Used cooking oils power BMW Group logistics

Used cooking oils power BMW Group logistics

The future has already hit the Autobahn. Four trucks operated by logistics provider Guggemos travel several times a day between BMW’s plant in Munich and Landau an der Isar, about 120 km to the northeast. Green stickers proclaim their eco-credentials: “Ich tanke HVO100, um CO2 – Emissionen zu senken” (“I tank with HVO100 to save CO2 emissions”).

Delivering supplies just in time from Landau to the plant in Munich, the trucks have been running on renewable HVO100 diesel since December 2022.

“HVO” stands for hydrotreated vegetable oil, and the “100” in the name of the fuel confirms that conventional diesel vehicles can tank 100% with the pure renewable fuel. HVO100 is made from various waste products, residues, and renewable raw materials, including used cooking oil.

The BMW Group deliveries are part of a one-year pilot programme to trial the new fuel. In March 2023 the HVO100 test fleet was expanded to include another six trucks belonging to DB Schenker, a division of the German rail operator Deutsche Bahn that focuses on logistics. The trucks commute between the BMW Group Supply Centre in Eching, just north of Munich, to deliver warehouse parts to the plant in the city for production – a round trip of 40km.

HVO100 is produced by Finland’s Neste and is also known as “Neste MY Renewable Diesel”. Compared with fossil diesel, it produces up to 90% less CO2 well-to-wheel. On average, fuel consumption is about 3% higher with HVO100, but the 10 trucks currently piloting the fuel are expected to emit up to 800 tonnes less CO2 a year than they would with conventional diesel. This progressive HVO100 pilot project is the next step in the consistent implementation of the BMW Group’s Green Transport Logistics Strategy – an integral part of the BMW iFactory.

Michael Nikolaides, head of BMW Group Production Network and Logistics, is completely convinced by HVO100. “Every gram of CO2 we can save helps,” he emphasises. “We continue to reduce the carbon footprint from our transport and supply chains through a variety of measures.” Nikolaides is an advocate of keeping an open mind to all technologies and notes that the BMW Group already uses electric and gas-powered trucks at various sites, while at the Hydrogen Competence Centre in Leipzig, floor conveyors are fuelled with hydrogen for everyday operations.

“The use of HVO100 in logistics brings another sustainable technology to BMW Group Plant Munich. It plays a valuable part in helping the company achieve its sustainability goals and represents a further component in the plant’s transformation to a BMW iFactory with a lean, green, digital approach,” adds Peter Weber, director of BMW Group Plant Munich.

Nikolaides sees some major advantages in HVO100’s simplicity of use: neither vehicles nor engines require modifications to run on the eco-friendly fuel, and HVO can be used pure or mixed with fossil fuel in any ratio. It can also be supplied via the existing fuel station infrastructure. 

The hydrotreated vegetable oil is based on Neste’s patented NEXBTL technology and produced purely from renewable raw materials, with plant oils being converted to hydrocarbons through a catalytic reaction with hydrogen. HVO diesel is not the same as biodiesel, which is chemically distinct and produced by a different process.

By using the new fuel in transport logistics, the BMW Group intends to find out how the renewable diesel works in everyday operations and its cost-efficiency. “We want to know which drive technologies and fuels work best in which contexts,” Nikolaides explains. To do this, a team of BMW Group experts is evaluating aspects such as fuel consumption with different loads, at different speeds, in a variety of weather conditions, and over shorter and longer distances. 

We can’t wait to see what findings this pilot project delivers in December. Who would have thought used cooking oil would ever power the BMW Group’s logistics?

Going the extra mile

Electra Commercial Vehicles has won funding from the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation: the European Horizon 2022 framework. The money will be used to build a long-haul 40-tonne temperature-controlled battery electric vehicle (BEV) as part of the Escalate Project.

Escalate is a pan-European 37-member consortium from 13 countries, coordinated by FEV Europe, an innovation leader in sustainable mobility, energy and software. The project aims to advance the development of heavy vehicles (40 tonnes and above) with electric drive – including BEVs as well as fuel cell and fuel cell range-extended vehicles – towards a net zero future.

Officially started in January 2023, this €19-million, 42-month initiative seeks to deliver five pilot vehicles to demonstrate technological improvements in range, efficiency, and design of components.

Electra’s role in this project is to build one of the pilot vehicles: a 40-tonne BEV capable of achieving 800km on a single charge. Electra will demonstrate the vehicle – based on Electra’s eStar LEM27-350 chassis with drawbar trailer – in the UK and Germany.

The truck will include energy-efficient electrically powered refrigerated systems and high-performance insulated box bodies with tail lifts, topped off with the latest technology in lightweight, low-profile solar panels to contribute to range maximisation.

The technology introduced on all pilot vehicles will be benchmarked against today’s state-of-the-art vehicles to demonstrate the advancements made. They will be complemented by digital twins: computer simulations of the proposed solutions designed to speed up the testing and verification process.

“We are very excited to be involved with this project while working with multiple new companies. The ground-breaking technology they will bring to the vehicle will shape a new chapter in Electra’s story,” says Ben Smith, MD of Electra Commercial Vehicles. “We are eager to showcase our industry-leading capability to design and integrate components into heavy-duty long-haul trucks. This project will be the perfect platform to demonstrate our skills and expertise in delivering sustainable zero-emission propulsion solutions.”

“Although this is a complex project with many partners, the collaboration will bring together the best solutions for heavy-duty electric and fuel cell vehicles for the UK, European, and global markets,” adds Steve Storrar, Electra Commercial Vehicles projects manager. “The planned demonstrations will showcase the possibilities with heavy trucks and hopefully remove some of the anxieties associated with operating and charging electrically driven heavy goods vehicles.”

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publication in southern Africa.
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