Clean alternative
Sustainability 25.02.2021 2 Min.
Clean alternative.

Since the start of this year, two trucks powered by liquefied natural gas have been on the road for the BMW Group. One initiative of many at BMW on the way towards climate-neutral logistics.

The BMW Group's sustainability targets are ambitious, and that also applies to its logistics sector. From 2050, all modes of transporting cargo for the company – whether by ship, road or rail – are to be one hundred percent climate-neutral. The BMW Group is thus already integrating various sustainable drive systems for heavy goods road transport into its supply chain.

This includes two lorries that are powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Since the start of this year, they deliver engines from Steyr in Austria to the BMW Group plant in Regensburg, Germany – taking full advantage of their innovative engines on this route. The natural-gas-driven lorries are not only a lot quieter than conventional diesel trucks, they are also significantly more environmentally friendly. While CO2 emissions are up to a quarter lower compared to conventional diesel engines, nitrogen oxide emissions (NOx) are even reduced by up to 60 percent. This effect can be further enhanced by using biogas from fossil and renewable sources, for example the waste industry.

Natural gas trucks are particularly effective over longer distances

The environmentally friendly lorries perform particularly well on longer routes. With a range of up to 1,500 kilometres they can complete the 530 kilometres between the Regensburg and Steyr sites on just one tank of gas – there and back. An electric heavy goods vehicle would need to be charged several times to complete the same distance. Lorries powered by compressed natural gas (CNG) are not a viable alternative either. They only have a range of up to 500 kilometres, with a tank three times the size of the LNG lorries.

The advantage of the liquid gas fuel is a chemical phenomenon put to good use by the logistics specialists. “Natural gas loses volume during the liquefaction process”, explains Axel Wauthier, Logistics Manager at BMW Group. Before it is put in the tank, the gas is cooled down to minus 160 degrees. This reduces the volume to a six-hundredth of its original state. The fuel is then transformed back to the gaseous state before being injected into the engine,

The LNG lorries are just one of a multitude of initiatives the BMW Group is using to achieve its climate targets. “Our approach is open to different technologies”, says BMW Group innovation expert Benedikt Anderhofstadt. The company is not only involved in hydrogen pilots, e.g. the “H2Haul” (www.h2haul.eu) European research project, it also uses environmentally friendly carriers like trains. Already, almost 50 percent of new vehicles leave the BMW Group’s production plants by rail.