Alternative-fuel and fuel-efficient vehicles are increasingly becoming fleet mainstays — electric vehicles and hybrids are a common sight in a growing number of fleets. While OEM alternative-fuel and fuel-efficient vehicle availability is improving, there are still gaps for fuels such as propane autogas and compressed natural gas (CNG). GM and Honda both offer CNG models, but, only for select models.
This doesn’t mean a fleet can’t green its footprint with one of these alternative fuels. Quite the contrary. There are numerous second-stage manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers who can convert gasoline- and diesel-powered vehicles to a variety of alternative-fuel options, delivering the same performance with the benefits of a lower total cost of ownership.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), also known as propane autogas, is produced from both natural gas and crude oil refining, and is among the most commonly used fuels in the world. Of all of the alternative fuels on the market, it has the largest public refueling infrastructure. Among LPG’s biggest benefits for fleets is its lower cost compared to gasoline — as much as 30 percent to 40 percent cheaper in some markets. In addition, most of it is produced domestically.
While transit fleets are among the largest users of propane autogas, automobiles and light- and medium-duty trucks are increasingly becoming popular platforms for this inexpensive fuel.
Alliance AutoGas offers a dedicated LPG system for a variety of OEM vehicles, including, but not limited to, 6.0L V-8 GM engines for the model-years 2011 and 2012 and 4.8L V-8 GM engines for MY-2008 to 2012. According to the organization, its system can cut emissions by about 20 percent. Alliance AutoGas can also provide a fleet with a fueling infrastructure for no cost with a fuel contract.
CleanFUEL USA specializes in liquid propane injected engine technology for GM fleet and commercial vehicles. Currently, it offers propane autogas systems for a variety of GM medium-duty and transit vehicles, particularly the GM 8.1L C4500 to C8500 models. The company’s most recent offering includes a factory option for propane autogas in a G4500 Cutaway Chassis equipped with a 6.0L engine which is widely used for school bus, shuttle bus, and a variety of vocational and commercial applications. The company expects to offer a propane autogas option for other GM products in the future, including the 6.0L C2500/3500 Series Chassis Cab, 6.0L G3500 Cutaway-Van Chassis, and GM pickup trucks.
The company’s LPG fuel system is backed by GM’s five-year/100,000-mile transferable powertrain warranty. In the current 6.0L V-8 configuration, the system delivers 324 hp and 373 lb.-ft. of torque. It is available in two fuel-capacity configurations. The three-tank configuration has a 35-gallon capacity with an estimated 315-mile range. The four-tank configuration has a 513-mile range. The company also offers fuel dispensing equipment, solving the fueling infrastructure problems that can often accompany a move to an alternative fuel. The company also offers conversions for non-GM products, including the 6.0L Workhorse W42 Chassis.
Icom’s JTG Liquid Injection Propane (Autogas) System enables standard injection (JTG II) or direct Injection gasoline (JTGhp) and diesel engines (JTG-Dynamic) to deliver power, torque, and drivability comparable to gasoline, according to the company. The patented Icom JTG system is EPA Certified for over 50 fleet platforms, and is Canadian IGAC certified for North American markets.
Custom solutions are available for fleets. The vehicle performance is comparable to the original fuel system and, according to the company, throttle response is immediate and direct since the Icom JTG system does not Interrupt or interface with the original vehicle ECU, which directly commands the Icom propane injectors. According to the company, the benefits of the Icom JTG II liquid injection system also include increased fuel efficiency and reduced maintenance due to the OEM-quality components utilized in the simple-to-install plug-and-play system. Icom has National Distribution across the United States and Canada. The company also offers a bi-fuel LPG system as well and can help fleets install a fueling infrastructure and fuel supply.
RGR Alternative Fuels offers dedicated propane autogas conversions for Ford’s MY-2009 to 2011 4.6L Crown Victoria, Police Interceptor, Lincoln Town Car/Limo, and Grand Marquis. The company’s dedicated LPG auto conversion kit is a non-invasive, plug-and-play fuel-injection delivery system that uses OEM injector ports, eliminating the need to tap the intake, and specifically designed clips for injectors and the engine control unit (ECU) to minimize wire cutting, splicing, and soldering. The system includes a 40-gallon fuel tank and offers mileage and horsepower comparable to gasoline. According to the company, its system reduces greenhouse gases by up to 35 percent. The system is EPA certified and OBD-II compliant and comes with a two-year/60,000-mile warranty for parts. In addition, the company can help fleets install a fueling infrastructure at no out-of-pocket cost.
