Dual-fuel engines set to duel for customers

It seems that a new wave of fuel options is heading our way – and quite fast. In recent months, several companies have announced new dual-fuel systems that run on a combination of propane and diesel. I’m not sure how popular these dual-fuel engines will eventually become, but based on the number of companies investing in the technology, it has a chance.

The latest release comes from Icom North America, which recently showed its JTG-Dynamic System. The system uses a 50/50 mixture of liquid-injected propane and diesel fuel. Vehicles can also run on straight diesel fuel.

capnewtruck.jpg“Our innovative JTG-Dynamic System will provide vehicle owners with more power, more torque and improved efficiency along with huge fuel-cost savings and lower emissions,” said Icom’s CEO Ralph Perpetuini.

According to Icom, the system can be installed on diesel injection engines with electronics specifically programmed for each engine platform and does not require any mechanical changes to a traditional diesel engine. Icom is offering systems configured for the International DT466 and Cummins 11.9 engine families, with more platforms under development.

“Our new system is an all-around winner for diesel fleets,” said Albert Venezio, chairman of Icom North America. “For owners, it dramatically reduces operating costs because propane is cheaper than diesel and has a 50-cents-per-gallon alternative fuel-tax credit. For the environment, it reduces emissions. For the national economy it helps to reduce petroleum imports because propane is mostly U.S.-sourced.”

Icom is not the only company working on dual-fuel engine systems. GreenMan Technologies’ American Power Group (APG) will soon start selling its dual-fuel system. The company claims its system will displace 40-70% of normal diesel fuel with compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, well-head gas, or bio-methane, to power a vehicle. The result is a 30-40% reduction in operating costs, APG said.

And lest we dismiss these companies, truck manufacturer Navistar announced at the Mid-America Trucking Show that it is developing a dual-fuel 13L MaxxForce engine in conjunction with Clean Air Power. The engine, which runs on diesel and liquefied natural gas, is being tested in a 2011 International ProStar Plus.

“Recognizing the abundant supply of natural gas in the United States and Canada, we feel compelled to invest in our products in such a way that enables our customers to expand their usage of very low emissions technologies through our engines,” said Jim Hebe, senior vice president, North American sales operations, Navistar. “The use of natural gas certainly accomplishes this and we are proud to be developing the broadest, most energy-efficient line of trucks in the industry, helping deliver real-world savings to the bottom line.”

The engine would produce 430 hp. and 1,550 lbs.-ft. of torque using diesel pilot injection for combustion on the compression stroke and mixing air and LNG on the intake stroke. The result is an engine that runs on a mixture of 15% diesel and 85% natural gas, Navistar said.

Clean Air Power said its dual-fuel system can run on up to 90% natural gas and can be mixed with bio-methane and bio-diesel for a “carbon-neutral” system.

Dual-fuel systems are in use around the world today and being tested by many global truck makers. Will it catch on here? I’m not sure, but the widespread introduction of the technology will give fleet managers another option when it comes to spec’ing their next truck.

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