But behind the logo is an HGV powered by biomethane. Gas is drawn from the LTS, cooled, compressed and then simply put into the gas tank on the vehicle. The benefits to the company are lower fleet costs, self-interest is always a winner, but also wider social benefits too.

Carbon emissions are down around 80 per cent compared to diesel HGV equivalents, saving around 140 Tons of CO2 equivalent per year. Air quality, the hot political issue of the moment, is vastly improved over a diesel Euro6 engine – and ‘off the scale’ better than older diesels. I was also struck by just how quiet the vehicle was and speaking to the drivers, how much better to drive the vehicles are too.

Other household names are joining the party, placing orders for dedicated gas HGVs. But could more be done? That was the question I asked.

Here are a few suggestions that sprang to mind as a result of my visit. Low carbon cars pay no road tax but a gas HGV continues to do so. An affordable nudge would be to scrap the road tax of dedicated gas HGVs, using biomethane. The differential in fuel duty between diesel and gas needs to stay, but what about a diesel scrappage of old HGVs being replaced by new gas ones. There seems to be some discussion over dirty diesel cars but what about even dirtier diesel HGVs? £5 grand a unit would be sufficient to generate interest.

So it may be underwhelming, even boring, but once again the gas network is at the centre of a low carbon energy system. It is the future and it works.

Best wishes

Mike Foster, CE