Currently, ROUSH CleanTech offers propane-autogas conversion systems for Ford’s F-Series light-duty and medium-duty trucks and E-Series vans. The company expects to add the Ford F-450, F-550, F-650, and F-59 to its conversion roster in the future.
Among the advantages of the ROUSH CleanTech system for these Ford vehicles is that it allows them to deliver the same horsepower, torque, towing capacity, and warranty protection as their gasoline configurations but with lower emissions. According to the company, its system reduces nitrogen oxide by 20 percent, carbon monoxide by 60 percent, and greenhouse gases by up to 24 percent. It also generates fewer particulate emissions. ROUSH CleanTech propane-autogas vehicles are EPA- and CARB-certified.
The propane-autogas system is available for the F-250 and F-350 5.4L V-8 and 6.2L V-8 with either a 4x2 or 4x4 drivetrain along with the E-150, E-250, and E-350 5.4L V-8. There are two fuel configurations available. The company also offers a fuel system for the Ford E-450 dual rear wheel cutaway equipped with the 6.8L V10 engine. For the MY-2009 through 2010 F-250 and F-350, the in-bed configuration has a capacity of 50 usable gallons and a 23-usable gallon capacity for the under-bed configuration, and 43-usable gallon in-bed and 22-usable gallon under-bed tank for MY-2012. The E-Series vans offer a mid-ship propane autogas tank with 25-usable gallons and the extended range tank, which offers 45-usable gallons.
ROUSH CleanTech maintains Ford’s factory five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty on vehicles equipped with the liquid propane autogas system. The company can also help fleets establish a refueling infrastructure.
Compressed Natural Gas
Compressed natural gas (CNG) is inexpensive, plentiful, efficient, and domestically produced. A common option for the transit industry, CNG has other fleet applications as well.
BAF Technologies offers a dedicated CNG system for many Ford vehicles, including the F-series vehicles from the F-250 through the F-650, including the F-53 and F-59 stripped chassis models. Bi-fuel CNG/gasoline systems are also offered for the F-250 and F-350. BAF also offers a variety of dedicated CNG systems for the E-250 and E-350 vans and E-450 shuttle buses, with bi-fuel CNG/gasoline systems also available for the E-250 and E-350. Dedicated CNG systems are also offered for the Ford Transit Connect in two configurations — either as a taxi/passenger van with a single 14.7 GGE tank located behind the rear passenger seat or as a cargo/work van in which the tanks are placed under a false floor in the rear of the vehicle. All BAF-dedicated CNG systems are EPA and CARB approved. BAF maintains the full Ford factory five-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty on all vehicles equipped with BAF dedicated or bi-fuel CNG systems.
While most second-stage manufacturers and aftermarket conversion companies have specialized in larger vehicles, IMPCO Automotive has added depth to its offering by including passenger vehicles, such as the 2.5L Ford Fusion and Fusion S, 2.5L Ford Escape FWD and 4WD, and 2.5L Mazda Tribute FWD and 4WD on its list of vehicles approved for CNG conversion. The four-cylinder vehicles are all EPA and CARB certified. In addition, it also handles larger vehicles such as the Ford 5.4L V-8 E-150, E-250, and E-350; 6.8L V-10 Ford E-450; 6.8L V-10 F-450 and F-550 Super Duty; 6.2L V-8 F-250 and F-350 Super Duty; and 2.0L I4 Ford Transit Connect.
Landi Renzo USA Corporation offers a 50-state CARB-certified dedicated CNG system for the 2011/2012 gaseous prep 5.4L Ford E-Series Cargo and Passenger Vans transforming it into a super ultra low emission vehicle (SULEV). In addition, the system is OBD-II compliant, and NHTSA/FMVSS compliant. It also offers a CNG kit for GM 6.0L and 8.1L engines and the Ford 5.4L engine. The company installs, calibrates, and provides extended service for the CARB-certified systems. In addition to a three-year/36,000-mile warranty, Landi Renzo offers full technical support, including next-day technician support and overnight shipment of replacement parts.
