CleanFUEL USA, has announced a partnership to build and certify a multi-purpose, 8-liter General Motors (GM) propane engine with Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation (FCCC), a subsidiary of Daimler Trucks North America. The medium-duty engine, featuring CleanFUEL’s new 8L liquid propane injection (LPI) system, is designed to offer fleet managers a high-performance, propane-powered alternative to reduce fleet operating costs and greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions. First versions of the engine will be for use in urban delivery trucks and school buses.

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. Conversion kits also will be available to switch medium-duty gasoline vehicles to run on propane. CleanFUEL expects the engines to be available for 2012 vehicles.

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.) according to CleanFUEL.

“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, dir. 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.”

“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.”

Propane is the earliest practical alternative fuel embraced by trucking. At least as far back as the early 1980s, propane power was offered as a factory option on some medium-duty trucks The first bobtail truck to transport propane was built in 1928, according to PERC, and in 1965 Chevrolet introduced four new truck engines designed to run on propane. Today, PERC reports, propane power conversions are often completed on production vehicles — including full-size pickups, vans and chassis cabs, step vans and both medium- and heavy-duty vocational trucks — by specialized outfitters.