Alex Lawson, NGV Global’s Technical Chair, reports on conference highlights from the Alternative Clean Transportation (ACT) 2011 Expo in Long Beach, California earlier this month where 60 of the 95 exhibitors featured CNG or LNG vehicles, equipment or services, including details of:
– New ANGA/ AGA Transportation Collaborative
– Heavy Duty NGVs
– Diesel Electric vs LNG Tractors
– Economics and Policy
New ANGA/ AGA Transportation Collaborative
While the major NGV activity in North America continues to be focused on heavy duty vehicles and fleet applications, a new initiative was announced with greater focus on consumer light duty NGVs. ANGA and AGA have formed an alliance likely to be called the “NGV Transportation Collaborative” and headed up by Executive Director Kathryn Clay. Amongst its goals is to make the fracking technology used in shale gas production transparent from the point of view of chemicals involved.
Heavy Duty NGVs
The exhibition featured heavy duty trucks galore, including diesel electric, diesel hydraulic, CNG and LNG trucks and tractors, and biodiesel models. Truck manufacturers were well represented, which included Kenworth, Peterbilt, and Freightliner. Fleet operators included Ryder, Paper Transport, Border Valley Trading, UPS and Coco-Cola. CNG/LNG vehicles represented the largest number of vehicles on display.
The major impediment to growth in the heavy duty sector for NGVs in North America remains infrastructure issues, with more players needed. Nevertheless, the economics remain attractive with savings of 20 cents per mile compared with diesel. Current engines however are not a fit for all applications and there is a need for an 11.9L version of the Cummins Westport engines (Editor Note: or any other manufacturer ‘s engine).
Despite recognising the clean nature of newly developed diesels UPS are replacing older 2005 diesels with LNG tractors resulting in cleaner emissions; a stronger driver is LNG being a domestic fuel.
Diesel Electric vs LNG Tractors
Engaging in a discussion with an area fleet supervisor from Coco-Cola led to some interesting insights on the merits of diesel hybrid electric heavy duty Class 8 tractors vs LNG heavy duty Class 8 tractors. Coco-Cola operates both Kenworth T370 diesel hybrid electric tractors and Kenworth T440 LNG tractors. Though data indicates that diesel electric vehicles have a 30% improvement in fuel efficiency over current diesel, given increased availability of LNG the LNG tractors would provide the lowest cost solution.
Economics and Policy
Comment was made that if you consider energy supply on a food equivalent basis, it takes 18 calories to get 1 calorie of food on the table, that is an 18/1 factor to get food on the table. There was also a very strong undercurrent to use domestic US energy supplies as a main driver in selecting from the portfolio of options. This was much stronger than we have heard before.
Natural gas fits all of the criteria of being accessible, affordable, clean and American. It is also now very clear that there is a complete decoupling of natural gas pricing from petroleum pricing which greatly assist the economics.
However, it is necessary to get away from the uncertainties associated with petroleum price volatility which is all about policy, not marketing. Incentives for fuels is preferable to mandates, and it was noted that there is a 70% tax on fuels in Europe, but only 25% in the USA. However, raising taxes in the US is presently not politically viable, so there is a need for innovative consistency in policy to sustain alternative transportation options. Certainly, the petroleum price spikes are increasing in frequency, and if this continues, it may be possible to skip across the top to sustain alternative technologies.