HOUSTON, Texas — Natural gas truckers are giddy with excitement about the potential of what the soon-to-be-released Cummins ISX12 G can do for their businesses.
The engine, which is currently in field testing and slated to be released in early 2013, came up again and again during presentations at the Natural Gas Fleet Vehicles North American Congress.
“I would imagine the 12-litre engine will come to dominate the market,” said Joe Shefchik, vice-president of sales and solutions for Paper Transport, which is currently testing the engine. “It’s the right piece of equipment, it has a lot of power and it’s the same engine truck drivers are accustomed to driving for some time.”
So far, Paper Transport is averaging 5.5 mpg on its ISX12 G, the same as it gets from the ISL9 G and not quite what it was hoping for. However, Shefchik pointed out it’s a prototype and some fuel economy improvements will be gained as the engine is further developed.
“I understand (fuel economy) will be better as the fuel mapping improves and new equipment comes in,” he said of the ISX12 G, which is rated at 400 hp/1,450 lb.-ft. torque.
Jerry Johnson, regional sales manager for Cummins Westport, said the initial focus has been on durability. He assured delegates at the Congress that fuel mileage will get better as the engine is further developed. Unlike the ISL9 G, the 12-litre engine will have an engine brake and will be available with either an automatic or manual transmission. Like its smaller cousin, it will be spark-ignited and able to run off either compressed or liquefied natural gas. The ISX12 G will share about 80% of its parts with the proven ISL9 G. Johnson said a smooth launch is anticipated, because “everything we have learned with the 9-litre, we have been able to incorporate into the ISX12 G.”
Johnson said there are 25 field test trucks with the ISX12 G in operation and “the initial performance has been excellent.”
Limited production begins in early 2013.
“I can’t tell you exactly what those numbers are, but I know OEMs are taking orders today,” he said.
“We’re so excited to see these 12-litre engines coming out,” said Mike DelBovo, president of Lakeland, Fla.-based Saddle Creek Transportation. “We’re putting 20 in place right away next year when we can get them.”
Ted Phillips, vice-president of fleet operations with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, said the ISL9 G was underpowered for its California routes, but that the ISX12 G should fit the bill.
Most presenters agreed the ISL9 G is a very capable engine in applications grossing 80,000 lbs over reasonably flat terrain. The engine has captured the lion’s share of the Class 8 natural gas engine market in the US. Here in Canada, however, with our heavier payloads and not-so-flat terrain, the engine hasn’t achieved the same success as the 15-litre Westport HD.
The introduction of the ISX12 G could bridge the gap between the sometimes underpowered ISL9 G and the Westport HD, which is compression ignited and has some limitations, such as the ability to run off LNG only and the requirement of a diesel particulate filter (DPF) and selective catalytic reduction (SCR), both costly and heavy systems that won’t be required by the ISX12 G. The Westport HD engine has some advantages of its own: It doesn’t require spark plugs or a special engine oil and its fuel mileage should be stronger because it’s compression-ignited, where spark-ignited engines are inherently less efficient.