Alkane Truck Co. recently achieved compliance certification from the U.S. Department of Transportation for its propane-fueled Class 7 cab-over-engine trucks, which will be assembled at a new plant in South Carolina starting in 2016.
According to Steve Rayborn, Alkane’s sales vice president, the brakes, wheels and tires, axles, seat belts, lights, interior fabric and glass all had to be submitted to laboratories for testing to ensure that they met federal standards and regulations.
“There’s a lab for every feature,” he says. “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 says.
Everything will soon be assembled at a new manufacturing facility in Summerville, S.C., which will add more than 300 jobs to the area. The 100,000-square-foot facility is expected to reach full capacity in two years. The company is currently leasing an existing manufacturing facility in Summerville, to produce the new product line.
The COE Class 7 trucks will be the only medium-duty COE truck in the U.S. that uses propane autogas fuel, according to Rayborn. A targeted niche market is propane distributors, some of whom have already expressed interest.
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.
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