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DB Schenker is testing LNG in long-distance transport. A truck that consumed just a single fuel tank arrived to the Netherlands.

Sustainability is one of the strategic values of the logistics company DB Schenker, which has long supported technologies and innovations in the field of alternative fuels in order to reduce the environmental burden of transport. One such project was a recent practical test of the range of an LNG trailer truck with a semi-trailer on a long-distance route from the Czech Republic to the Netherlands.

For several years, compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles have been appearing in DB Schenker's fleet of passenger and utility vehicles, which led to building the company's own filling plant in Rudna near Prague. However, CNG is not optimal for long-distance transport, mainly due to the lack of range and driving characteristics. Therefore, the company decided to test the operation of a liquid natural gas (LNG) truck in cooperation with Iveco on a regular route from Rudna near Prague to more than 534 mi away Tilburg in the Netherlands. 

Thanks to the respectable declared range of up to 932 mi per tank, it was possible to plan a route of over 1 056 mi on the Rudna – Tilburg route  with just one planned refueling. To do this, a self-service filling station directly in Tilburg had been chosen, where the cargo headed to. "During the weekly test, the truck mastered the chosen route twice. The driving characteristics were not significantly different from diesel trucks, only the filling of LNG took a little longer. The gas is kept at a temperature of -162 °C, therefore its storage and handling is more difficult. The driver was professionally trained before the trip and managed to refuel without any problems," says Petra Suvova, Transport Manager in DB Schenker.

Two test transportations of LNG truck on route Rudna–Tilburg–Rudna 

Trailer truck: IVECO Stralis AS440S46T/P NP

Total distance: 2273 mi

Average speed: 46 mph

Cruise control: 62 % of driving time

Average total vehicle mass: 29 tons

Fuel consumption: 56.4 L/162 mi

CO2 emissions: 0.7 L/0.62 mi

"Alternative fuels are at the forefront of DB Schenker's interest in the long term, because in them we see the future of more sustainable and environmentally friendly transport. We have gathered valuable experience, which we would like to put into everyday practice. We would welcome more support from our state, because due to high acquisition costs, the operation is not yet profitable," says Tomas Holomoucky, Managing Director in DB Schenker for the Czech Republic, and adds: "We welcome the fact that some major Czech companies, such as Skoda Auto, are actively motivating their suppliers and carriers in the use of LNG cars.

LNG has been booming in recent years, especially in western and southern Europe. The network of LNG stations is dense, especially in the Netherlands and Italy. In addition, some countries, such as Germany, have a zero toll rate for LNG wagons. "We drove 2 273 mi with this truck in a week and the saving on tolls in Germany amounted to 513 euros," adds Petra Suvova.

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is not commonly found in nature. Instead of compression, which would result in CNG, the extracted natural gas is liquefied and further transported by LNG tankers. The use of natural gas, whether in liquid or compressed gaseous form, has advantages, in particular in terms of exhaust gas emissions, which are significantly less harmful than diesel engines. Thanks to its lower volume compared to CNG, LNG also allows more fuel to be filled into the same tank, thus guaranteeing a higher range. In combination with lower fuel costs and lower consumption, fuel cost savings of up to 20 % can be achieved.