Overdrive Extra

Jack Roberts

Are glider kits the answer to natural gas impasse?

| September 09, 2013

giiderkitA lot of fleets are attracted to the idea of natural gas-powered heavy duty trucks. And a lot of fleets turn and walk the other way when they see the sticker prices on brand-new natural gas trucks.

That’s not to say that fleets aren’t running natural gas trucks and making money doing so. But while the cost of fuel can – in some cases – be close to half the price of diesel fuel today, the upcharge for new trucks is substantial: from $25,000 to $40,000, depending on vehicle configuration and options. That can be tough for fleets to swallow.

But there may be an end-run around those steep acquisition costs. Glider kits – new frames, cab chassis mounted with refurbished powertrain components may give fleets a more-affordable way to get in the natural gas game.

At a press conference at the Great American Truck Show in Dallas two weeks ago, American Power Group (APG) showcased its lineup of dual-fuel glider kits, available in both CNG and LNG configurations. These trucks are registered as new, 2014 model trucks yet can be purchased for up to $50,000 less than an OEM-built, non-glider, dedicated natural gas truck, according to APG.

There was a lot of buzz about this glider concept at GATS, with even a few of the old TMC Industry Wizards getting their heads turned by the idea. I tend to think it’s a good idea as well and one that’s well worth watching.

First off, I think that the more people that experiment with natural gas and figure out how to make it work in their applications the better that is for all of us, both as a nation and an industry. OEMs’ routinely concede the acquisition cost of new trucks is the number obstacle they face when trying to persuade fleets to give them a try. And while they’d much rather see their trucks go into fleets as opposed to natural gas glider kits, the more people that get comfortable with this technology, the larger the eventual market for new natural gas trucks gets as production ramps up and economies of scale start to bring prices down. In the short term, of course, lower acquisition costs means quicker ROI times for fleets. And, again, all the experience gained by natural gas glider fleets will transfer seamlessly to new vehicles and expanded fleets once they become familiar and comfortable with natural gas.

  • Dave Nichols

    I would try ot but there is no place to get fuel.

  • Daniel Kupke

    Is there a way to convert todays diesel to use NG ??

  • martymarsh

    Something keeps kicking me and I can’t figure out what it is, a glider kit use to be a new truck, just add your own utensils. Now they are refurbished used trucks, so why would they buy more used trucks when they could refurbish the ones they have already have and put the motors they want.
    It is all very time consuming and costly, so I think that 50 grand less is a low ball number, unless the trucking companies do it themselves.
    But there is a moral to this story, they don’t care how you do it just as long as you are spending money, we have to keep the money wheel turning.
    Hey, that’s what kept kicking me.

  • martymarsh

    Check out Omnitek, I didn’t bother to read if you could do it yourself.

  • Daniel Kupke
  • martymarsh

    With or with out it still comes up.

  • Guest

    How is a glider kit “a refurbished used truck?” A glider is now and has always been a new rolling chassis.

  • RonTaro

    APG’s primary business is converting current diesel powered engines to natural gas. There are certain requirements, re. age of the truck and mileage. Contact an APG systems provider to determine if your application qualifies. Most Wheeltime service outlets are APG systems providers.

  • martymarsh

    I don’t know, I guess like everything else, they are going to change the rules in the middle of the game.

  • KP

    The number one obstacle to CNG is fueling infrastructure. Once that is in place – great alternative

  • Kenneth Eggen

    Yes, American Power Group makes a unit for that. You can contact Ervin Equipment and they can get you the information you need.

  • Kenneth Eggen

    The cab and chassis are all new, including wiring, hoses, etc. Engine, trans and gears are remanufactured and carry factory warranty. Contact Ervin Equipment and they can help anyone interested.

  • martymarsh

    Yes, I seen all of that, BUT, how much is new motor over a rebuilt motor and the rest of the drive line, which I understand would have to be cheaper, but 50 grand cheaper? Also the idea of a glider kit was because companies had bad trucks with good drive lines. So how can anyone one do it cheaper than the company themselves? So you are going to say that a new truck that would cost 100 grand you are now going to put remanufactured parts in it and it is only going to cost 50 or 60, I don’t see it.

  • TA

    If the majority of trucks convert to natural gas what do you think the price will do? Diesel used to be the cheapest fuel you could get.

  • JH

    Nobody is predicting that NG will take over the market. Besides, NG is American; not controlled by foreign cartels.

  • JH

    It’s getting there. Clean Energy and Blu. are doing great things, especially in the LNG sphere.

  • KP

    Again it’s about infrastructure BUT the difference is CNG or LNG. The Liquid gives more mileage. However, cost of install v/s ROI is an issue.