Natural gas. Biodiesel. Dimethyl ether. Hybrid. Electric. Algae-based diesel. Hydrogen fuel cells. There’s a virtual smorgasbord of available and potential fuel sources to power medium- and heavy-duty trucks. The critical question becomes which one, or which combination of fuel sources, represent the best path for fleets, manufacturers and the industry.
Monarch Beverage Co. of Indianapolis is spending $16.5 million to convert its truck fleet to natural gas.
Says the butcher: “We eat what we sell.” Says Kwik-Trip: “We burn what we sell.” That’s natural gas, sold in liquefied and compressed form at 15 of the 430 retail filling stations the company operates in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Iowa.
A trucking company decided to give out an award for the best driver, so they asked employees to nominate and vote on the honor. The winner, however, turned out to have one of the worst safety records in the fleet.
Freightliner’s Cascadia 113 and the ISX12 G from Cummins Westport aren’t exactly strangers. About 100 of the trucks have been in customer hands for some months now. Equipment Editor Jim Park takes one for a spin.
My drive of the Cummins Wesport ISX12 G was at a mid-July “natural gas summit” hosted by Kenworth at its plant in Chillicothe, Ohio. A half-dozen gas-powered KWs built for different applications were offered to dealers, customers and press reporters for inspection and evaluation. A few fellows with CDLs, like me, took them for drives, and I had – how shall I say? – a learning experience while in a T800 short-haul daycab tractor pulling a 53-foot van trailer.
A dual-fuel conversion system can offer some of the fuel- and emissions-saving benefits of a natural gas engine without going out and buying a brand-new truck. Read more in this story from the September issue of HDT.
After more than 40 years of using propane as a motor fuel, the people at The Schwan Food Co. still believe they’ve got the right stuff. Schwan’s experience with propane goes back to the 1970s, when Arab oil embargoes threatened supplies of gasoline and diesel and drove up their prices.
Volvo Trucks North America believes dimethyl ether, or DME, is the real fuel of the future, and the company intends to get it to market as a motor fuel by 2015 in Volvo VN models as well as Mack Pinnacle trucks from its sister company.
While natural gas has pushed its way to center stage in the alternative fuels discussion, the investment in equipment and infrastructure make it less than appealing to many fleets. However, anyone who is currently running on diesel fuel can easily switch to a greener alternative without that type of up-front investment. They simply have to fill up their fuel tank with biodiesel.
Wide-base tires aren’t cheap. Not that duals are cheaper, but in a single wide-base tire you have an investment approaching the cost of a pair of standard tires. Minimizing the life-cycle cost of those big wide tires almost demands that they be retreaded.
Not long ago I was at my desk looking to write about some aspect of where we’re heading. Then I flicked on the little TV beside me to watch the news, and what did I see but a piece about algae as a fuel source. Clearly a sign.
Hybrid drive systems deliver value by reducing engine load, replacing or supplementing engine output through alternate means of powering the vehicle, or recovering energy normally turned into heat during braking and putting it back to work. Heavy-duty hydraulic hybrids accomplish all three.
Powers Distributing, Lake Orion, Mich., was the first company to buy a significant number of diesel-electric hybrid trucks using the Eaton Hybrid Power System. That may seem like a big jump for a relatively small fleet, but the 74-year-old company has a deep commitment to social responsibility and that includes sustainability.
Getting office-supply products to Staples’ 2,000-plus stores around the world and directly to business customers takes more than pushing an Easy button, even if Mike Payette, director for fleet equipment, has four of the advertising-theme props, “in four languages,” on his desk.
We have heard over and over lately that electric and hydraulic hybrids for commercial trucks are all but dead, pushed to the back of the room by the surging interest in natural gas.
In some fleets, shop operations are completely integrated with the computer systems for dispatch, accounting, mobile communications and outside service providers. In other fleets, technology in the shop may be limited to automated systems for tracking work, labor, parts and inventory.
From a very young age, Ralph Moyle was drawn to trucking. So when given the chance, he didn’t let the lack of a driver’s license – or the fact that he was only 14 years old – stand in his way.