Cutting van exhaust emissions by switching to electric, hybrid or gas power is a laudable aim, but one that can in practice be difficult to achieve. Cost, payload penalties and range anxiety regularly dissuade businesses from adopting low- or zero-emission technology, even though many of them recognise they may have to do so sooner or later.
Iveco alternative fuels director Martin Flach has never given up on promoting environmentally friendly methods of propulsion however – which is why we have decided to induct him into the What Van? Hall of Fame.
In particular he has lobbied hard for the Government to increase the gross vehicle weight allowance for alternative-fuel light commercials that can be driven by standard Category B licence holders from 3.5 to 4.25 tonnes, a 750kg increase. The proposal was out for consultation at the time of writing.
The concession applies to drivers who passed their test after 1 January 1997. Drivers who passed their test prior to that date can drive goods vehicles grossing at up to 7.5 tonnes under ‘grandfather rights’. Drivers who passed their test subsequently are restricted to 3.5 tonnes 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 extra 750kg weight allowance will in effect offset the increased weight of the powertrain on natural gas and electric vehicles meaning that they can carry at least the same payload as conventional 3.5t diesel vans.
“Customers are increasingly looking seriously at low-emission light commercials but at 3.5 tonnes vehicles are usually critical on payload, and it has resulted in a much lower take-up of low-emission models than we would have liked,” says Martin. “It has always seemed nonsensical that companies keen to implement innovative technology that is better for the environment should be penalised on payload and have to pay for additional driver training.”
Graduating with a BSc in electrical and electronic engineering from Middlesex University, Martin was recruited by what was then Ford’s truck division almost 40 years ago. Having spent eight years there he joined Iveco Ford Truck in 1986 after the merger of Iveco and Ford’s truck activities and remained with Iveco after the formation of Iveco Ltd in 2003.
As alternative fuels director he has responsibility for Iveco’s light, medium and heavy product ranges. Before that he was product director for the UK and the Republic of Ireland.
He has worked for Iveco in Italy at the company’s Brescia factory and at its Turin headquarters as chief engineer responsible for the medium product range and as line manager for medium and heavy product. He has become fluent in Italian.
A resident of Ross-on-Wye in Herefordshire, Martin is a steam railway enthusiast who has been observed working as a guard on charity Steam-Up days organised by world-renowned narrow gauge railway specialist Alan Keef Ltd in the nearby village of Lea.