At a press briefing at its corporate headquarters in Renton, WA, last week, Kenworth officials detailed their efforts to prepare for a major heavy-duty natural gas push beginning next year.
The company’s natural gas offerings, which already spans three engine choices in six different vehicle platforms, will receive an additional boost when Kenworth is one of the first truck manufacturers to receive the new Cummins ISX12G 12-liter natural gas engine in early 2013.
The new engine will be initially offered in the Kenworth T660. Andy Douglas, national sales manager, specialty trucks, Kenworth noted that the new engine has been in verification testing for over a year now and has already logged more than 2 million test miles.
Douglas said interest in natural gas as a heavy-duty truck fuel is rising rapidly and noted that there is still a learning curve for many fleets just getting acquainted with the technology. He advises buyers considering testing natural gas vehicles to consider six questions before making a choice on either liquefied natural gas (LNG) or compressed natural gas (CNG):
• What fuel sources are available in your proposed operating area
• Which fuel type is more prevalent in your area?
• What applications will you be working in?
• What is your vehicle’s Gross Cargo Vehicle Weight rating?
• What is your minimal required range?
• What service partners will you be working with to prepare and service the vehicles?
Additionally, Douglas notes that other considerations must be taken into account as well as both fuel types have various pros and cons. For example, CNG offers greater range than LNG, but it requires sophisticated fuel tanks that are very heavy. In some applications, they can raise overall vehicle weight by up to 600 pounds in a dual-rail tank configuration.
“The devil is really in the details for making natural gas work in a fleet,” Douglas said. “A natural gas engine is typically 200 to 300 pounds lighter than a comparable diesel engine. But you can lose that advantage quickly if you opt for a long-range tank configuration you don’t really need.”