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May 19, 2010 Vol. 6, No. 10

Before I write anything else, my apologies for being a day late last time out. I’m blameless, I promise you, but I felt I should explain that we suffered a software glitch way in the background that scuttled the automated send-out. And for reasons that remained a mystery all day, we couldn’t even do it manually. I’m told that the pointy heads have things sorted now so I’m hopeful that this edition of LPW will reach you when it should. If it doesn’t, I’ll be woefully downcast.

And that, sad to say, was about as exciting as things got for me these last two weeks. I was hunkered down in research mode for the most part, spending a great deal of time on the subject of natural gas and its mighty rapid rise to prominence in the eyes of some truck operators and some legislators alike. Am I wrong to think it came out of nowhere?

As I wrote in a feature story that will appear in the June issue of Today’s Trucking, the idea of converting heavy-duty diesel engines to run on natural gas is hardly new. There are many thousands already — 25,000 of them built by Vancouver’s Westport Innovations alone — powering buses and garbage packers, for example, all around the world. And they go back to the late 1990s, though until very recently natural gas was seen as a peripheral player. The conversion was expensive, the range of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) was quite short, the infrastructure to support them was thin on the ground, and there were few if any government incentives to help break the ice, as it were.

But things have changed, and there are those who now see natural gas as a mainstream fuel in the truck world. Peterbilt, for example, is now building six to eight natural gas vehicles (NGVs) a day, almost all powered by what was originally the 8.9-litre Cummins ISL diesel. After being turned into a spark-ignition engine by 50/50 joint venture Cummins Westport, it gets a new name — the ISL G — and runs on compressed natural gas (CNG).

It’s presently offered in many trucks and tractors, including models from Autocar, Freightliner, Kenworth, Mack, and Peterbilt. The most popular single vocation for this engine seems to be the refuse packer (see the Autocar pictured here, powered by an ISL G), with container-hauling port trucks popular targets too.

The ISL G meets the 2010 EPA nitrogen oxide emission standard of 0.2 gm/hp-hr without needing serious exhaust aftertreatment. It meets California Air Resources Board (CARB) standards too, using straightforward exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) technology with a three-way catalyst. It comes in ratings from 250 to 320 hp.

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Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to

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