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Red Lights Ahead – We May Have Electric Car’s Sorted, But What About All The Other Vehicles in Use?

There is a suggestion that the budget this week will end a major rebate on red diesel, fuel used by construction and agricultural vehicles. We know we need to migrate to electric, but how possible is this for anything other than cars?

Red diesel is a fuel used for off-road plant and equipment. It is only legally allowed to be used for such equipment and a permanent red dye ensures any illegal use can be traced by officials. Red diesel is 47p per litre cheaper as it has a serious tax rebate against standard diesel and accounts for about 15% of all diesel sales which costs the UK Government over £2 billion per year in revenue.

You can therefore understand why, a cash strapped, eco conscious government may wish to see revenue returned to the pot, however, it marks the start of a process where, similar to cars, there will be a future phasing out of diesel plant and equipment.

At this stage there have been no announcements made about this change over, but it certainly will happen. So, what will be possible for vehicles other than cars.

Keep on Electric Trucking

Whereas they are still rare, there are production electric heavy goods vehicles available and you can see them out on the UK roads. Trucks such as the DAF LF Electric which offers a 19 tonne payload with a range of over 130 miles or the 37 tonne CF Electric. There are similar vehicles available from major names including Volvo.

DAF LF Electric

There are some issues. On average, a truck could travel up to 500 miles in a working day, therefore, even with charging at drop offs, the range offered by electric vehicles is considerably less than what is required. Secondly, the current purchase cost of an electric truck is at least double that of a standard vehicle.

Profit margins are already hideously tight in the logistics industry and there will need to be some serious convincing before every truck on our roads is driven by electric motors. There will be some companies who will, for mostly public relations and eco reasons, who will commit to electric vehicles.

Down on The Farm

Electricity has been used on the farm in the past, with the Zimmermann company in Germany demonstrating self-propelled electric ploughs in 1894, however it was not taken up and diesel vehicles became the norm.

Three years ago, John Deere demonstrated their first prototype electric tractor, a vehicle which offered 174 hp with four to five hours of range and a recharging time to 80% in just forty minutes.

John Deere Electric Tractor

There was considerable interest, not least as electric tractors could offer considerable efficiency benefits with 90% efficient electric motors against the 35% efficiency offered by diesel engines.

The National Union of Farmers stated in 2017 that 2020 would be the year that electric farm vehicles would make an impact in fields. However, to date there are few practical examples.

Experts state that electric tractors, as well as being ,more efficient could help agonomy with enhanced precision, which is not possible with traditionally engined tractors. And on-farm microgeneration of power via solar, wind or biodigestion could see the vehicles being run at no cost as well as the ability to use the vehicle batteries to supplement the farm’s electrical supply at times of need.

Therefore, agriculture is ready for electric vehicles, however the market is not ready to supply it. With agriculture already pondering the potential effects of Brexit and the end of EU farm subsidies, it is unlikely that any major purchasing decisions will be made in the immediate future.

Construction Equipment

We are in similarly early days with the introduction of electric construction equipment. With the heavy loads involved, there are some technological challenges to overcome. There are already some zero emission solutions in place, such as Hitachi who provide electrically tethered or trolley style vehicles.

An Hitachi Trolley Dump Truck

Overhead electric cables are used when climbing hills where the engine is set to idle and a pantograph powers electric motors. Diesel electric power is used when the vehicle is being loaded or when dumping loads.

Organisations like Wacker Newson are working on smaller pieces of electric plant including diggers, tampers and dump trucks all utilising a standard battery which allows any form or equipment to be easily charged or even used while being charged.

It is clear it is early days for this equipment, again there are few production models available, yet it is clear 2020 will be the year when electric vehicles expand beyond traditional road use.

If the favourable tax rebates are removed there will be another solid reason for truckers, contractors and farmers to consider their next vehicle choice.  It is clear work has been done to have tested options for use, however I cannot see the end of mainstream diesel vehicles for the foreseeable future.

Published by evcchargepoints.com

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