MWGT 2020 Day 7 Recap

Day seven of #MWGT2020 began with our NGV Industry Expo panel. We heard from five great industry solution providers: Brian Houston from Clean Energy Fuels, Joe Reisz with Agility, Peter Barber with Ingevity, Dev Patel with ANGI, and Kyle Eddington at Worthington Industries. Connect directly with each of them through the Whova app for full details. All panelists emphasized that each fuel has an important role to play. NGV technologies – tanks, station systems, vehicles – are developing quickly. It’s a great fit for heavy duty, and Ingevity solutions are bringing lighter duty vehicles back into play for CNG. RNG creates tremendous potential for environmental benefits.

The 10:30 am session was Renewable Natural Gas: An Achievable Low Carbon Transportation Solution. 

Lorrie Lisek from Wisconsin Clean Cities was moderator. Tom Cyrs, World Resources Institute (WRI), David Cox, Coalition for Renewable Natural Gas, and Marc Rowe, Trillium served as panelists. The main point was RNG significantly reduces greenhouse gasses compared with petroleum and conventional natural gas. Fleets can access RNG without any changes whatsoever in vehicles, operations or anything else. All speakers emphasized the role of policy to value low carbon solutions such as RNG.

Tom discussed WRI’s extensive analysis of supply, markets and barriers through a recently produced white paper. He emphasized the diversity of supplies – agriculture, municipal, landfills and others both dry and wet. RNG can’t meet the entire need for low or near zero GHG transportation but can play a critical complementary role to electric and others.

David crystalized RNG, its process to produce and its value with a simple framework: Society produces waste; waste decomposes; and decomposing waste emits methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is at least 30 times as potent as CO2, so it’s critical to mitigate uncontrolled methane. Solving this begins with various logistical challenges to collect waste, capture methane, then remove impurities. Once this is accomplished, it can be used in the same way any source of natural gas is used. Today, RNG production is growing exponentially. More production has opened in the past year than in the previous 30 years. 43,000 sites in North America collect organic waste. All could be sources for RNG.

Marc discussed Trillium as one of a family of companies owned by Love’s, a trusted name in full-service truck stops. California has been the strongest market for RNG, where it comprises about 80% of volume of natural gas used in transportation. However, the rest of the country is poised to catch up quickly. More market-based policy at the state level could accelerate this.

The 1 pm panel was Trucking Efficiency Solutions. Mike Roeth from North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) was moderator. Mike and NACFE are unparalleled leaders in trucking efficiency. Panelists included Joel Morrow from Alpha Drivers Research and Consulting, Alec Costerus of Aerodyne Transportation and James Husted with Garner Transportation Group. The dialogue was rich with insights and a candid discussion of where we’ve come and the future. Joel and Alec both still actively drive class 8 trucks, and James is a 30-year veteran leader of a strong regional fleet. It’s well worth an hour to view the session recording if you missed it.

Joel discussed significant improvements over the years in diesel engines and overall vehicle technology. One example is the ability to engine “downspeed,” drive at very low RPMs over long distances without undue wear. He suggested these developments made as big of an impact as aerodynamics. He added, “An [OEM] engineer is only as good as their feedback. They can’t engineer a solution if they don’t know what they are solving for. The more you track and understand and share back with manufacturers, the better the solutions they put out are going to be.” 

Speaking from an owner-operator perspective, Alec said that drivers need to look at the whole vehicle comprehensively. “I wanted the biggest (trailer) skirt I could find. As an owner-operator, I’m married to one trailer. It becomes a more complex analysis for ROI when you have a fleet.” Alec is a fan of real time driver feedback technologies. He uses Pedal Coach, an in-cab application that reacts to the road, the load, weather conditions, and the driver, and calculates a moving fuel economy target that doesn’t penalize the driver for their specific load.

From a fleet perspective, James emphasized the importance of working with truck OEMs. He said they are usually good at listening to their customers and working to provide what you want. However, the fleet owner needs to listen to the OEM also -- it needs to be a partnership. James prides his company on embracing new technology rather than fighting it. Driver training is a huge focus, and they monitor idling, cruise control, and other parameters, in addition to listening to their drivers.

When asked about the future, everyone agreed we have not seen the ceiling in fuel economy. They agreed electrification will make inroads on short, especially urban routes. James is actively looking at electric yard spotters. Panelists also agreed that some level of hybridization will make increasing sense and provide value. 

The 2:30 pm session was Propane Autogas Peer Fleet Experiences. Our moderator was Tony Bandiero from Eastern Pennsylvania Alliance for Clean Transportation. Panelists included Chris Perry, City of Newport News, Maria Church, Suburban Transit Network, and Pete Phillips, Clean Sweep. Quite simply, for each of these fleets, propane autogas has become a no brainer. Propane seems to save money and lower emissions, while maintenance is easier and there is no special fuel infrastructure needed. Notably, the three fleets collectively used systems from three different OEMs, or system developers, and all have been very reliable. All three fleet leaders plan to expand their propane programs.

Chris’ fleet has 1600 vehicles, 1.2 million gallons of fuel per year, average 8,735 miles per year. They have a 2000-gallon tank and 2 dispensers, and they have upgraded as their propane fleet has grown. With their 68 bi-fuel propane vehicles, they have saved over $100,000 in a year - $60,000 from a federal tax credit and $40,000 purely from operational savings.

Maria’s fleet has 261 total vehicles. They initially started using CNG but ran into difficulties with maintenance and refueling. They’ve had no issues with propane. Their supplier provided refueling, and drivers really like the vehicles. They’ve saved money and can reduce emissions at the same time.

Pete initially applied for a grant to convert a truck to propane. Their street sweepers move very slowly, and Pete was pleasantly surprised that savings have been greater than expected. They are moving to switch everything they can from diesel to propane. They have seen huge maintenance savings due to their low speed duty cycle. Diesels have had major problems with emissions controls due to low speed operation. They have no issues with propane.

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