Last summer, the French government announced it would ban the sale of diesel, petrol and hybrid vehicles by 2040. The UK government made a similar public commitment not long after. While these announcements gave a clear endpoint for diesel, the fuel had been in the headlines for the wrong reasons for some time. Policy-makers hadn’t anticipated the impact of nitrogen oxide emissions and other particulates when they offered significant tax incentives to buy diesel vehicles in the early 2000s.
Now sales of diesel vehicles are in rapid decline. Recent figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders found that new diesel vehicle sales declined by more than 21 percent this month, and have fallen for six consecutive months. While many motorists are reconsidering their diesel vehicle purchases, they still hold a lot of merit for fleet managers. Given that European Environment Agency figures suggest the average age of a vehicle in a fleet is approx. 8.4 years for vans and 8.1 years for heavy duty vehicles, the chances are your next fleet vehicle purchase will be diesel.
The benefits for fleets
For fleet managers, who are trying to balance pressures to reduce costs and meet higher customer expectations in an extremely competitive market, diesel provides many cost benefits. According to BMW, diesel engines are 20-30 percent more fuel efficient than similar capacity petrol engines. They are also suited for fleets as they offer more low-speed torque than petrol engines, meaning better performance for vehicles with heavier payloads. Finally, diesel engines tend to get more miles on the road before requiring servicing.
Selective catalytic reduction (SCR) is a technique used by the industry to combat the harmful pollutants associated with diesel fuel. This involves feeding a solution of urea and deionised water (commonly referred to as AdBlue) into the exhaust, where a chemical reaction takes place to convert the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water molecules. On the whole it is an elegant solution to a significant challenge, however if the solution runs out, the selective catalytic reduction system cannot function or remove the harmful fumes. Cars and lorries with SCR tanks are manufactured to limit performance or shut down completely until the solution is replaced – which could spell disaster for commercial vehicles out on the road, especially with customers waiting.
Harnessing the benefits of diesel
Monitoring SCR in diesel vehicles is now vital to the performance of every fleet. Mobile resource management tools can play a vital role helping fleet managers to monitor SCR solution levels and harness the potential of their diesel vehicles to improve environmental and economic performance. These systems give managers complete visibility into where fleet vehicles are at any given moment, and can include engine diagnostics such as fuel or SCR levels, engine temperature and much more. This helps managers to proactively plan and better manage maintenance issues, and prevent any difficulties around SCR solution shortages with advance notifications. Perhaps most importantly, it can enable a fleet manager to minimise vehicle down time and better manage fuel consumption by reducing unnecessary engine idling, eliminate un-necessary mileage and limiting driver behaviours such as speeding or aggressive accelerating and braking which are poor for fuel consumption. This not only can reduce a fleet’s environmental footprint, it can help reduce costs at a time when fuel prices continue to rise and the need to maximise every mile per gallon is more important than ever.
Managers who are completely committed to reducing their footprint can take this a step further. Using Mobile Resource Management (MRM) software, they can measure the fleet’s progress on green metrics – tracking against baseline data to keep a complete record of greenhouse gas outputs and keep an eye on the fleet’s carbon footprint.
With electric vehicle infrastructure constantly improving and governments banning traditional fuels by 2040, there is no doubt that fleets need to start considering their long-term fuel sources. But for the short to medium-term, diesel vehicles, if well managed and supported by fleet management technologies, should remain the vehicle of choice for fleets for economic and environmental