This could be the future of all road-feeder services: H2-powered heavy-duty vehicles operating long-haul routes and emitting zero greenhouse gases. An option for tomorrow or later, but already an action point on DHL Express’ current agenda, as demonstrated by the fact that the integrator joined a pilot test to generate intelligence on the performance of hydrogen-fueled trucks running between Belgium and the Netherlands.
The test program has meanwhile been completed and its evaluation is currently underway. However, even before the findings are presented, company spokeswoman, Sabine Hartmann points out that, from DHL’s perspective, the use of fuel cells for climate friendly H2 trucking over longer distances is a feasible option within the scope of the integrator’s global decarbonization ambitions.
Fueling network is needed
She adds that much depends on infrastructural issues. Testing ground transports on a reference route only shows that H2-powered trucks are as efficient as diesel-driven vehicles. Yet, before converting conventional truck fleets to hydrogen-propelled vehicles, the necessary ground infrastructure must be in place. This raises the question as to what comes first: chicken or egg? I.e., a dense network of H2 filling stations, or vehicles powered by hydrogen energy. This recalls a similar discussion 6 or 7 years ago, when the first electric cars came into use in Europe and North America but lacked a developed refueling network. However, in contrast to private cars, experts consent that H2 is more likely to become first choice for fueling trucks, buses or other heavy vehicles. During the pilot phase, as many as 350 tons of CO2 were saved, says DHL.
New H2 avenue
Driven by the ambitious environmental goals of its Sustainability Roadmap, Deutsche Post DHL Group is investing heavily in the use of alternative fuels. In addition to e-mobility, hydrogen is opening a new avenue and can contribute to green transport solutions, reads a DHL release. Exemplified by the truck built by Dutch producer, DAF, that covered a daily distance of around 200 km, running the cross-border route between Breda in the Netherlands, and Brussels, Belgium. It refueled daily at a mobile service station in Breda, run by operator Wystrach that participated in the project, as did Dutch H2 provider WaterstofNet that coordinated the activities. The first DHL customer to test the zero-emission transport of its products as an option, was U.S. technology giant, Apple.
“In a globalized world, sustainable and clean fuels are essential for climate-neutral logistics. Not only for sea and air freight, but also line-haul road freight, as these help reduce CO2 emissions,” says Alberto Nobis, CEO DHL Express Europe. The executive goes on to say: “That's why we engage not only in the electrification of our fleet but also invest in the development of alternative drive systems for very long ranges. The project shows that we can achieve truly emission-free logistics in Europe if we join forces and build on experience,” he concludes.
It remains to be seen whether DHL will now build up a fleet of hydrogen trucks as a result of the test series, while simultaneously urging the EU to push ahead with its decarbonization strategy and pave the way for establishing a dense network of H2 refueling stations as part of the block’s Green Deal.
DHL grows Miami Hub
On the other side of the pond, DHL Express will up the capacity of its Miami hub and improve the facility, investing more than US$78 million in updating its sorting and service capabilities. The step becomes necessary due to the additional flights to/from Europe, Far East, South America being added to the Miami network, alongside domestic U.S. routes and services to Mexico and Chile.
The announced investment is part of a larger US$360 million package to increase volume capacity in the DHL Express American network by nearly 30% by the end of 2022. Part of the investment is in a fully automated package sorting system, which will almost double the current sorting capacity. With nearly twofold warehouse space – now 19,138 m² / 206,000 sq. ft. – and twice the number of load positions for conveyable packages, the space fully accommodates the increased volumes ahead of the peak season in the U.S., the integrator states in a release.
Brussels Cargo Community endorses EU-supported Stargate project
On 25NOV21, Brussels Airport’s Stargate project was officially launched, supported by a 24.8 euro grant within the European Green Deal. In the 5 years to come, Brussels Airport and 21 partners will develop projects for more sustainable aviation. Some 30 small as well as large projects will focus on increased decarbonization, improving the local environmental quality, and improving the modal split. Air Cargo Belgium, DHL, and Brussels Airlines are among the 21 partners involved in Stargate.
DHL has committed to purchasing the first electric ground handling equipment in order to test it in practice (pictured here with Brussels Airport CEO Arnaud Feist). Together with TUI and Brussels Airlines, DHL will also be among the first airlines to fly on biofuel. At Brussels Airport, a blending installation will be built, making it the first airport in the world where kerosene is blended with biofuel on site. “With Stargate, we want to show, together with our partners, that a more sustainable aviation is possible,” said CEO Arnaud Feist. The other airports involved are Budapest, Athens International, and Toulouse-Blagnac.
Marcel Schoeters in Brussels
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