TMC Speakers Discuss Alternative Fuels Mandated for Class 8 Tractors

Nov. 1, 1997
REPRESENTATIVES from Cummins Engine Company, Power Systems and Associates, Jack B Kelley Inc, and Mesa Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas were part of a study

REPRESENTATIVES from Cummins Engine Company, Power Systems and Associates, Jack B Kelley Inc, and Mesa Pacific Liquefied Natural Gas were part of a study group session during The Maintenance Council's fall meeting in Houston, Texas. The session focused on alternative fuels for Class 8 tractors.

Dr Vinod K Duggal of Cummins Engine Company gave the company's perspective on alternative fuels in Class 8 tractors. The report covered mandates that drive the alternative fuels market as well as Cummins' involvement with dedicated spark-ignited engines and experience with alternative fuels.

Duggal discussed the increasing stringency of federal emissions and energy policy standards and how they will affect fleets in years to come. Focusing specifically on the 1999 Environmental Protection Agency Clean Vehicle Program, Duggal pointed out areas in which fleets will have to make changes. The program states that beginning in 1999, medium- and heavy-duty fleets of 10 or more vehicles that are capable of central fueling must buy Low Emissions Vehicles (LEVs) for 50% of all vehicle purchases. The EPA offers further flexibility to fleets that purchase Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEVs).

Duggal explained the benefits and drawbacks of dedicated spark-ignited engines, including Cummins' development of heavy-duty natural gas engines. Beginning in the 1980s, Cummins developed lean-combustion concepts that led to its first heavy-duty natural gas fueled engine, the L10G, in 1990. These developments led to the EPA-certified B5.9G. Cummins expects to offer a complete line of EPA-certified engines by 1998.

Duggal presented Cummins' experience with alternative-fuel-powered heavy-duty truck and bus applications. Currently, the company has 2,200 engines and 130 million miles' experience in bus applications. Cummins claims durability at least equal to diesel engines, and says alternative fuels can extend bottom-end overhauls and oil drain intervals. Engine emissions and noise are also less than with diesel. Depending on a truck's duty cycle, fuel consumption can be greater than diesel, according to Duggal.

Dual Fuel Kevin Campbell, the North American business manager for Power Systems and Associates, spoke about electronic dual-fuel configurations for Caterpillar diesel engines. Campbell explained that dual-fuel engines use natural gas as the primary fuel and diesel as the ignition source. Electronic metering and timing control of both fuels result in an efficient, low-emission engine. Because the dual-fuel engine is still a sparkless diesel engine, Campbell explained, it achieves lower ownership and operating costs than other natural gas engines.

Dual-fuel engines produce similar power to diesel engines but have slightly less peak torque. "Natural gas can reduce operating costs because it is less expensive and cleaner-burning than diesel fuel," said Campbell. Once converted, dual-fuel engines retain compression-brake capability and can be converted back to stock diesel at the end of the trade cycle.

Campbell explained that although dual-fuel engines retain a horsepower curve similar to diesel engines, torque is limited because fuel is introduced in the air intake system, creating a higher probability of detonation. Direct injection of natural gas could give dual-fuel engines the ability to produce a torque curve similar to today's diesel engines. Specifications for Caterpillar 7-, 10-, 12-, and 16-liter dual-fuel engines available by the end of 1998 were presented.

LNG Possibilities Representing Mesa Pacific was Tony Prietto, the company's business development manager for Liquefied Natural Gas. Prietto listed the advantages and disadvantages of LNG transportation, processing, pricing, and supply. Beginning with a historical price comparison between LNG and crude oil, Prietto showed LNG prices to be more stable, with fewer highs and lows than crude oil. The future of LNG as an alternative fuel is favorable, according to Prietto, because of the many domestic supply bases across North America.

The liquefaction and transportation of LNG seem to be the variables controlling the future viability of the product as a vehicle fuel. Of the 66 liquefaction plants nationwide, only four produce LNG for vehicle use. Because plant location is not always ideal for LNG distribution, transporting the commodity has become a concern. Truck transports can haul between 9,000 and 11,000 gallons of LNG per load.

Prietto illustrated the differences in pricing between LNG and diesel fuel, considering both supply-site liquefaction and pipeline-site liquefaction. LNG averages 20 cents per gallon less than an equivalent amount of diesel fuel, using supply-site liquefaction and between 23 and 26 cents per gallon less using pipeline-site liquefaction.

Prietto noted that LNG is in plentiful supply and can continue to be produced at a rate that will meet demand.

