Ports, communities and businesses across the country have started looking at liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel systems as an environmentally friendly solution to clean air and emissions concerns. The eight Kenworth T800s equipped with LNG fuel systems that went into full-time drayage service in California last month under the Clean Trucks Program are an example of how the emerging technology is beginning to make an impact.

“The ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach, and to a smaller extent Oakland are leading the charge to replace old, dirty diesel trucks that are 15 to 20 years old on average,” Andy Douglas, Kenworth sales manager, specialty markets, told FleetOwner. “California really feels that natural gas is a great transportation fuel in the port environment.”

Kenworth’s LNG fuel system reduces typical diesel emissions 95%, while saving $1 to $1.50 per gallon, Douglas said, adding that a $28,500 federal tax credit is further financial incentive to install LNG.

According to Westport Innovations, which equipped the vehicles with its High Pressure Direct Injection (HPDI) technology, the trucks reduce greenhouse gasses by 20% and NOx by 75%.

“People are living close to these ports, and you’re seeing a higher per-capita occurrence of lung-based diseases,” Douglas said. “LNG, first and foremost, has the cleanest emissions profile currently available in the marketplace. We’re getting tremendous results on the reduction of NOx and emissions.”

According to Douglas, the price to install the LNG system is about 30% of the net cost of the vehicle, but with fuel savings and tax credits, it can usually pay for itself within three years. In addition, several states—including California and Texas--are providing additional grant money to purchase LNG trucks.

Most of the 200 trucks that have been upfit with the LNG system have been aftermarket-installed. According to Douglas, the trucks can run 300 mi. on a single tank or 500 miles on a double, six times further than a similar CNG (compressed natural gas) system.

Municipalities, cities and counties are also pursuing the technology, Douglas said, as there has been interest from the private sector, P&D, and regional haul. Kenworth said it will begin full production of the T800 LNG trucks in 2009 at its Renton, WA, manufacturing facility.

“Every port community is watching California with great interest,” Douglas said. “It’s on everybody’s mind because Los Angeles and Long Beach have really aggressively gone after this.”

Douglas added that there has also been increasing demand for hybrid vehicles, primarily medium-duty Class 6 and 7 vehicles used in P&D, beverage hauling and utility. “There’s a tremendous buzz in the industry, as customers are very interested in these technologies,” he said.

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