Today's Trucking--Rumors that Westport Innovations was cancelling production of its 15L LNG engine were given wide exposure at the 1st Annual Natural Gas Vehicle Canada Conference on Tuesday.
During a presentation on Bison's recent foray into the natural gas-powered tractor market, Trevor Fridfinnson, senior vice president with Bison Transport, told the audience that when it comes to the need for NG technology to progress, "One particular development that may not be comfortable, depending on how it plays out, is Westport Innovations deciding not to supply engines any more, [and transferring] that responsibility and that skill over to the OEMs."
Bison's LNG tractors — Model 386 Peterbilts — are using the Westport 15L to pull their LCVs between Edmonton and Calgary.
"The biggest concern is that there is going to be a gap between that high upper-end piece [and smaller-displacement NG engines]," he said in answer to an audience question regarding the 15L disappearing from the market, "but there may be people at this conference that have more perspective."
So far, however, the company has been mum on the issue, and has denied the rumor. Transport Routier editor Steve Bouchard and Today's Trucking associate editor Jason Rhyno contacted Westport two weeks ago regarding the rumors.
During that interview, Nicole Adams, director of communications at Westport Innovations, denied that the company was halting production of its 15L LNG engine. "It’s the first time that we've heard the rumor," she said to Today’s Trucking and Transport Routier. “We will produce the 15L as long as there will be a demand for it."
However, subsequent conversations between Today's Trucking editors and industry insiders who wished to remain off the record, confirmed the rumor.
During the interview, Adams confirmed that Westport will share its HPDI (high-pressure direct injection) technology with some vertically integrated engine OEMs.
"Ultimately, I think that's the direction we'd like to go," she said when asked about vertically integrating with the OEMs, "but at the moment, we're still assembling them [15L LNG engines] at our facility in Vancouver."
Pressed further on the root of the rumor, Adams said "We have so much on the go right now, that it's confusing for people with the 12L and the development program with Volvo."
Transport Robert's Engineering Manager Yves Maurais also touched upon the issue during his presentation. "We're looking for other products from OEMs, and now hopefully with Westport working closer with OEMs maybe we'll see some new products offered. But what's going to happen in the gap is yet to be seen."
What was certain today, however, is that the Canadian trucking industry — both carriers and suppliers alike — is not confused about the cancellation. "Oh, yeah, that's old news," commented one attendee to Today's Trucking.
Still, for early LNG adopters like Bison, "It's certainly a concern that was not necessarily anticipated," summed up Fridfinnson.
Westport was contacted again in light of these events, but has yet to respond.