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Alternate Fuels For Lorries

Jun 26, 2008
So, we all know that the price of haulage fuel in the UK is ridiculous at the moment, with lorry fuel costing 50p per litre in the UK as compared to 25p per litre in mainland Europe. It really is a rip off bleeding us dry.

With many owner operators and haulage companies struggling with the increased strain on their budget, is there an alternative? Well the good news is yes, but the bad news is that some of the strange and wonderful haulage fuel sources aren't exactly widely available alternative to groupage techniques as a solution to cash flow problems...

Gas doesn't grow on trees y'know... oh wait

It may surprise some readers to learn that oil can in fact grow on trees! Well, not any tree, but the Brazillian Copaifera langsdorfi which can be tapped for a natural diesel fuel that needs just a little filtering before it is poured into your lorry's fuel tank. With just 182,500,000 acres of these plants, you could match the annual oil output of Saudi Arabia (to put that into perspective, the USA alone has 6,050,697,738 acres of land).

Of course there is a catch - this particular lorry fuel only has a shelf life of 3 months. The trees also take 15-20 years to mature, and who knows what solutions scientists may have found in that time?

Nothing says go like a cup of joe!

It may not exactly be practical but some bright sparks have managed to get their lorry fuelled by coffee grounds. The concept-vehicle has a wood gas generator running and the coffee is burned into a combustible gas, which is then filtered through to the engine and bingo: a fully fledged caffeine-mobile! Turns out your pick-up-truck may be in need of a caffeine pick-me-up!

Trucks powered by illegal alcohol

On the opposite end of the spectrum, most people would argue that alcohol typically slows them down rather than making them more productive, but lorries, buses and trains in Sweden have found the reverse to be true!

Customs services in Sweden were getting so tired of pouring away the 185,000 gallons of alcohol seized each year, that they needed a new solution, which is where the idea of converting the booze to biogas to use as haulage fuel came from. It now powers over 1,000 trucks and buses and 1 train, making not only for a cheap (well, it's free for the customs officers!), but environmentally friendly solution!

One truck's trash is another truck's treasure

Last month, plans were announced for 300 rubbish trucks in California to switch to being powered by the very waste they take to the landfills. Landfill gas is to be purified and liquefied producing a massive 13,000 gallons of liquefied natural gas per day. As well as being a novel idea, it will reduce carbon emissions by more than 30,000 tonnes per year!

Would you like fries with that?

Last year, McDonalds announced that it would be recycling its cooking oil to be converted into biofuel for its delivery fleet. Previously the company's delivery fleet used 6 million litres of oil while delivering stock to its 1,200 restaurants when those very establishments had their own lorry fuel literally under their noses! As well as having great green credentials (don't they all?) the fuel does not have any odour, despite Matthew Howe, the senior vice-president of McDonalds UK pointing out what brilliant marketing that would be: "If our trucks drove around the High Street and it smelt of our fries, what a Pavlovian effect, it would be fantastic but unfortunately it does not".

So for the moment at least, it's probably best for haulage companies and owner operators to stick to traditional haulage fuels and make use of groupage techniques to keep costs down, but it's good to know that virtually anything can be used to power our vehicles in the future, when the government succeeds in bleeding our industry dry...
About the Author
Lyall Cresswell is the Managing Director for the Transport Exchange Group. Haulage Exchange, their freight exchange for the 7.5 tonne and above market, offers an independent environment for its members to exchange loads and manage their groupage.
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