There is a lot of talk at the moment about the future of diesel in our industry and experts are predicting a rise in the use of dual fuel engines and even pure electric technology.

Looking into the future, is diesel the right choice for us?

Two of the biggest factors that would affect a 100% electric HGV are weight and range. Regular six axle artics have a weight limit of 44 tons mandated by law. Pure electric trucks would require huge battery packs for extended journeys, impacting on overall payload. Furthermore, many intercontinental trucks carry twin diesel tanks that can extend the range of trucks for longer hauls. In contrast,  electric trucks are without a similar alternative which will limit this technology to short journeys.

On top of all this, experts say that the technology for smaller, lighter batteries is a pipe dream and a new  costly charging infrastructure for pure electric HGVS would also have to support this dramatic shift to 100% electric power. Diesel hybrid’s also suffer from the same diminished payload issues due to battery weight.

As an interim alternative to pure electric, we know from previous studies that Dual fuel technology is still in need of development. Recent research from The Low Carbon Truck and Refueling Infrastructure Demonstration Trial Evaluation (LCTT) showed that across all the dual-fuel powered systems, the gas powered the trucks on average 44% of the time, with diesel taking the strain for the rest, resulting in a drop in energy efficiency of 7%.

The biggest cause for inefficiency was gas passing through the system unburnt due to the incomplete combustion of methane, as the engine switched from one fuel to the other, a process known as “methane slip”. There was also an indication that unburnt methane making its way into the atmosphere would have a greater effect on the environment as methane, a greenhouse gas, has a global warming potential 25 times higher than CO2.

In conclusion, diesel engines are the overwhelming power-train of choice for the UK’s haulage industry.  The transformation to clean diesel technology, and ever increasing gains in efficiency will mean that diesel power will be the dominant player in the future of haulage. Diesel still offers an unmatched combination of efficiency, power, reliability and durability , all attributes that have won hauliers over for the last half-century. I believe the last 15 years of innovation has set the stage for the future.

The future is all about truck manufacturers continually improving efficiency to lower greenhouse gas and carbon emissions. Fleet owners are going to experience this in two ways – the design and performance of future trucks and  major changes to make the haulage and freight system more efficient. This will be accomplished through greater connectivity and synergy between the vehicles and freight system, including autonomous driving and truck platooning supported by  ICT and telecom sectors that are already set for the future of ‘smart driving’.