Bi-fuel systems, which can operate using either an alternative fuel or conventional gasoline technology, give fleets the flexibility of using an alternative, lower-cost fuel, without the concerns that come with a limited refueling infrastructure — effectively increasing the range and use of fleet vehicles.
In addition to its dedicated LPG system, Alliance AutoGas also offers an LPG bi-fuel system, powered by a Prins VSI system. The EPA-certified system is available for numerous platforms and can be easily transferred to another vehicle. The system integrates seamlessly with the existing engine, and the propane fuel tank can be mounted in the trunk or underneath the vehicle. An LPG fuel gauge and selector switch is mounted flush on the dashboard of every converted vehicle. Alliance Autogas can work with individual fleets to secure EPA certifications for the vehicles that are tapped for conversion and works with a fleet’s maintenance staff to train them how to care for the system. Alliance also provides extensive safety training and ongoing support for its fleets.
BAF Technologies’ CNG bi-fuel system is available for Ford E-250 and E-350 vans and F-250 and F-350 pickups. Utilizing BAF’s CNG bi-fuel system, the vehicles are EPA certified and OBD-II compliant. The system features fully integrated “master-slave” controls, a touch control fuel-selector, fault warnings, and vapor sequential injection (VSI).
IMPCO Automotive offers a CNG bi-fuel system for Ford’s 6.2L V-8 F-250 and F-350 with a gaseous prepped engine. The converted vehicles are powered by IMPCO’s Sequent-EX Bi-Fuel system, which allows changing from one fuel source to another with just a touch of a button installed on the instrument panel. The system is EPA certified for the Ford vehicles.
Westport LD offers its WiNG CNG/gasoline bi-fuel system for the Ford F-250 and F-350 Super Duty trucks, based on the automaker’s new 6.2L hardened engine, sold and serviced by authorized Ford dealers. The WiNG Power System underwent the same extensive testing as that conducted by Ford and is designed to meet both EPA 2012 and CARB 2012 standards. According to the company, WiNG-powered trucks have a range of about 600 miles, double that of conventional gasoline-powered trucks. The CNG fuel storage tanks are made of lightweight, yet durable filament wound glass/carbon fiber and feature both a manual shutoff and pressure release valve for added safety.
Of all the sustainable platforms, electric vehicles (EVs) have probably generated the most buzz. With zero tailpipe emissions, little need for maintenance, and the low-cost of electricity, the EV is among the greenest and most inexpensive forms of transportation available today. While at least seven manufacturers offer or are in the process of offering electric vehicles, they are not available for every make or model.
ALTe is aiming to fill the gaps in the EV market by focusing on the light-truck segment, including full-size pickups and vans. Its range extender technology is similar in performance to the Chevrolet Volt, providing an initial 30 miles in the all-electric mode before switching to a gasoline powered genset.
The system can be paired with a four-cylinder engine and uses a lithium-ion battery from A123 Systems, which can be charged over eight hours using a 110v outlet or in about four hours using a 220v outlet. In addition to the fuel savings and a company-estimated 200-percent increase in fuel economy, the company said that its system increases the vehicle’s torque while offering similar cargo capacity, horsepower, and towing capability compared to a truck’s original V-8 engine. The company will begin accepting orders early this year and expects to start installing its first systems in late 2012.
Among the most popular ways to increase fuel-efficiency, hybrid vehicles come in many shapes and a growing number of sizes. But for the light-duty to medium-duty market they’re still somewhat of a rarity.
XL Hybrids hopes to change this beginning with a pilot program for GM 2500 Series vans using its hybrid electric powertrain technology, initially paired with GM’s 4.8L gasoline engine, which will reduce fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions by up to 20 percent while offering similar cargo capacity. The company expects its technology to be widely available for fleets sometime in the third quarter of 2012, and plans to expand its lineup to include GM 1500/3500 vans, Chevrolet Silverado, Ford E-Series, Ford F-Series models, and additional engine sizes.
The hybrid system will operate at 345v using a lithium-ion battery pack and an electric motor that generates additional torque and horsepower compared to conventionally-powered vans. The company expects a 25-percent increase on the GM 2500’s city mpg and will offer the technology at a much lower price point than full EV technology due to the reduced size of the battery pack.
The above is just a snapshot of the burgeoning market for alternative-fuel second-stage alt-fuel manufacturing and aftermarket solutions. There is little doubt that there is and will continue to be room for many others.