Features & Interviews

Fuelling change: How HVO fuel is helping operators plug the gap to net zero

07 September 2023 #Features & Interviews

While more zero emission trucks are coming to market, some operators still preparing to make the switch are finding that using Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (is playing a positive role in helping to decarbonise their operations.

HVO is an odourless, non-toxic, drop-in, fossil-free biofuel, produced from vegetable oil, tallow or used cooking oil and which does not require any engine or fuelling infrastructure modifications.

As a sustainable fuel source designed for the latest Euro VI trucks, and with a significantly lower carbon footprint than diesel, it can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 90%.

For example, at Wincanton, 85% of its logistics vehicle fleet serving Screwfix now refuels with HVO – using approximately 90,000 litres of the fuel per week. The logistics specialist launched an HVO trial in 2022 involving 48 heavy goods vehicles operating from the Screwfix distribution centre in Lichfield, Staffordshire.

Screwfix worked with its truck manufacturer to make sure that the HVO specification fuel was compatible with the fleet, before installing fuel tanks at its Distribution Centres.  Vehicles operating from the Screwfix Stafford Distribution Centre also began using HVO in March this year.

Ian Howe, Supply Chain and Logistics Director at Screwfix, said: “With over 870 stores across the UK and Ireland, transport is a key focus for Screwfix’ commitment in serving local communities, and we are determined to drive a real and material difference, in reducing emissions and improving air quality.

“The results are impressively encouraging, and we’re exploring how we can go further.”

While Royal Mail has introduced 5,000 electric light commercial vehicles into its final-mile fleet it has found HVO adoption a useful additional way to improve the environmental performance of its heavier trucks.

Its Sheffield mail centre, Midlands super hub and Manchester vehicle operating centres were the first sites to transition trucks to HVO, with four more locations to follow this year.

Royal Mail says using HVO at these sites will save a combined consumption of 2.1 million litres of diesel this year as it looks to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2040.

In addition, the organisation plans to continue to increase HVO deployment across its local and national distribution fleet network over the coming years, and reduce its direct emissions by up to 200,000 metric tons of CO2e.

Rob Fowler, fleet director at Royal Mail, said: “We consider HVO to be a transitional fuel that helps us to take steps toward decarbonising our HGV fleet while low-emissions technologies continue to advance in this area.

“We will continue to assess and test other emerging low-emission technologies that we could potentially deploy in our larger fleet including electric and hydrogen HGVs.”

Meanwhile, for PepsiCo, the transportation of 240,000 tonnes of potatoes each year from British farms to its Walkers Crisps site in Leicester, in partnership with AB Texel UK, is now entirely powered by used cooking oil.

The initiative uses 800,000 litres of HVO fuel to replace diesel across 2.6 million kilometres of truck journeys per year.

Usage of HVO fuel will also be expanded to the company’s transport operations in Scotland later in 2023 which is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by another 5,000 tonnes annually.

PepsiCo introduced the alternative fuel in 2022 for trucks moving products between the Quaker Oats mill in Cupar and its Leicester Distribution Centre.

By the end of 2023, PepsiCo expects to be using HVO to power around nine million kilometres of its journeys across the UK.

Simon Devaney, Sustainability Director, PepsiCo UK & Ireland, said: “We’re always looking for innovative ways to tackle our carbon footprint and the move to HVO for all our potato deliveries to Leicester, the home of Walkers, is a significant step.

“HVO fuel plays an important role in helping us to accelerate the decarbonisation of our transport activities.”

Meanwhile, heating and plumbing company TG Lynes began using HVO in two of its 18-tonne Euro VI trucks late last year, the vehicles being refuelled by a 10,000 litre tank installed at its Enfield base.

The company estimates that the projected carbon saving through the course of 2023 by using the two HVO trucks will be 15 tonnes.

John O’Connell, Transport Supervisor at the business, said: “We knew that our carbon emissions from these two vehicles would reduce by around 90 per cent, but we hadn’t fully appreciated the additional benefits the move would bring.

“The mileage per gallon (MPG) of each vehicle has improved. These Class 2 vehicles tend to do quite short journeys within the M25 with plenty of stopping and starting.

“When we were using regular diesel the MPG averaged 11.5. During a similar month this year, with comparable journeys completed, it was 13 MPG.

“It’s been a really positive test and we are considering rolling out HVO across other vehicles in the fleet – and perhaps, in time, across all of them.”

This summer, St Helens-based Suttons Tankers embarked on an eight-week trial using HVO as an alternative fuel, compatible with existing diesel engines without any need for modifications.

Its pilot phase aims to reduce CO2 emissions by 91 tonnes on just five routes as the firm aims to become net zero by 2040.

Steve Hassall, Fleet Director at Suttons, said: “Sustainability, ESG and reducing our carbon footprint are at the absolute forefront of our agenda at Suttons, and in order to move this forward we are trialling HVO so that we can fully understand the emissions reductions, costs and practicalities of this product.”

For hauliers currently running traditional internal combustion-engined trucks, battery electric and hydrogen technology provide key opportunities to decarbonise, although the UK has a real need to develop HGV-specific infrastructure for zero-emission vehicle recharging and refuelling..

However, alternative fuels such as HVO can provide a method to reduce emissions on their existing fleets ahead of their renewal plans.

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