YOUNTVILLE, CA.  Although today natural gas-powered trucks only make up 1% of Class 6 through 8 power units, “we see a clear path to mid to high single digit [market share] in the next few years,” said Mark Lampert, sr. vp of sales & marketing for Daimler Trucks North America

Preparing for that growth, the manufacturer has announced a number of new products and programs, including an NG-fueled Freightliner Cascadia with a 48-in. sleeper, aerodynamic treatments for NG fuel tanks, a proof-of-concept vocational truck, and a development partnership with the largest fleet user of over-the-road NG trucks.

Having launched a production-line NG Cascadia 113 day cab in May, the company will now add a sleeper model powered by a 400-hp. rating of the Cummins ISX12 G. It will be offered with both compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fuel tanks that will provide up to 190 diesel equivalent gallons (DGE) when it goes into production in October, according to Robert Carrick, Freightliner’s NG sales manager.

Theoretical range for either the day cab or sleeper model could be up to 800 mi. depending on tank configurations, the company said at a press conference held here.

Freightliner has already built over 75 NG Cascadias with 350-hp ratings of the ISX12 G and Allison 4000 automatic transmissions. With availability of the new 400-hp version, both day cab and new sleeper models will also be offered with a manual transmission, Carrick said.

The company also expects to begin production-line installation of CNG and LNG fuel tanks early next year.  Currently they installed off-line by the tank providers.

Along with the sleeper model, Freightliner said it will release new aerodynamic fairings for its NG trucks that will improve fuel economy up to 3%, extending truck range between fueling.

Starting in the middle of next year, the day cab NG Cascadia will be available with the roof and side fairing package developed for the Cascadia Evolution. The sleeper model will be fitted with the standard Cascadia fairings. In both cases, it will be the first time saddle and back-of-cab NG tanks will be fully enclosed for optimum aerodynamics, according to Carrick.

The aerodynamic treatments were developed in conjunction with Saddle Creek Logistics Services, a regional distribution fleet with over 100 NG tractors already in service.  The fleet has ordered 10 Cascadia 113 day cab models with the new fairings and a new lighter, more compact 120-DGE CNG fuel system. 

The new trucks will also carry the more powerful 400-hp Cummins NG engine and should achieve a practical 700-mi. range between fueling, according to Mike DelBevo, president of Saddle Creek Transportation.

Already said to be the largest over-the-road NG tractor fleet in the country, Saddle Creek expects to take delivery of another 90 NG Cascadias with the same new specs once it completes testing of the initial 10.

"We worked closely with Freightliner engineers and Agility Fuel Systems to design this system," DelBovo said. "We have been able to provide our customers with remarkable benefits with each generation of our existing Freightliner CNG tractors, and we look forward to bringing them even better results with this latest tractor."

Also on display at the media event was a proof-of-concept vocational Freightliner 114SD powered by the Cummins Westport ISX12 G. Fitted with a set-back axle, it carried a roll-back body and will be used to test NG in higher-horsepower vocational applications. The 114SD with the 9-liter Cummins ISLG NG engine is already available and being fitted with refuse, crane, mixer and other vocational bodies, Carrick said.