BRANDI GREEN LINE: Act TODAY for TOMORROW with Biodiesel
Interview with Marco Brandenberger, CEO
The company Stella Brandenberger Transporte AG has been in business for almost 70 years. When did the desire to design and implement a clear environmental strategy first arise?
We began implementing environmental measures in 2008 as part of the new construction project for the logistics center in Pratteln. The first major project was Brandi Solarpower, our photovoltaic facility on the roof of the building. It produces 140,000 kWh per year and thus covers the annual electricity requirements of the entire logistics center. In addition, we obtain the totality of our thermal heat and heating energy from a wood chip power plant (district heating) and feed our truck wash facility and toilet flushes with meteoric water, which is collected on a roof area of 2,000 m2. We have also always invested in environmentally friendly vehicles and were (and still are) pioneers on Swiss roads in terms of European standards. Today, our entire fleet is Euro 6 compliant, with one third of our vehicles already equipped with the latest generation of Euro 6d engines.
And now you're turning to biodiesel, why?
In our industry, it is not that easy to run environmentally friendly vehicles and still meet the needs of our customers, especially in the container transport sector. We were looking for a solution, and our vehicle supplier MAN presented us with the idea of trucks using 100% biodiesel. Compared to trucks running on conventional diesel, these vehicles emit 45% less CO2 (taking fuel production into account).
The "Brandi Green Line" is still a pilot project. There are only a few biodiesel filling stations in Switzerland and storing biodiesel on our premises is cumbersome. Environmental protection is a priority corporate goal for us. We are aware that we will be faced with additional costs, and we have reckoned with that. At the end of the day, the overall bill must add up and then we will decide how to proceed further with the project. We have found very good partners, and for emergencies, we also have a biodiesel reserve on our premises. The topic has been well received by our customers. We will expand the biodiesel fleet by another three vehicles in July of this year. We will assess the situation at the end of the year.
Do you consider the Brandi Green Line more as a vision or a clear strategy?
It is not only a vision.It is a pilot project. We have invested just under one million francs and are already carrying out the work. But we also have a responsibility and must analyze such major projects carefully. We also must be aware that technology is constantly evolving. We are looking for sensible solutions to reduce our impact on the environment, but they also need to be cost-efficient and respond to a clear demand on the part of our customers. At the moment, we are collecting the data, the decision how to continue will be taken next year.
Your company has now over 80 employees. How could you motivate them for the project? Were there any skeptics?
(laughing) Yes, at the employee information session there were a few derisive comments, "Now they're buying deep fryers." Yes - biodiesel is partly made from used frying oil. But some skepticism about the unknown is normal; the employees had to get to grips with the topic first. Today, our drivers are satisfied and so far, have not reported any major differences compared to the other vehicles; the only thing that is somewhat annoying is the unpleasant smell of the biodiesel when refueling.
Why don't you opt for electric or hydrogen-powered vehicles?
These vehicles are not well suited for container transport and it is not yet realistic to use them. The issue here is the considerable weight of the batteries, and the range is still too short. So today, hydrogen and electric powered vehicles are not yet an option for us, but we will see what the future brings. The development is very fast, and we are constantly monitoring the market.
You mention that if the pilot project is successfully completed by the end of 2021, Stella Brandenberger will continue to expand the biodiesel fleet. What do you mean by "successful completion"? What must happen next to ensure that the fleet continues to expand?
As I said, we are prepared not only to make investments for environmental protection but also to bear additional costs. There must however be a market for our offer. We are backing the pilot project and will continue to expand the fleet in July 2021. In 2022, we will evaluate the results and decide how to proceed. Concretely, to have a "successful completion" all the elements must add up. For this, we need to compare the figures for CO2 emissions, costs, sales, demand and decide on this basis. Right now, we cannot say all that much. Since there is not yet enough empirical data for vehicles with 100% biodiesel, we must first collect all the information and evaluate this ourselves.
Mr. Brandenberger, are you the head and the heart of the Brandi Green Line?
As a family business, we are all behind it. I am the contact person and the responsible for the pilot project, but the whole family backs the project - with head AND heart (laughs).