Asda makes biggest renewable-powered tractor unit order

Asda has bought 202 Volvo FH LNG tractor units in the run-up to Christmas peak trading, in what is believed to be the single largest order ever placed in the UK for heavy trucks running on renewable fuels.

The supermarket has ambitions to transition its core fleet of 1,000 tractor units from diesel to gas by 2024, after in-house trials showed running on biomethane reduced CO2 emissions by more than 80%. The delivery also sees Volvo’s share of Asda’s fleet more than double in size.

“At Asda we like to think big, start small and scale fast – and that’s precisely what we’ve accomplished with this move to biomethane,” said Sean Clifton, Asda’s senior manager – national fleets. “We began with a pair of Volvo FH LNG trial vehicles at our Avonmouth depot in December 2018, which quickly proved to be very capable. A further 49 joined between December 2019 and May 2020; and now this latest order sees an additional 202 Volvos being deployed across five additional sites in our network.”

The order comprises 29 4x2s for operation with single-deck trailers, and 173 6x2s which will pull double-decks. All trucks have sleeper cabs and a comprehensive specification fine-tuned for safety, sustainability and efficiency.

The bulk of the new trucks will remain in service until January 2026 – 12 months longer than Asda’s typical replacement cycle for diesel vehicles. “The higher capital price for gas trucks means it makes sense to run them longer,” Clifton explains. “But having put the Volvos through their paces for two years, we have absolute faith in their ability to go the distance – even in our 24/7 operation, where trucks rarely stop.”

Clifton added that in the trial phase, drivers in Avonmouth found running on gas smoother and quieter than diesel, with none of the range anxiety you can get with some other alternative fuel options.

The longest run covered by Asda’s 4x2s is a return trip of 380 miles, which is comfortably achieved with a quarter tank of biomethane remaining. At 44-tonnes, the 6x2s with double-deck trailers are covering up to 350 miles between refills, which fits Asda’s route network perfectly. Refuelling is provided by Air Liquide and Gasrec, via a mix of on-site and open-access facilities.

The FH LNGs each benefit from Volvo’s unique approach to gas engine technology, using small amounts of diesel to initiate ignition of the air-fuel mixture. This enables the Volvo G13C engine to deliver the same 460hp and 2,300Nm of torque as its diesel-only counterpart, with matching driveability, reliability and service intervals. Plus, Volvo’s gas powertrain provides engine braking just like a regular diesel – and without requiring a separate retarder, which adds weight and complexity.

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Dan Parton
Dan Parton
Dan Parton is a former editor of Truck & Driver, the UK’s biggest selling truck magazine. He is now writes for The Van Expert and The Truck Expert.

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