Natural gas engine and vehicle development has gained financial support from grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the California Energy Commission (CEC) and the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD). The “Natural Gas Engine Research and Development Project” includes $13.5 million provided by the partnership between NREL, CEC and SCAQMD and another $8 million to be cost-shared by the four companies selected for awards.

NREL is overseeing the projects with the objectives of developing highly efficient natural gas engines that meet or exceed 2010 emission standards, incorporating natural gas engines into a broader range of chassis and vehicle platforms and testing the real-world fuel efficiency and petroleum reduction benefits. Most of the projects are to focus on medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses.

“Significant increases in the projected amount of natural gas available in the U.S. have stimulated renewed interest in using it to fuel commercial vehicles,” said NREL Project Manager Margo Melendez. “More engine and vehicle choices are needed, however, for natural gas to be a practical alternative to petroleum-based fuels for medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. And, that’s where this project comes in.”

In March, NREL issued a nationwide proposal request recruiting companies that had projects focused on developing natural gas engines and vehicles. More than 20 companies submitted ideas for projects to increase availability of natural gas engines and vehicles in the market. NREL, CEC and SCAQMD collaborated to choose four projects that best matched the objectives.

Emissions Solutions, Inc., located in McKinney, Texas, was chosen to develop equipment and controls to retrofit a Navistar 13-liter diesel engine to operate on natural gas. Many short- and long-haul delivery trucks (Class-8 vehicles) across the U.S. operate using this type of diesel engine.

ISE Corporation of Poway, Calif., was chosen to develop a hybrid natural gas transit bus by retrofitting the Ford V10 gasoline engine to operate on natural gas.

Cummins Westport of Vancouver, Canada, and Autocar, LLC of Hagerstown, Ind., were jointly selected to develop an 11.9-liter natural gas engine and integrate it into Class-8 delivery vehicles and refuse trucks around the nation. Part of the project will require testing of the engine’s performance in different climates, altitudes and driving environments such as city versus highway.

Finally, Autocar, LLC was also selected for another project collaborating with the Southwest Research Institute of San Antonio, Texas, to redesign an existing Doosan engine to operate on natural gas, to build other natural gas engine prototypes for engine durability and emissions testing and to integrate these newly developed engines into an Autocar ACX chassis, which is typically used for refuse hauling.

ISE CNG hybrid bus

This CNG hybrid bus, manufactured by ISE Corporation, is an example of a transit bus developed under the “Natural Gas Engine Research and Development Project.” Credit: ISE Corporation

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