Alkane Truck Co. says it has achieved compliance certification from the U.S. Department of Transportation for its propane-fueled Class 7 cab-over-engine trucks, and will begin assembly at a plant in South Carolina early next year.
Brakes, wheels and tires, axles, seat belts, lights, interior fabric and glass had to be submitted to laboratories for testing, said Steve Rayborn, Alkane’s sales vice president. All items have to meet federal standards and regulations, and specialty laboratories tested each component of concern to DOT.
“There’s a lab for every feature,” he said, and the process was expensive. “If we knew five years ago what this was going to cost, we might have thought twice about it. But we’ve done it, and we’re glad we did it.”
The trucks will use cabs and chassis from China, with other components sourced from North American suppliers. The powertrain will include a Power Solutions International 8.8-liter V-8 that’s based on a General Motors block, and an Allison 2500 six-speed automatic transmission. The engine, with 270 hp and 565 lb-ft of torque, delivers diesel-like performance at a lower cost, Rayborn said.
The current fleet-volume discounted price of a diesel-equivalent gallon of liquid propane is $1.15 compared to $2.49 or more for diesel fuel, noted Bob Smith, Alkane’s chief executive officer.
It will be the only medium-duty COE truck in the U.S. that uses propane autogas fuel, he said. A targeted niche market is propane distributors, some of whom have already expressed interest.
COE Class 7 trucks, rated at 26,001 to 33,000 pounds gross weight, are widely used for inter-city operations due to their tight turning radius and excellent maneuverability, he said. They are used for delivery of freight, furniture, fuel and beverages and other applications.
“We are excited about our new truck,” Smith said. “We’re equally excited to bring new skilled jobs to American workers. Our assembly facility in Dorchester County (South Carolina) will employ more than 300 automotive technicians once it reaches full capacity.”
Development continues on a Class 8 truck and tractor, also using Chinese cabs and chassis with domestic powertrain and other components, Rayborn said. The engine will be a Cummins ISX12 G set up to burn compressed natural gas.
The heavy vehicle should be ready for production toward the end of 2016. The Chinese supplier is Foton, one of the largest truck builders in that country.
“We are the agency of service for Foton,” he said. “No one else can bring one in.”
In this video from Alkane, Steve Rayborn highlights the features of the new truck.