Refuse Collection Vehicles to use new fuel

Government and Industry are looking for transport solutions to reduce climate change. Although electric and hydrogen vehicles are being developed, there is a push for ‘drop-in’ fuels, using diesel engines, but with a lower carbon footprint.

One of these products is Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO).  This will be the preferred short term solution for most of Eastbourne Borough Council’s larger vehicles. In their report “Vehicle Replacement Strategy May 2022” they write

    • “We have no option but to consider … HVO …. which is not done lightly but from a position of no immediate alternative option.
    • “Engines and vehicles with this renewable fuel reduces greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 90%, NOx emissions by as much as 27% and Particle Matter emissions by as much as 84%,compared with conventional diesel.”
    • “The timetable proposed includes a move to electric vehicles for food waste collections by 2025 in tandem with the installation of charging infrastructure at the Courtlands Road depot, while HVO will be used during the interim period, prior to the running of a zero emission fleet in 2030.”

If HVO can be sourced sustainably then there is a case to consider it. So why the concern? – Most HVO uses farm land and the carbon footprint varies by crop and process and if supplies become harder to locate, then the cheap and common source is palm oil. In Sweden, HVO is reportedly 50% palm oil. Its manufacture in Malaysia is considered harmful to the environment and linked to deforestation and pressure on land use. Plus there is the impact of transporting it to the UK.

Horsham Council have moved to HVO and they report “We are working with one of the UK’s largest suppliers, Certas Energy, who have provided us with a certificate confirmation of sustainability and calculated that the switch to HVO should reduce our carbon emissions by up to 90%”. This will be the same for Eastbourne.

In contrast other Councils, such as Oxford have moved their fleet to electric vehicles. Range can be an issue and there is a need for large or ‘swap-out’ batteries and Ultra Rapid charging.

In summary HVO is not ideal and EBC should move to electric, as soon as practical, to help meet their 2030 carbon target.

Paul Humphreys – Eco Action Transport Group


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