Key drivers to decarbonise heavy transport fleets

Friday 31 May 2024

The industry was buzzing once again for the Wood Transport & Logistics 2024 event that ran last week in Rotorua, New Zealand. Well over 200 forestry and log transport companies from across Australasia, America and Europe, came to Rotorua to listen, to learn, to network and to participate in an array of workshops, conference and trade exhibits that had been set up. Images fromt last week's event can be viewed on the event website.

The event covered the rapid and ongoing developments in a wide range of technologies, including; hydrogen, electric and dual-fuel transport operations as commercial and operational trials with heavy trucks have really been ramped up over the past 12 months. Wendy Fennell, Managing Director of the South Australian based softwood harvest and transport company, Fennell Forestry outlined to the wider industry how Australia’s first electric log truck has fared after first being commissioned in February 2023.

Operating out of Mt Gambier, the battery powered electric heavy vehicle delivers logs from the forest to local sawmills and is suitable for their forest haulage applications. The truck is delivering on average 4 b-double loads of logs to local saw mills per shift. Twelve months on, distance achieved per battery is marginally less than what was expected with the average distance achieved per battery is 250 - 300km. The performance of the electric truck off road is comparable, if not superior to conventional diesel trucks with the instant torque allowing the truck to take off effortlessly in soft or sandy terrain.

After the conversion from diesel to electric, due to the weight of the batteries, the GVM was 2 tonnes heavier than when powered by diesel. After lengthy consultation with regulators and government departments, a PBS assessment was conducted and a permit was eventually issued for an increased total mass weight of 70.5 tonnes in February of this year. The truck delegates were told is hauling this extra weight without difficulty, and to date, it’s had limited effect on the battery range.

Over the next 12 months the company is planning to collaborate with industry and government using their evidence-based data to further understand the benefits of green energy technology and to demonstrate the need for electric heavy vehicles across Australia. Further analysis of the operating costs and reductions will be undertaken and negotiations are planned with customers for how electric heavy vehicles are going to be remunerated through the wood supply chain.

The sheer pace of change, with presentations and demonstrations made on new and emerging technologies, operational and commercial trials, and the rapid deployment of this technology into forests and wood cartage operations, meant a busy couple of days. And the action wasn’t just on-stage or in the car park crammed full of brand-new trucks, loaders and refuelling equipment but also on the sidelines with many one-on-one meetings taking place throughout the two days.

Gareth Wishart, Group GM of Innovation with HWR Hydrogen, another presenter who was able to provide insights on progress since last year’s event, detailed how the Southland-based company has already committed to NZ$15m exploring New Zealand owned and produced hydrogen and trialling dual-fuel technology. From on road trials with dual fuel, Gareth outlined how 1kg of hydrogen is now replacing 3.32 litres of diesel. When loaded, the new hydrogen- diesel trucks they’re operating are covering 678km with dual fuel driving. The company is currently converting another 5 trucks to dual fuel (including a smaller tank pack variant – the size of a diesel tank - that allows for dual fuel driving for up to 200km), moving forward with their truck fuel conversions and refuelling station builds and are establishing a new business that can convert trucks across to dual fuel for the industry.

In addition to HWR, Hiringa Energy detailed how they are developing and investing in hydrogen distribution and refuelling infrastructure across New Zealand and Australia to assist in heavy transport decarbonise their operations. Ryan McDonald, Head of New Business for the company explained how the business is partnering with New Zealand’s largest road transport companies and working with global manufacturers to introduce hydrogen technologies.

Already, a hydrogen refuelling network is being established by Hiringa with four stations operational in the North Island providing 95% coverage of North Island freight routes. Over the next four years, the plan is to provide full national network coverage with 24 hydrogen refuelling stations across the North and South Islands with a capacity to provide hydrogen fuel to 2000+ heavy and medium commercial vehicles.

As part of the large exhibition of equipment at Wood Transport & Logistics 2024, they displayed a relocatable hydrogen dispensing unit that can now be transported on swing lift trailers. This reduces the barrier to fleet trials and both leverages and supports Hiringa network growth. Hydrogen supply, refuelling equipment and trucks are ready now for pilot projects with some discussions on options to provide refuelling options for log haulage companies (inside the forest gate or located at a point easily accessible to log haulage routes) using these new transportable units.

The push to adopt new technologies within the logging and transport sector is only growing louder. And based on the level of discussion between attendees over the two days last week, the future is bright. Links to the many detailed presentations and resources supplied at the event have been sent out to all conference delegates yesterday.

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