Innovation has always been a part of Freightliner Trucks’ core DNA. That history of innovation with regard to alterative fuels in particular goes all the way back to the 1950’s and 60’s. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, natural gas was brought into the mix as Freightliner looked to offer customers a cleaner burning alternative to diesel. A few hundred natural gas-fueled FL-series and Century Class tractors were sold back then, but sales didn’t really take off, due to a number of factors. First, the performance of the available engines was not consistent, and there was a shortage of facilities and technicians that knew how to service these products. Another reason that natural gas didn’t take off back then, is that diesel prices at the time were very low at about a $1.50 per gallon. So why spend additional money on the incremental costs of a natural gas vehicle when you’re not going to save much in the way of fuel costs?
With the introduction of the Cummins Westport ISL G five-plus years ago, natural gas has become a more viable option for on-highway trucking fleets, regional haul in particular. We have engine technology that is much more reliable, a truck and an engine that is factory built with a factory warranty, and an improved service network. And, now there is also a wide disparity –about $2 per diesel gallon equivalent (DGE) difference – in fuel prices between natural gas and diesel. So, now you have reliable products and the opportunity for significant fuel cost savings.
In the near future, natural gas may make more sense for longer haul applications, as the natural gas fueling infrastructure begins to sprout up along the nation’s freight corridors. Not only is the fueling infrastructure beginning to grow, but truck OEMs are designing vehicles that fit the needs of fleets running longer distances. Freightliner offers on its Cascadia a 400 hp engine designed to haul 80,000 lbs, a 48" sleeper cab*, manual transmissions, and fuel saving aerodynamic features*. A natural gas tractor like the Cascadia with the Cummins Westport ISX12 G engine can now be spec’d to fit the needs of your application., These factors make a strong business case for considering a natural gas tractor.
Freightliner’s natural gas tractor options available today include:
- M2 112 Natural Gas
- The spark-ignited Cummins Westport ISL G 320 HP/1000 lb ft, featuring
- Maintenance-free three way catalyst, etc
- Allison 3000 Series
- Factory-installed compressed natural gas (CNG) -75 and 60 DGE capacity – and liquefied natural gas (LNG) –150 (70 DGE) and 119 gallon (55 DGE) capacity – fuel tanks
- The tractor works for various applications including regional haul, distribution, utility, and refuse.
- Cascadia 113 Natural Gas
- First “pre-build” back in March 2013, full production began August 2013
- Cummins Westport ISX12 G up to 400 HP/1450 lb ft
- Same technology as ISL G, spark ignited
- Compressed natural gas (CNG) –up to 190 DGE capacity – and liquefied natural gas (LNG) – up to 300 gallon (140 DGE) capacity – fuel tank configurations. Factory installed fuel tanks beginning late Q1 2014
So what are the advantages of natural gas vehicles?
- Fuel Price: The main factor driving interest in natural gas fuel is the delta in price between diesel and natural gas. While average diesel costs are back in the $4.00 per gallon range, the price of compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel has averaged about $1.80 per diesel gallon equivalent. Even with up to 10-15% degradation in fuel economy vs. diesel, natural gas fuel can save you thousands of dollars per year in fuel costs depending on the application.
- Fewer Emissions: Natural gas vehicles are cleaner than traditional vehicles, producing on average 20% fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than comparable diesel-fueled vehicles. Lower Noise Levels: Heavy-duty natural gas vehicles have a decibel level that is 10 decibels quieter than comparable diesel vehicles.
- Decrease in foreign oil dependency: Utilizing natural gas means we will reduce dependence on foreign oil, as natural gas is a domestically sourced fuel.
Today, natural gas can be a smart choice for your application; it provides fuel cost savings, customization for your application, and sustainability from alternative fuel solutions.
*Coming in 2014
Would you consider choosing natural gas for your next tractor?