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Cummins Westport Tests Ultra-Low Emissions Natural Gas Engines

Container shipping specialist Heavy Load Transfer, moves cargo up the Vincent Thomas Bridge at the Port of Long Beach with the new CWI ISX12N Ultra-Low NOx Natural Gas Engine. (Photo: California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition)

Cummins Westport and the California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition have begun testing new low emissions natural gas engines in drayage trucks at the Southern California port complex.

The joint venture between Cummins Inc. and Westport Innovations is testing 20 trucks equipped with the 12-liter ultra-low emissions natural gas engine – called the ISX12N – across seven drayage fleets in the San Pedro Bay in Los Angeles.  The engines produce 400 horsepower and 1,450 pound-feet of torque.

Cummins will add another 16 trucks with the new engines at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach within the next 30 days, said Hugh Donnell, head of the company’s North America truck segment.

The company also is testing another 10 trucks in fleets in Wisconsin, Florida and Texas.

“We accumulate miles to validate and verify that our product is doing what we want it to do,” Donnell told Trucks.com. “It’s a testing process that goes on for generally a year or more.”

All of the major truck manufacturers except Navistar are participating in the testing.

The near-zero emissions technology can lower three key types of tailpipe pollutants: nitrates of oxygen or NOx, smog-causing diesel particulates and greenhouse gases, or GHG. The engine produces 0.02 grams of NOx per horsepower-hour, which is 90 percent less than the current Environmental Protection Agency standard of 0.2 grams.

Environmental groups like the California Air Resources Board and air quality officials believe trucks equipped with such engines will help eliminate harmful diesel emissions from trucks operating out of the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, the nation’s largest port complex.

Cummins recently filed to receive CARB certification and hopes for approval from the agency in November, Rob Neitzke, president of Cummins Westport, told Trucks.com.

“We understand the importance of reducing NOx emissions, especially here in California and in one of the busiest transportation corridors in the nation,” said Neitzke.

On Nov. 2, the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach will consider changes to its Clean Air Action Plan, or CAAP, to replace diesel trucks with cleaner technologies such as the ISX12N engine. The mayors of Los Angeles and Long Beach have set a goal to have near-zero or zero emissions at the complex by 2035.

The California Natural Gas Vehicle Coalition, or CNGVC, recently introduced its own plan – the Advanced Clean Trucks Now plan, or ACT Now – which calls on the ports to replace diesel trucks with near-zero and zero emission trucks over the next five years to improve regional air quality and reduce GHG.

“The time to act is now” because the California legislature recently passed its Clean Air Initiative, providing $895 million in grant money for reducing emissions from mobile sources, including heavy-duty trucks, said Greg Roche, vice president of sustainable trucking for Clean Energy Fuels.

“This is the most money that’s ever been available in this state to clean up diesel trucks,” Roche told Trucks.com. “For the ports, this is an opportune time to make a change because money is available to help them do this. There’s no guarantee that this money will be available in the future.”

By using renewable natural gas, or RNG, the new engine reduces GHG emissions by 70 percent or more, Roche said.

“This is a major step on how the air quality can be improved immediately,” Roche said, while the industry works on other technologies such as electric trucks and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, both of which are also undergoing testing.

As part of the testing, the CNGVC, which comprises Cummins Westport, Clean Energy and more than 20 other companies, including UPS and Freightliner Trucks, released a video featuring Victor LaRosa Jr., a truck driver for Heavy Load Transfer, driving the vehicle over the steep bridges at the Southern California port complex and through the mountainous section of Interstate 5 known as the Grapevine.

“It performed great, especially on the higher grade on the Grapevine,” LaRosa Jr. told Trucks.com.

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