Iveco is quietly turning itself into a one-stop shop for alternative fuel solutions. Recognising that there’s no single power source that will meet everybody’s needs, it’s producing electric, diesel-electric parallel hybrid and compressed natural gas (cng) versions of the Daily as well as the standard diesel.
It’s even come up with a model that runs on a mixture of 70 per cent methane and 30 per cent hydrogen.
We took the opportunity to sample some of these technologies on roads around Iveco’s headquarters in Turin in northern Italy; and the battery Daily was the first on our list.
Employing Zebra Z5 NaNiC12 sodium batteries, the zero-emission ECODaily Electric is on offer as either a 35S 3.5-tonner or a 50C 5.0-tonner.
The former comes with a three-phase traction motor at a continuous 30kW with a peak output of 60kW. The latter has the same type of motor producing a beefier 40kW and 80kW respectively.
The batteries sit either under the bonnet or between the chassis rails. It takes eight hours to charge them up and they offer a range of from around 55 miles to approximately 80 miles depending on the number fitted and the work the van is on.
Regenerative braking helps keep them topped up. Maximum speed is almost 44mph. That won’t make you the quickest driver on the highway, but it’s probably sufficient for congested city centre streets; and the faster you go, the faster you’ll drain the batteries.
Equipped with a transmission lever indicating forward, neutral and reverse, Daily is simple to drive, as we discovered when we got to grips with the 35S.
When you’re behind the wheel, you whisper along. The only sound is a faint hum, which of course highlights any noises the tyres, the suspension or the body might care to make. There’s no lack of low-speed performance. The battery Daily accelerates strongly and it’s biddable at low speeds too.
Many drivers are nervous of manoeuvring electric vans into parking spaces or loading bays for fear that they’ll suddenly hurtle forward the minute they press the accelerator pedal. That’s not the case with Daily.
It’s now available in the UK to special order. The big, big drawback, however, is the eye-watering price of around £65,500 depending on the version you pick.
That includes the batteries, however — it may be possible to lease them separately — and don’t forget that electric vans cost pennies per mile to run. Don’t forget either that electric vans are zero-rated so far as Vehicle Excise Duty is concerned and ECODaily electric owners should be able to claim exemption from the London congestion tax.
With no diesel engine requiring oil and filter changes every so often, maintenance costs are moderate too.
Next up was the ECODaily Hybrid 35S12 HY 3.5-tonner. It’s worth a close look given that parallel hybrids can offer fuel savings of up to 30 per cent compared with conventional diesels along with a lower output of CO2 and harmful exhaust emissions.
It retains a 2.3-litre 116hp diesel engine but is additionally equipped with a three-phase 32kW electric motor/generator. An AGile semi-automatic gearbox acts as an interface between the two.
The package works rather like the sort of stop-start system seen on some diesel vans that kills the engine when you’re idling at the lights or in a traffic jam, but allows you to restart it quickly when you’re ready to move again. In those situations it’s ECODaily’s electric motor that’s in charge, with the diesel taking a back seat.
Press the accelerator pedal, however, and you’re barely rolling before the diesel cuts in again; and there’s no lack of performance. Again, regenerative braking is fitted to give the traction batteries a bit of a boost.
Hybrid Daily is still under development and it may be sometime before it appears on this side of the Channel.
The cng Daily is already on sale in the UK, however. It’s quiet and offers performance that’s certainly on a par with its diesel equivalent. Using cng in Britain is problematic for Iveco, however, because it has doubts about the quality of the gas supplied through the country’s pipe network. Instead, it favours running the vehicle on biomethane; landfill gas, in other words.
Last year it was involved in a successful project with the London Borough of Camden. The council ran a cng 136hp 3.0-litre 65C14G 6.5-tonner cage tipper on biomethane for six months and was impressed with the results.
The vehicle was priced at £7,000 more than the standard diesel model but cost 30 per cent less to fuel and CO2 emissions were 62 per cent lower. Using biomethane can lead to a 90 per cent reduction in emissions of particulate matter, a 60 per cent reduction in nitrous oxide, a 50 per cent reduction in sulphur dioxide and even a noise reduction of around 30 per cent according to supplier Gasrec.
Lower noise levels are often ignored when emissions are discussed, but they do matter; especially if you’re making early morning deliveries when many people are still asleep.
Biomethane can be transported by tanker to a customer’s depot and stored in a bulk tank. Alternatively it can be held in a bank of cylinders; an approach likely to appeal to smaller operators.
Unlikely to appear in the UK, but interesting nonetheless, is the low-CO2 hydrogen/methane 35S14 Daily. A lively performer, again with a 136hp 3.0-litre engine, it’s at the same time extraordinary quiet compared with a standard-issue diesel.
Mix methane with hydrogen and you significantly reduce the latter’s flammability, just so long as you don’t allow the hydrogen content to go above 30 per cent. Fuel consumption is about the same as that of a van running on straight methane and exhaust emissions are about the same too.
So why bother mixing the two together? In this case it’s because there’s a source of cheap hydro electricity near the Brenner Pass, an Alpine pass which links Italy and Austria. That makes hydrogen a cost-effective bet in that part of the world; you need a lot of electricity to make it and if the power’s relatively inexpensive, then the fuel can be too.
We applaud Iveco for its diverse approach to ‘green’ technologies. In the short term there will not be just the one solution to cater for the differing needs of LCV operators.