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April 10, 2013 Vol. 9, No. 7

First an admission: not long ago I was writing that, while it offered some clear advantages in some operations, natural gas looked to me like a niche phenomenon. It still has a very long way to go before it becomes fully mainstreamed, but the niche just seems to get bigger and bigger. Or is it just that so much attention is being paid to it?

I sure wasn’t alone in my opinion, and no less a player than Andreas Renschler, until recently head of Daimler Trucks worldwide, told me last year that he too saw natural gas as a niche answer. Maybe he still does.

Yet on the OEM front, Daimler’s Freightliner included, there’s a lot of activity as deals are struck and more and more NG truck models are rolled out. At the recent Mid-America show, for example, Peterbilt announced the availability of the new 2013 Cummins Westport ISX12 G natural gas engine. Bill Kozek, Peterbilt general manager, noted that his company has been building natural gas vehicles for over-the-road and vocational applications for over 15 years. He said Pete is the market share leader.

Based on the Cummins ISX12 diesel engine, the ISX12 G is certified by both the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the California Air Resources Board (CARB). The ISX12 G won’t need either a diesel particulate filter or a selective catalytic reduction system. Available in August, the new engine features spark ignition technology, a 3-way catalyst, and will be available with a maximum 400 hp and max torque ratings of up to 1450 lb ft.

VOLVO AND MACK HAVE LINKED UP WITH SHELL to collaborate and co-ordinate activities supporting the wider use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. It’s a formal agreement, not a handshake deal, and it’s global. The agreement will include collaboration on issues like fuel specs and emissions performance, as well as general sharing of knowledge and experience.

“Customer interest in natural gas as a heavy-duty truck fuel will only continue to grow,” said Göran Nyberg, president of Volvo Trucks North America.  “We plan to introduce our own Volvo LNG-fuelled engine in 2014, and this agreement is part of our effort to collaborate with various stakeholders to ensure that the market is supported with the necessary infrastructure.”

The proprietary Volvo 13-liter LNG engine’s advanced high-pressure diesel ignition technology will provide significant fuel efficiency gains compared with spark-ignited natural gas engines, the company says, making it a viable solution for long-haul trucking applications.

The company currently offers a natural gas-powered option for the VNM daycab, and will offer a natural gas-powered version of the VNL daycab beginning later this year. Both models use spark-ignited engines.

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

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