The Blue Power’s arrival coincides with the run-up to the launch of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone in April 2019, which will require vans to meet Euro6 standards. To that can be added the roll-out of Clean Air Zones elsewhere in the UK.
“Operators are looking to find a solution that will work for them,” says Webster. Both Webster and Read are hoping that at least some of them will decide that Blue Power is the answer.
One of the drawbacks of opting for gas or battery power at 3.5t is that the extra burden imposed by the gas cylinders and battery packs eats into what may already be a limited payload capacity.
In response, Iveco alternative fuels director Martin Flach has lobbied relentlessly for the Government to increase the gross vehicle weight allowance for alternative-fuel light commercials, which can be driven by standard Category B licence holders, from 3.5t to 4.25t. The 750kg increase will bring back some of the payload capacity that would otherwise be lost.
The concession would apply to drivers who passed their test after 1 January 1997.
Drivers who passed their test prior to that date can already drive goods vehicles grossing at up to 7.5t under grandfather rights. Drivers who passed their test subsequently are restricted to 3.5t unless they pass a separate test but, like older drivers, can tow a trailer grossing at up to 750kg – the same weight as the concession being requested.
The lobbying looks as though it is about to pay off, with the licence amendment Flach is seeking now almost certain to be implemented.
“In the meantime the Government has already made another important change,” he says. “Businesses running 3.5-tonners powered by alternative fuels that gross at up to 4.25t will not now need a heavy truck Operator’s Licence.”
Ordinarily an O licence is required by anybody operating vehicles that weigh above 3.5t.
Webster is mooting a more radical change to the driving licence rules post-Brexit.
“How about a return to a 7.5t limit for all car licence holders?” he asks.
It worked up until the late 1990s – there seems no reason why it shouldn’t work again – and it would go some way towards addressing the shortage of drivers able to drive anything heavier than a 3.5-tonner.
Flach was inducted into the What Van? Hall of Fame as part of the What Van? Awards for 2018.
Another winner was the Daily itself. It picked up the Highly Commended accolade in the Large Van category having previously won the category for three years running.
While CNG can be as much as 30% to 40% cheaper than diesel, a Daily HiMatic Natural Power will cost around £5,000 more than its diesel-powered counterpart, and most service stations do not have a CNG pump. The Daily Electric is four or five times more expensive than its diesel opposite number, and while the electricity it runs on costs pennies per mile, that steep front-end price premium will be difficult for the majority of operators to swallow.
So diesel looks set to play a key role so far as light commercials are concerned for some time to come, although businesses would be well-advised to invest in the latest diesel technology – the Euro6 RDE Ready is a prime example – if they want to be able to deliver throughout the UK without hindrance over the next few years.
“Euro6 diesel engines are exceptionally clean,” says Webster. “Even the legislators acknowledge Euro6 diesels as clean enough to enter the most stringently controlled of tomorrow’s Clean Air Zones.
“And they’re outstandingly fuel-efficient – minimising the use of the planet’s scarce resources and improving air quality levels as a result because less fuel used
equates to fewer emissions emitted,” he concludes.