In the last two years the Italian network of liquefied natural gas distributors dedicated to industrial vehicles has progressively increased and last June it entered the motorway, thanks to the inauguration of the station located in the service area of Baronissi Est, located on the motorway link Avellino-Salerno. This distributor is located a few kilometers from the headquarters of Smet, one of the largest Italian fleets that can be defined as a pioneer in the use of natural gas on heavy vehicles. A story that began in 2014 with the purchase of the first Iveco Stralis NP and continued in close collaboration with the manufacturer.
The right alternative
A constructive report that CEO Domenico De Rosa tells us as follows:«We collaborated in the development of the first models, providing Iveco with the results and impressions in daily operational use and so in 2017 we arrived at the most powerful version of 460 hp, which we believe is the most suitable as an alternative to diesel in commercial road transport». Today, the Smet natural gas fleet has one hundred units, but the company from Campania does not intend to stop there, on the contrary it has launched the challenge of arriving by 2022 to use a fleet consisting only of vehicles running on liquefied natural gas.«We want to have a stimulus function for the de-carbonisation of road transport and be pioneers on this road as we were twenty years ago of intermodality. We know that many hauliers are still very attached to diesel, but we believe that we are witnessing a paradigm shift and the culture of our industry must also evolve. This is also demonstrated by the fact that not only does the natural gas distribution network increase, but also the number of industrial vehicle manufacturers offering this alternative». As Smet has been using liquid natural gas road tractors for four years now over long distances, we asked De Rosa if this fuel imposes limits or operational changes:«Natural gas requires a study to make better use of the fleet and optimize routes, a normal activity in a company of our size that does not involve revolutionary changes. Today we are able to use natural gas in most of the services that we used to cover with diesel fuel, even on international routes, where those for France and Germany prevail. The only important operating limit we have found is the impossibility of using natural gas on lowered tractors, due to the position of the tanks, but we are sure that the manufacturers will be able to find a solution».
Towards “green” logistics
The distribution network is certainly not as widespread as that of diesel, but it does not seem to be a serious problem for Smet: «Tractors have tanks that guarantee an autonomy of up to 1,500 kilometres, sufficient for most of our transport», explains De Rosa, who adds an anticipation: «We are also equipping our internal network of distributors, with a view to 2022. At the beginning of 2019 we will open a liquefied natural gas distributor in Salerno and by 2020 we will open two more plants in Cassino and Melfi. Initially they will serve our vehicles, then we could open them to third parties». De Rosa argues that natural gas also reduces the cost of purchasing fuel by about fifteen percent compared to diesel, but reiterates that «the economic balance so far is a secondary element of our choice to convert the entire fleet to natural gas, because the main objective remains to implement sustainable logistics. And an important part of our customers, which is also attentive to the environmental balance, is showing interest in this choice. Some customers explicitly ask for natural gas trucks for their transport». Smet is also introducing natural gas tractors into its European subsidiaries, starting with the Spanish subsidiary, which is already using ten Iveco Stralis NP.