MISSISSAUGA, Ont. -- The makers of an alternative fuels management system, a truck rental chain and a natural gas supplier have come together to bring the Ontario trucking industry an opportunity to enjoy the cost savings of natural gas, with no up-front costs.
Traditionally, natural gas-powered vehicles have cost considerably more than their diesel counterparts, which has proved to be a barrier to the more widespread adoption of clean-burning natural gas engine technology. Steve Baty, director of sales and marketing with Alternative Fuels, Alternative Solutions (AFAS), said his company produces a dual-fuel fuel management system that blends compressed natural gas (CNG) and diesel aboard commercial vehicles. The AFAS system is mounted in place of the passenger-side diesel tank and delivers CNG to the engine where it’s mixed with diesel prior to combustion. The percentage of diesel fuel that’s displaced varies depending on application.
“If it’s cold in the morning, the truck starts on diesel and once the engine reaches a certain temperature, it can start running on dual fuel,” Baty explained. “At idle, when parked, it will run purely on diesel. Once you start to accelerate, it will start to add in CNG and as it’s adding CNG, the diesel motor ECM reduces the amount of diesel (required).”
At highway speeds of 100 km/h, Baty said as much as 70% of the fuel consumed by the truck will be less-costly CNG. If a fleet runs on-highway 80% of the time, it will achieve about a 50-50 blend between diesel and CNG consumption.
The AFAS kits can be retrofit on new or older model year vehicles. Universal Truck Rental Canada has set up a 2007 International 8700 with the system and is preparing to make the truck available for demonstrations. The third player involved in the program is Chelsea Natural Gas, which through its CNG in a Box platform, is able to erect CNG fuelling infrastructure pretty much anywhere it feels there’s a market.
Under the partnership, customers looking to achieve fuel savings without a significant capital expenditure can agree to meet minimum fuelling requirements through Chelsea Natural Gas locations without paying directly the cost of the AFAS fuel system, which will be built into the price of the gas. Currently under the agreement, Chelsea is offering CNG at $1 per litre, compared to diesel, which is retailing for about $1.25/L. Baty said customers will enjoy 60 months of guaranteed pricing indexed to diesel on a fixed or variable rate, ensuring ongoing savings.
A customer entering into the program today could lock in their CNG at $1.009 per litre for 60 or 84 months, or sign a variable agreement at a discount of 19.85% less than the per litre rate of diesel.
“The idea is the floating rate can rise and fall with the price of diesel but will be approximately 25 cents per litre less,” Baty explained.
Chelsea in turn pays the cost of the technology which retails for $18,000-$20,000 per kit.
There are benefits to the dual-fuel technology compared to dedicated natural gas solutions, Baty said. For one, since it’s a dual-fuel system, the fuel tanks are less expensive. There are no range limitations and if a problem with the fuel system occurs, the truck can continue to operate on diesel.
Under ideal conditions - a regional haul day cab running a return-to-base route - half the fuel consumed will be CNG. At current rates, this would translate into a 25 cent per litre savings for CNG, or an overall fuel savings of 9.9% (about $5,000 per truck each year based on 100,000 kms averaging 7 mpg).
Rebate programs may also be available to provide further savings on the CNG fuel spend, Baty added.
The program is viable for intraprovincial runs between Ontario and Quebec, Baty noted, since Chelsea Natural Gas is set up there, but fuel savings may be diminished since the truck would likely run out of CNG en-route.
“If you left Toronto, you would run out of CNG in Quebec, but you could get to Montreal, re-fuel and drive back and have benefits on both sides (of the border),” Baty explained.
Universal Truck Rental has 20 locations across Canada, and the plan is to expand the program across the country, to wherever Chelsea opts to locate its fuelling stations. Customers can also purchase the fuel system up-front if they prefer, and in doing so would not be required to meet minimum fuelling requirements through Chelsea. Baty also said more CNG - or even LNG - tanks can be added to the vehicle to make it viable for long-haul routes, but the limitation is accessibility of natural gas.
The first of the trucks has arrived at Universal Truck Rental, with demonstrations set to commence any day.