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Alternative energies: when GEODIS runs on natural gas
Road freight transport is known for its polluting nature. However, GEODIS now offers customers several alternatives to the use of diesel, some of which are already in use. We have been committed to the use of vehicles running on natural gas since they first appeared over ten years ago, and GEODIS now has all the necessary expertise to support its customers in this field.
One alternative to diesel is the use of electric vehicles. GEODIS’s fleet has been providing this solution for several years, and we are the first to do so in terms of the number of ‘small carrier’ vehicles we use in France. These limited-battery-life vehicles are well adapted to the transportation of small loads and last-mile urban deliveries.
As far as long-distance transport is concerned, it will be necessary to wait until 2019 for the next generation of electric vehicles, which promise greater load capacity and battery life. “We are closely following these trends and, in partnership with our manufacturers, are ready to switch to this new energy,” says Philippe de Carné, Vice President, Innovation & Business Excellence at GEODIS.
Choosing natural gas
Today, the true alternative to diesel is natural gas. It allows for a 70% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and an almost 100% reduction in particulate emissions. A major factor blocking the development of this alternative energy is the low-density network of gas distribution stations across France and elsewhere in Europe.
Despite the slow start to the development of this distribution network, GEODIS has been using natural gas in all European countries where it operates a fleet. “This involves integrating natural gas-fueled vehicles in transport plans and therefore reducing our environmental impact," explains de Carné.
In Spain, for example, GEODIS has just revamped its transport plan to meet the environmental requirements of one of its clients. By offering its customers liquefied natural gas (LNG) vehicles, the group is paving the way for other similar initiatives in the transport sector. With over 400 hp and a 1,500-km battery range, 12 trucks now make regular trips between Madrid and Barcelona. The purchase and maintenance costs of these vehicles are certainly high, but they are offset by the price of liquefied natural gas, which is cheaper than diesel. The investment is recouped in 5 years.
“We have been investing in natural gas for several years,” states de Carné. “Our current strategy is to support our customers while taking into account the geographical perimeter that needs to be covered. Our intermediary position between the manufacturer and the shipper allows us to provide an adapted service that meets our customers’ expectations while reducing our environmental impact.”
Towards a ‘biogas’ future?
While natural gas is an alternative that is beginning to prove itself, GEODIS is also looking at biogas (methane produced from biomass). It’s still too early to consider using biogas, but the potential is considerable. Indeed, unlike liquefied natural gas or fossil fuels, biogas has a major advantage: its carbon footprint is close to zero.