A new Cummins X15N RNG engine has given the Shell Starship new efficiency frontiers to explore. - Photo: Shell

A new Cummins X15N RNG engine has given the Shell Starship new efficiency frontiers to explore.

Photo: Shell

The Starship 3.0 concept truck has successfully completed a U.S. West Coast demonstration run, according to Shell. The purpose of the run was to once again highlight what Shell called “art of the possible,” for efficiency and carbon reduction in commercial road transport.

Shell began its Starship concept truck trials in 2018. This third-generation Starship truck, equipped with a Cummins X15N natural gas engine and powered by renewable natural gas (RNG), ran a fully loaded trailer on an 840-mile loop throughout California collecting critical performance data.

The Starship 3.0, loaded with Shell Rotella engine oil, measured sustainable freight ton efficiency using ton-miles of goods transported per kilogram of CO2 emitted (FTE CO2e), according to Shell.

These results were third-party monitored and verified by The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), as was done with the first two versions of the Starship demonstrations.

A New Engine for the Starship

Shell Starship 3.0 completed the demonstration run while operating near the maximum permissible gross vehicle weight of 80,000 pounds for a Class 8 truck. Shell Starship 3.0 achieved improvements over the U.S. average for diesel class 8 trucks of 2.54 times better freight ton efficiency (FTE) assessed on a ton-miles per gallon basis and 3.23 times better FTE assessed on a ton-miles per kg of CO2e emitted basis.

The Cummins X15N engine powered by RNG emits less CO2 than a diesel engine and further confirms to fleets the potential for different engine and fuel options to reduce CO2 emissions, Shell said. RNG is a natural gas transportation fuel that can be derived from organic waste and is interchangeable with Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) and Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) in transport vehicles.

“Shell Starship 3.0 demonstrates the power of innovation by incorporating a new natural gas engine complimented by today’s available technologies to help reduce emissions in the road transport industry,” said Dr. Selda Gunsel, president of Shell Global Solutions and vice president of fuels and lubricants technology, speaking at the Shell Ultimate Stopover forum in Dubai. “Industry collaboration is critical in helping fleets achieve their sustainability goals.”

In a panel discussion in Dubai, Gunsel emphasized the importance of adding the Cummins X15N to the Starship project.

“There is one difference between the older Starship and Starship 3.0,” she noted. “We replaced the diesel engine with a natural gas engine. And for this we collaborated with Cummins. And this was a great opportunity for us to work together and see how we can improve efficiencies and reduce C02 at the same time.”

“This is important milestone in the industry from an efficiency standpoint,” added Mike Roeth, executive director, NACFE, during the panel discussion. “One of the things Shell did from Day One is haul the maximum amount of freight with the Starship program. Because this is about moving freight. We don’t have trucks to just drive around.”

Roeth said that fleets and shippers are all trying to ship more freight on each truck and each trailer. “Our goal has always been to move the most of freight with the smallest amount of energy,” he explained, “whether that’s a gallon of diesel, the equivalent amount of natural gas or a kilowatt of electricity. That’s what efficiency is all about. This is an example of Shell stepping up. This is more than lubricants. More than about the truck. It’s about moving freight.”

Natural gas in and of itself has less thermal content than diesel, Roeth added. “So, there is a challenge in maintaining high efficiency when using that fuel. But this is 15-liter natural gas engine. So, we now have an alternative-fuel engine that can really pull this kind of weight up mountains or what have you.”

A Blend of Advanced Technologies

Similar to its predecessors, the Starship 3.0 also includes components and features that promote lightweighting, low aerodynamic drag, and low rolling resistance tires, Shell said. These include using a low-viscosity Shell Rotella natural gas engine oil and Shell Spirax transmission and axle oils. Low-viscosity lubricants require less energy to move throughout the engine while still providing the protection, efficiency, and performance needed in harsh operating environments.

"Each Starship generation shows our current and future customers that we are leading the effort to empower fleets with real-world data that will help guide their decisions to help reduce emissions,” said Tom Mueller, General Manager of Shell Commercial Road Transport Lubricants. "Shell Starship is a proving ground of how working together across the industry can lead the way to more sustainable solutions.”

Since its start in 2018, the Starship initiative has showcased that innovation and collaboration throughout the transport industry can lead to exceptional results. Collaboration with Cummins for the driveline technology, Bridgestone for high quality tires and Trillium (part of the Love’s family of companies) for renewable natural gas, was vital to the success of the latest Starship.

As Shell works to bring innovation and energy solutions across the transport industry, Shell Starship will continue to collaborate across the industry to push the boundaries of what is possible for a lower carbon future in fleets, the company added.

About the author
Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts

Executive Editor

Jack Roberts is known for reporting on advanced technology, such as intelligent drivetrains and autonomous vehicles. A commercial driver’s license holder, he also does test drives of new equipment and covers topics such as maintenance, fuel economy, vocational and medium-duty trucks and tires.

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