While attending the Hanover CV Show contributing editor Steve Banner managed to catch up with five of the top players in the European LCV market to find out what lies ahead for the major manufacturers in these troubled times.
Giuliano Giovannini, sales and marketing product director
What are you working on so far as alternative power sources are concerned?
We’ve invested heavily in compressed natural gas (cng) and there are over 10,000 cng-fuelled Ivecos now in service around Europe. We market a cng Daily and we also produce cng version of our Eurocargo and Stralis trucks. We believe that cng is a good choice of fuel if you’re on city centre delivery work. It offers a low level of exhaust emissions and we reckon that our cng engines already almost meet the planned Euro-6 emission standard.
Aren’t you concerned, however, about the lack of a cng distribution network in some countries? In the UK for example there are virtually no service stations with cng pumps.
We’re aware that this is an issue and we suspect it’s one we’ll have to live with for some time. Many big fleets that have decided to opt for cng have invested in their own refuelling stations, however. We know of one operator that is running its vehicles on biogas that it makes itself from recycled refuse. It has exactly the same properties as cng.
Are you developing hybrids too?
We’ve got a small fleet of hybrid Daily vans on trial in Italy and we’ve been contacted by a lot of major operators around Europe who have expressed interest in them. The vans are proving successful and capable of achieving a fuel saving of up to 25 per cent on urban work. As a consequence we’ll start to put them into limited production in 2009. Thereafter we believe that hybrid models could account for up to five per cent of Daily production in Europe within the next five to six years.
Are you also developing vans that will run solely on battery power?
Yes, but we think they will continue to be niche products; more so than hybrids. Remember though that the bulk of Daily light commercials are likely to be powered by diesel engines for sometime to come.
What’s your view of biodiesel? Its critics argue that it is partly responsible for the rise in global food prices because it is made out of industrial crops that are being grown in place of wheat, rice, potatoes and so on. Should we be waiting instead for so-called second-generation biodiesel made from waste matter?
Definitely and one of the big advantages of biodiesel is that engines can burn it without any dramatic technological changes being required. However, we think that the best and most efficient way of using it is to mix an increasing percentage of it into standard diesel rather than operators here and there running on it 100 per cent.