GEORGETOWN, TEXAS - CleanFUEL USA, a supplier of alternative-fuel infrastructure and propane engine systems, announced a partnership to build and certify a multi-purpose 8.0L General Motors (GM) propane engine with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC), a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America. Featuring CleanFUEL's new 8L liquid propane injection (LPI) system the medium-duty engine will offer fleet managers a high-performance, propane-powered alternative to reduce fleet operating costs and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. First versions of the engine chassis will be designed for use in urban delivery trucks and school buses.
Propane is the most widely used alternative fuel today, powering more than 14 million vehicles around the world. CleanFUEL anticipates significant market interest in the 8L engine, with pent up demand lingering from GM stopping production of medium-duty engines in 2009. CleanFUEL expects the engine to be available for 2012 vehicles, providing a viable option for fleet operators to keep pace with stricter GHG legislation.
"We've seen an industry-wide shift to becoming more environmentally conscious, and our customers are requesting more options for green-fleet vehicles," said Jonathan Randall, director of sales and marketing for FCCC. "Working with CleanFUEL to address the demand for green vehicles was a natural fit. We look forward to collaborating on this project and keeping with our legacy of providing innovative technologies that benefit customers and the environment."
Freightliner will certify CleanFUEL's 8L propane fuel injection system to run on the Thomas Built Type C school bus and Freightliner straight truck chassis. This partnership expands use of GM's 8L long-block engine, originally intended for industrial and marine markets, to new on-highway applications of up to 33,000 lb. GVW (gross vehicle weight). Conversion kits also will be available to switch medium-duty gasoline vehicles to run on propane.
The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) approved a $3.9 million grant to support the project's development. CleanFUEL, FCCC, GM and Powertrain Integration will co-fund the project and release a generator version of the engine for the agriculture market, where propane equipment currently supports 865,000 U.S. farms (e.g. irrigation pumps, grain dryers, standby generators, etc.).
"Since the discontinuance of the GM 8.1 liter engine there have been limited options for medium-duty propane engines," said Tucker Perkins, President and COO, CleanFUEL USA. "Demand for medium-duty propane engines still persists. From a fleet standpoint, we see immense potential for this new 8L platform to stimulate additional interest and adoption in the market for propane-powered vehicles."
Medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (MHDVs) in the U.S. consume a significant and increasing amount of fuel. In 2008, these vehicles consumed 26 percent of all U.S. transportation fuels and despite rising fuel prices, use of liquid fuels in the transportation sector are expected to increase to roughly 45 percent overall from 2007 to 2035 (Source: Energy Information Administration). The Obama administration recently announced new rules to reduce GHG emissions and other pollutants by requiring greater fuel efficiency for fleet vehicles, starting with 2014 models. According to the EPA, the new regulations would save the trucking industry about 500 million barrels of oil over the life of vehicles made between 2014 and 2018, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 250 million metric tons.
Propane is a clean burning fuel that yields 87 percent less hydrocarbons and 50 percent fewer toxins than gasoline, and is more economical compared to petroleum-based options, roughly 40 to 50 percent less than gasoline/diesel per gallon. PERC estimates that operating costs of a propane fleet typically range from five to 30 percent less than a gasoline-powered fleet. Propane is also an approved alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and qualifies for several alternative fuel vehicle tax incentives.