Ken Kelley, president of Jack B Kelley Trucking, spoke about the use of LNG in his fleet. Jack B Kelley Inc is a carrier of cryogenic and compressed gases running 400 tractors and 1,200 trailers nationwide. "The first reason we use LNG is for the environment," said Kelley. Energy security is another reason.

"This is a domestic product from Colorado, not Kuwait," said Kelley. He believes that trucks won't be limited to a single fuel much longer and noted that LNG is less expensive than diesel.

Jack B Kelley Inc has been using LNG since 1984 and has been a leader in developing LNG fuel-station technology, purchasing relationships, and interstate fueling capabilities. Kelley initially tried dual-fuel conversions but eventually settled on a full LNG engine with the Cummins L10-300G. Testing 11 converted Cummins-powered tractors for 1 1/2 years, Kelley drivers accumulated more than 750,000 miles. The 80,000-lb GCWR tractor-trailers were used to haul gases out of a mine under heavy-load conditions. Kelley determined that the L10-300G was not powerful enough under those test conditions.

Kelley is looking forward to testing new, more powerful LNG engines from Caterpillar, Mack, John Deere, and Cummins. Kelley listed several incentives for LNG over diesel: The federal excise tax on LNG is the same as on gasoline, and fleets are eligible for federal tax deductions when using LNG. Other state and federal incentives are possible.

Advantages and disadvantages include: LNG weighs less than diesel, but because it is a cryogenic liquid, the tanks required to haul LNG weigh more. Kelley said using LNG results in an overall tank and liquid weight of 600 to 700 lb more than two full 100-gallon diesel tanks. Kelley also discussed tune-up intervals for LNG engines. Although 4,000 miles is the standard for spark plug changes on LNG vehicles, the overall costs are less than for diesel injection maintenance over the life of an engine.

FLEET OWNERS and managers nationwide are wondering which alternative-fuel vehicles (AFVs) are right for their businesses as congressional mandates near. The 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) and 1992 Energy Policy Act (EPACT) require fleets to lead the way in introducing alternative-fuel vehicle technologies.

The Department of Energy (DOE) has launched a national campaign to support the legislation by educating fleet owners and managers about United States petroleum consumption. The campaign is designed to encourage a switch to vehicle fuels other than gasoline and diesel.

Fleets are expected to take the lead in alternative-fuel technologies because of their centralized maintenance and fueling facilities. "Fleet vehicles typically accumulate higher miles than private vehicles and are generally replaced sooner," explained Ann Hegnauer, manager-technology-transfer, DOE. One-quarter of the nation's energy consumption is from transportation, whichaccounts for two-thirds of the country's petroleum use.

The DOE believes that fleets will help define the marketplace for AFVs as they generate the experience necessary to drive the success of alternative fuels. "We are hopeful that as fleets make the transition to AFVs, consumers will follow when more vehicles become available through manufacturers," said Hegnauer.

Geography plays a role in AFV acceptance. Currently, California and Arizona lead the way in alternative-fuel acceptance and availability. Electric vehicles are also making appearances in cities and rural communities across the nation. Ethanol is presently available in the upper Midwest. Methanol is increasingly available in California, New York; Atlanta, Georgia; Denver, Colorado; Houston, Texas; Detroit, Michigan, and other locations. Natural gas fueling stations are located in most major cities and many rural areas, while propane is available nationwide at more than 5,000 stations.

Some fleet owners and government agencies have been using alternative fuels for years. Hundreds of thousands of AFVs are on the road in the United States today. The country is still a few years away from having an electric vehicle recharging station or alternative-fuel pump on every corner, but the practical use of alternative fuels is closer than many people realize, according to Hegnauer. "The successful adoption of AFVs by fleets across the country definitely will accelerate the process," she said.

The DOE tracks the most recent information on federal regulations and state and local laws regarding AFVs, as well as the most up-to-date information on vehicle and fuel availability. The DOE has established the national alternative fuels hotline (800-423-IDOE) to disseminate that information.

The following organizations also can provide fleet owners and managers information about the best use and availability of neat biodiesel, electric, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, and propane fuels.

Information sources:

Neat Biodiesel: National Biodiesel Board 800-841-5849

Electric: Electric Transportation Coalition 202-508-5995 (or local electric utility)

Ethanol: National Ethanol Vehicle Coalition 800-E85-8895

Methanol: American Methanol Institute 202-467-5050

Natural Gas: Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition: 703-527-3022 (or local gas utility)

Propane: National Propane Gas Association: 630-515-0600

Further information about AFVs and fuel sources can be found at the DOE's Web sites: HYPERLINK and

THE Department of Energy compiled answers to the following commonly asked questions regarding alternative-fuel vehicles. The DOE presently is campaigning to promote the use of alternative fuels in fleets, as well as privately owned vehicles.

