C.A.T.’s natural gas trucks get boost with Hyliion e-axles

COTEAU-DU-LAC, Que. — C.A.T. Transport is taking a new step in its natural gas propulsion approach, as the company’s first hybrid truck hit the road a few days ago. 

The Freightliner Cascadia, already powered by a Cummins ISX 12G compressed natural gas (CNG) engine, has had the addition of Hyliion’s CNG hybrid solution, which includes an 8 kWh battery, a 120 hp/1,500 lb.-ft. electric axle, and a thermal management system. The hybrid system can be installed on most heavy Class 8 natural gas vehicles. The electric axle is said to provide more power for natural gas vehicles to help with big hills and heavy loads. 

The Hyliion system caught the attention of Daniel Goyette, CEO of C.A.T., at a show held in California three years ago. Hyliion representatives, whose system was initially aimed at diesel trucks, later visited C.A.T. and realized that the benefits could possibly be even greater with natural gas trucks as a hybrid system. 

In 2014, C.A.T. announced its intention to convert its fleet to CNG and signed a long-term lease agreement with Ryder. 

“The drawbacks that we have seen, what the drivers criticized CNG trucks for, is lacking in power. Also, the return on investment did not allow the installation of auxiliary on-board units. We found that these trucks idled a lot, and that was damaging to those engines that use a spark plug for ignition. Finally, the fact that the engine was more subject to (overworking) on a hill increased the internal heat,” explains Goyette. 

C.A.T. driver Don Simpson. (Photo: Supplied)

Hyliion’s product prevents the engine from working too hard on hills and provides additional power on demand. Software is used to store energy when the vehicle rolls on flat terrain or down a hill. The system also includes an auxiliary power unit, at the heart of which are additional batteries providing up to 12 hours of cabin cooling, eliminating engine idling. 

“All of this together gives us the added value we lacked in these trucks,” says Goyette. 

Initially, C.A.T. intends to equip five trucks with the Hyliion hybrid system in order to evaluate its performance.

“If things are going well, the goal would be to equip the 100 or so trucks in the fleet. It all depends on the results that the product will give,” says Goyette. 

The additional cost of the Hyliion hybrid system is some CDN$40,000. The CEO of C.A.T. hopes that the technology will be approved under the Quebec Ecocamionnage subsidy program. He also hopes to extend the lifespan of trucks equipped with this technology by three years. They will continue to serve the same routes, namely Quebec, Ontario and Texas. 

CAT is also interested in Hyliion’s Hypertruck ERX solution, a fully electric Class 8 truck powertrain that recharges itself while traveling, using a downsized natural gas generator. 

Steve Bouchard started writing about trucks over 20 years ago, making him by far the most experienced trucking journalist in Quebec. Steve is the editor of Quebec’s leading French-language trucking magazine, Transport Routier, published by Newcom Média Québec since its creation in 2000. He is also editor of the associated website transportroutier.ca, and a contributor to Today’s Trucking and Trucknews.com.

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  • Can you explain why other fleets aren’t jumping on the opportunity to save on fuel and wear? I own the stock and wonder what’s really going on?

  • Mr. Bouchard,
    Thank you for the article and the incite provided. From your research do you really think the Hyliion solution to increase performance of CNG Engines is viable? Did you have the opportunity to talk to any drivers and receive their thoughts? I am very interested in this technology, but I am cautious.
    Thank you in advance.