Greener, cleaner: Trucks take up Challenge

Entrants in the Challenge Bibendum clean-energy vehicle event recently competed for environmental honors amid the natural beauty of California's Sonoma Valley.

This year's Challenge, created and sponsored by Michelin, opened competition to commercial vehicles for the first time, and the trucking industry responded enthusiastically.

There were 12 commercial vehicle entrants covering Classes 3-8, drawn both from OEMs and fleets, as well as numerous industry exhibitors. On hand were vehicle entries or exhibits from Allison, Cummins Westport, Isuzu Truck/Westport, Eaton, Freightliner, and Volvo Truck North America. Along with Michelin, Bosch and ChevronTexaco served as the main sponsors.

The big winner from the trucking field was a joint entry by Isuzu Motors Ltd of Japan and Westport Innovations Inc of Canada. The prototype medium-duty Isuzu ELF (sold here as the Isuzu and GM N-Series) powered by a direct-injection compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered truck developed by Westport drove away with gold medals for fuel efficiency and emissions performance, as well as a silver medal for vehicle noise level.

Tadashi Ioka, Isuzu's manager of corporate communications, said the truck is the world's first mono-fuel “diesel-cycle” CNG truck. He said the OEM is considering “commercial opportunities” for the truck in Japan, North America, and elsewhere.

The delivery truck's 4.5-liter direct-injection engine employs Westport's “hot-surface assisted” CNG-DI technology, which the partners said delivers “significant power, performance, and emissions advantages and requires no use of diesel as a pilot fuel.” The vehicle starts and runs entirely on CNG.

Also coming away with honors was Volvo Trucks North America. Its demonstrator vehicle, the VN780 Tech Truck, scored the highest rating in its class, while using the least energy during a simulated overnight idling competition.

The VN780 Tech Truck achieved an “A” rating in its category during the idling test. It measured the amount of energy consumed by competing heavy-duty trucks during a 12-hour period, and converted it into the equivalent gallons of diesel fuel consumed per hour.

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