Question: What constitutes an alternative-fuel vehicle?

Answer: The Energy Policy Act (EPACT) defines an alternative-fuel vehicle (AFV) as any dedicated or dual-fueled vehicle. The EPACT defines alternative fuel as including neat biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, or propane.

Question: How are the 1990 Clean Air Act (CAA) Amendments and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (EPACT) different?

Answer: The EPACT established separate requirements for different types of fleets beginning in 1993, allowing only alternative fuels to be used to satisfy fleet requirements. In contrast, the CAA allows the use of alternative fuels as well as reformulated gasoline and clean diesel fuel, as long as fleet vehicles meet the CAA clean-fuel vehicle emissions standards. In some cases, fleets will be covered by the requirements of both programs.

Question: What fleets are affected by the CAA and EPACT?

Answer: The CAA concerns public and private fleet owners or operators with 10 or more vehicles capable of being centrally fueled 100% of the time. The EPACT affects those who own, operate, lease, or control at least 50 vehicles in the United States (centrally fueled or capable of it), primarily operated in a Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) with a population of 250,000 or more.

Question: How many AFVs are presently in use?

Answer: Hundreds of thousands of AFVs are on the road in the United States today, powered by fuels including neat biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, methanol, natural gas, and propane. Many are flexible-fuel vehicles that can run on gasoline and an alternative fuel.

Question: Why are fleets the first class of vehicles required to comply with AFV mandates?

Answer: Congress recognized fleets are uniquely suited for introducing new fuel and vehicle technologies. Fleet vehicles typically accumulate higher mileage than private vehicles, operate on fixed routes, and are well-suited to central refueling. Fleet owners/managers also have the maintenance know-how and centralized facilities to adapt more easily to new technologies than private-vehicle owners and mechanics.

Question: How dependent is the United States today on foreign oil?

Answer: Our country continues to consume more than one-quarter of the world's oil production, yet we produce only one-tenth of the oil. Our transportation needs currently account for two-thirds of all US petroleum use and roughly one-quarter of total US energy consumption. As a nation, we spend approximately $60 billion per year to import almost 50% of our oil, and imports are expected to grow to nearly 70% by the end of the decade.

Question: How competitive are AFVs with conventional vehicles in terms of operating costs?

Answer: There are a number of factors to consider when comparing AFVs with conventional vehicles, including vehicle make and model, dealer discounts, the alternative fuel used, and the fuel's availability. Organizations that represent the various alternative fuels often can provide statistical comparisons. And, as with conventional-fuel vehicles, it is best to shop around for favorable discounts.

Question: What distances can AFVs go between fuelings?

Answer: Distances will vary based on vehicle model and make, the kind of alternative fuel used, fuel tank size, and the number of tanks the vehicle carries. It's important to choose alternative-fuel vehicles based on your fleet's specific requirements. For example, electric vehicles are best-suited for trips of approximately 60 to 125 miles between chargings, while propane's range of operation is almost comparable to that of a gasoline-powered vehicle.

Question: How long before a refueling station infrastructure is in place on a national scale?

Answer: It will be some time before every AFV will be able to recharge or refuel virtually anywhere in the country. A number of alternative fuels are becoming more available regionally. Southern California is steadily adding more re- charging stations for its growing number of electric vehicles, and ethanol is increasingly available in the Midwest. It is believed that the increased use of AFVs in fleets, coupled with the greater consumer interest in the vehicles, will drive demand for alternative-fuel stations.

Question: What effect will AFVs have on cargo volume carried?

Answer: Generally speaking, manufacturer-built AFVs are designed to have a minimal impact on cargo space. Con- verted AFVs, however, may offer less space for retrofitted fuel tanks and equipment. Again, specific fleet requirements should be kept in mind when considering the AFV options available.

Question: Will there be a resale market for AFVs?

Answer: At present, many are available by lease only, as manufacturers recognize that rapidly evolving technologies may make today's AFVs outdated within a few years. Manufacturers and industry watchers are optimistic that a resale market will gradually develop as the vehicles gain in mass acceptance.

Question: Where are the right applications for AFVs?

Answer: Most AFVs today are considered light-duty vehicles, with relatively few designed for heavy-duty operations. Again, as the technology evolves, there will almost certainly be AFVs designed for heavy-duty applications.