Long-range and quiet.

The BMW Group has tested an HGV running on liquefied natural gas in Regensburg. The outcome is that this environmentally friendly truck presents an ideal alternative to diesel, especially over long distances.

Heavy goods vehicles running on Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) are not completely unknown on Europe’s streets. In Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Great Britain, these environmentally friendly and quiet trucks have been in use for years. These countries also already have functioning networks of LNG filling stations. In Germany, by contrast, the infrastructure is still very patchy, making it insufficient for widespread LNG use.

But this will soon change. The LNG truck, which the HGV manufacturer Iveco made available to the BMW Group for two weeks, and which has 400 HP and a range of up to 1,500 kilometres, proved to be a "sensible and sustainable alternative to conventional diesel, especially over longer distances", says Thomas Irrenhauser, who supervised the pilot operation on behalf of the BMW Group.

The natural gas truck completed the journey between the BMW site in Steyr and the BMW Group plant in Regensburg without problem on one tank, in fact, more than once. “With an electric drive, the journey there and back, which is 530 kilometres long, would have taken several charges”, says Irrenhauser. Even a truck running on CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) would not have been an option. These only have a range of up to 500 kilometres and need a fuel tank that is three times as large. To get LNG, on the other hand, natural gas is refrigerated to around minus 130 degrees Celsius before fuelling. This reduces its volume to 1/600th, and it is only returned into a gaseous state just before the fuel is injected into the engine.

Apart from the fact that an LNG truck is up to 50 percent quieter in use than a conventional HGV, it is also significantly more environmentally friendly. For example, nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are up to 60 percent lower in a direct comparison. “This effect could be improved even more with biogas from fossil and renewable sources,” says Irrenhauser. Together with logistics providers, the BMW Group will now campaign to expand the network of LNG fuelling stations in Germany over the next few years.