New Queensland fire truck to run on vegetable oil

The Queensland Fire and Emergency Service has launched an Australia-first trial of a low emissions truck run on specially processed vegetable oil in northern Queensland.

Fire Chief Steve Smith

Alongside the Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO) truck, the QFES will also trial Australia’s first electric FMX prime mover.

The two Volvo trucks will support non-critical operational logistics in Caloundra and Townsville during the 12 month trial.

HVO is a second-generation biofuel that can be made by adding hydrogen to a range of materials including vegetable oils and other waste products to create a product that is similar to conventional diesel but free of fossil fuels.

It can be used interchangeably with regular diesel in specific engines.

Wider adoption

During the trial the HVO truck will operate solely on HVO to test its ability to meet the demands of the job and travel long distances.

Depending on the outcome of the trial, QFES may consider wider adoption of HVO fuel into its 500-strong heavy vehicle fleet, Commissioner Steve Smith says.

“Both the electric and HVO-powered truck will be trialed in a non-critical tier of response and operations, allowing QFES the ability to assess the benefits of the vehicles before adopting them further into the fleet,” he said.

This pilot plays a pivotal role in shaping the approach we take towards the decarbonisation of our service.

Commissioner Steve Smith

“There are about 500 heavy vehicles in the Fire and Rescue Service fleet and another 1030 in the Rural Fire Service, so this pilot plays a pivotal role in shaping the approach we take towards the decarbonisation of our service.”

Commissioner Smith says QFES Fleet will work with regional staff to install charging infrastructure to support the electric prime mover, while also establishing a reliable source of HVO.

A QFES spokesman told Government News a bulk amount of HVO will be stored in Townsville under a commercial arrangement with a supplier during the trial.

QFES will work with the University of Queensland to evaluate the trial.

Decarbonising the QFES fleet

Fire and disaster recovery minister Nikki Boyd says the trial breaks new ground for Queensland’s emergency services and represents a milestone step towards decarbonising the QFES fleet.

“QFES is the first Queensland Government department to introduce and conduct a trial operating heavy vehicles on HVO and pure electric,” she said in a statement.

“With the transport sector contributing for more than 15 per cent of Queensland’s total emissions, it’s critical all facets of government work together to decarbonise their operations.”

Pros and cons

According to a recent Volvo document on the pros and cons of alternative fuels for trucks, HVO has both advantages and disadvantages.

The document says HVO performance is virtually the same as diesel and it can be produced from a broad range of raw materials and used as direct replacement for diesel without modification.

HVO also reduces carbon emissions by about 95 per cent compared to diesel, Commissioner Smith said.

On the downside, while HVO carbon emissions are low, emissions of nitrogen oxides – which can contribute to smog and respiratory problems – are not reduced.

It’s also more expensive than diesel.

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