Diesel News’ man in Europe Will Shiers attempted to get into the record books by driving a natural gas-powered Iveco Stralis from London to Madrid on a single fill of LNG.
Here is second of his reports on the adventure:
The drive from London to the south coast was slow-going. I had naïvely assumed that setting off at 5.30am would allow me to beat the traffic, but soon realised my mistake when I ground to a halt on the M25, London’s notorious ring-road. I eventually rolled into the Port of Dover, on England’s south coast, some two hours later.
My crossing of choice for this journey would have been the Eurotunnel train, which passes under the English Channel, linking England with France. It starts some 10km inside England, and comes out 10km into France, which would save roughly 1kg of gas in the process. However, Eurotunnel does not share Iveco’s enthusiasm for LNG, and currently forbids gas trucks from travelling on its trains for safety reasons.
The rule makes little sense, because if a gas tank were to rupture, the LNG would revert to its gaseous state, and dissipate through the tunnel’s ventilation system. There are no such concerns with P&O, and I boarded the 8.30am ferry crossing to Calais, France, without any dramas.
During the 90-minute crossing, Iveco’s UK alternative fuels director Martin Flach gave me the lowdown on the economic case for LNG. Although the trucks are roughly £30,000 ($55,000) more expensive than their diesel equivalents, the fuel is a third cheaper. So, operators covering 160,000km a year who switch from diesel to LNG should see their yearly fuel bills drop from about £50,000 ($91,000) to £35,000 ($64,000). In other words, they should start to see a payback within two years.
Off the ferry I caught up with the diesel-powered Stralis XP, which was travelling in convoy with me (in order to make some direct driving comparisons). The thought crossed my mind to tailgate it the entire way to Madrid. With less wind resistance the challenge would certainly be a lot easier. But, from fear of being accused of cheating, I decided that the gas truck should lead the way. So I set the adaptive cruise control to 87kph, and headed south.
Hi-Cruise makes hypermiling simple. By reading the topography ahead, it knows exactly when to accelerate and when to ease off the gas in order to maximise fuel economy. It didn’t have to do much in the flat,and rather boring, terrain of northern France though. I parked up for the night at an Iveco dealership in the French town of Tours.
The fuel tank was two-thirds full at the start of the day, which made sense, seeing as I was 650km into the 1,700km drive. But I knew there were some serious hills ahead, so wasn’t being complacent.
As the trip computer clocked up 750km, it occurred to me that this is how far I would have got had I opted for a 6×2 Stralis NP instead, which is still impressive considering how little space there is on a 6×2 chassis for the gas tanks.
As I headed towards Bordeaux in south west France I encountered a few more hills, which allowed Hi-Cruise to do its stuff. It was a strange sensation as it engaged Eco Roll before the brows of hills, or accelerated on the flat ahead of inclines. It definitely knew the road better than me.
The XP was fitted with ZF’s Intarder, which is a fantastic piece of kit. It worked perfectly with the Hi-Cruise, and kept my speed in check even on the steepest downhill gradients.
In the afternoon I had a drive in the XP, to see how the diesel-powered Stralis compared, and was shocked to discover that the differences were minimal. Other than being slightly louder than the gas truck, and having an engine brake that is far inferior to the NP’s Intarder, the only difference I noticed related to the gear change.
Because the XP has slightly more torque low down in the rev range, the TraXon changes gear at lower revs. In comparison the NP tends to hold gears for an additional 100rpm or so. However, in terms of actual power, there’s not much between them.
As I crossed into Spain, the scenery became more dramatic, with steep climbs, tunnels and long descents. But while the terrain played havoc with the fuel economy, the 30-tonne NP behaved perfectly, only dropping to 11th gear once.
I parked up in the northern Spanish city of Vitoria, and gazed woefully at the fuel gauge. The last hour or so had hit it hard, and I had a quarter of a tank of gas left to complete the final 370km. It was going to be close…..