Iveco reckoned its first-generation Stralis NP could do 1500 km (932 miles) on a single tank of LNG. We thought we’d put it to the test on an epic road run from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

When Iveco launched the Stralis NP, it billed it as the first ever gas-fuelled truck designed for long-distance haulage. The Italian manufacturer claimed NP (Natural Power) offered performance, range and driving characteristics comparable to a new diesel Stralis XP – a pitch it hoped would resonate with hauliers amid mounting backlash against diesel vehicles and the threat of restrictions for operating them within cities.

Stralis NP runs on LNG (liquified natural gas) and Iveco quotes an operating range of 1500 km on a single fill. Its promotional literature stated the truck could “travel from John O’Groats to Land’s End without refuelling” – a bold claim indeed.

So we thought we’d try it out.

Stralis NP: Going for gas

Stralis NP has a 400 bhp Cursor 9 engine and delivers 1700 Nm – 17 per cent more power and six per cent more torque than its nearest competitor. The truck requires no AdBlue, no complicated aftertreatment, no particulate filter and the maintenance interval is 75,000 km (though Iveco is working on stretching this further). Emissions are also ultra-low: Iveco reckons NP produces 70 per cent less NOx, 99 per cent less PM and 90 per cent less NMHC than a Euro 6 diesel truck.

A redesigned exhaust and repositioned battery enables Stralis NP to sport a large gas tank either side of the chassis. At the time of our test, it was 4×2 only – but a 6×2 version is now available, albeit with a shorter range of around 750 km.

On paper, the concept is sound. But how would it fare on a real road run? To find out, we joined Iveco product director Martin Flach and his team at John O’Groats to kick off our top-to-bottom test.

Day one

After a hasty breakfast, we set off from the famous signpost at John O’Groats at 6.30 am for an 118-mile run to Inverness. The weather was uncharacteristically calm as we ran the stretch of the A99 to Latheron, before joining the more arduous, yet undeniably picturesque A9.

Threading the truck along the single carriageway lining the northern coast, it’s surprising how much the NP drives like a diesel. We were running at 30 tonnes (supermarket weight) and the Cursor 9 and Eurotronic ’box (new NPs now have much more refined HI-TRONIX automated transmissions) enabled the vehicle to take the Scottish hills in its stride. The only real tell is a two-second delay before you move away after pushing the gas pedal from a standing start, which has to be taken into account at roundabouts and on hill starts (remember to engage Hill Hold!).

We plotted smooth lines through the bends (we’d silenced Lane Departure Warning for this bit), and light traffic meant we had plenty of room to negotiate the tight hairpin at Berriedale Braes. The powerful retarder was more than adequate to keep speed under control, with only a dab or two of service brakes required here and there.

Iveco’s Hi-Way cab and robust driveline makes for a comfortable ride – even on the weatherbeaten, pockmarked stretches of highway – and we still felt fresh as we arrived at Café V8 at Inverness for a coffee and bacon bun.

The next leg (182 miles) was an easier drive – back on the A9 towards Dunblane, though we peeled off to follow the B9152 for a spell to get us around roadworks at Kincraig. Reaching Stirling, we joined the M80 towards Glasgow, where we took the M74 to Route 74 Truckstop at Lesmahagow for another break.

Next, back on the M74/M6 for an 163-mile punt to Iveco’s Walton Summit Truck Centre in Preston. Cruising along the motorway, there really is no way to tell this is a gas vehicle. The cab is quiet (though the mirrors cause a fair degree of wind noise), and Adaptive Cruise Control kept us rolling steadily on the limiter. By the time we’d reached Preston, we’d covered a total of 463 miles (745 km) and the fuel needle was sitting just north of the half-full mark – not bad, considering the gradients encountered up in the Highlands.

Day two

After a well-earned kip, we set off at 7 am for a 152-mile shift down the M6 to the superb Gloucester Services. As expected, we hit traffic around Birmingham (thankfully it kept moving), but in all the leg amounted to another easy cruise. Arriving in Gloucester for a midday lunch, we were then bound for Exeter (111 miles) on another motorway hike which passed without incident.

When we reached Exeter Services at around 3 pm, things were beginning to get interesting. The NP had just under a quarter of a tank left. The Iveco team were studying the telematics readout and seemed confident there was enough LNG left to get the job done, but we weren’t so sure – we had a 95-mile run to Smokey Joe’s Truckstop in Redruth to complete, at which point we’d have to drop the trailer before doing the last 30 miles to Land’s End (the Visitor Centre cannot accommodate 13.6 m trailers). It was going to be close.

Leaving Exeter, we took the A30 bound for Bodmin. Off the motorway, the run was getting harder – more hills, slower traffic, lower gears – and all the while we were keeping a close eye on the fuel needle. We held our breath on the long, steep climb up to Sourton Down, where we had to crawl up at 18 mph in eighth. Five miles from our next stop at Scorrier, another long climb had the NP down to fifth at 12 mph – and when we reached the summit, the information display lit up with a low fuel warning. Things were getting tense!

After dropping the trailer, the early evening light was starting to fade as we pushed on solo for the last 30 miles to Land’s End. Again, it was slow going – Easter holiday traffic meant congestion, and our low-gearing was pushing the needle further and further into the red.

But after a clenched 45 minutes, our goal was in sight. Easing through Sennen, we could see the sun beginning to set across the water – and two minutes later, we came to relieved stop in front of the famous signpost at the toe of the country.

The NP had done it: 851 miles (1370 km) on a single LNG fill.

STRALIS NP VERDICT

Iveco was right to call the NP the first viable gas truck for long-haul missions. It certainly has the chops for it – its comfortable cab, 400 bhp motor and auto ’box make trunking easy – and at 30 tonnes, it’s a compelling vehicle for supermarkets and parcel carriers. But it also coped better than we’d expected with tricky hill work. To say we came away impressed is an understatement – Iveco is at the front of the gas revolution, and you can’t argue with the NP’s accomplishments.

There & back again

In truth, the NP managed a total of 890 miles (1433 km) on a single fill during our trip. The truck had to make it back from Lands End to Smokey Joe’s in Scorrier, where the helpful lads at Brit European low-loaded the truck back to the nearest LNG filling station – in Bridgwater!

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