Our 9 am expo this morning was a Conversation with Our Propane Partners. The session featured Brightstar, AmeriGas, ROUSH CleanTech, and ICOM. Propane has received considerable attention over the two weeks as a solution that’s easy to implement that bring significant cost savings. The renewable options now available add to the environmental benefits already available.
At 10:30 am, we held Advances in Autogas Technologies, moderated by Gary Bozigar from Bergquist and the Ohio Propane Gas Association, John Barnett from U-Hall, Adam Wilkum with ROUSH CleanTech, and Sam Geckler from Cummins. All panelists discussed the advantages of autogas and we have seen continued positive developments in vehicles and refueling system technologies.
Gary gave an overview of propane and the benefits of using it and of propane use in Ohio. He emphasized the low cost of infrastructure for propane, and low maintenance costs. OPGA and Ohio PERC have strongly supported the Autogas market.
John gave an overview of U-Haul focused on their efforts to develop the autogas market. One recent innovation is a three-level price structure – bottle gas, public posted price for vehicles and a special fleet price that’s significantly lower and available to any fleet of any size. Fleets only need to complete a short form and a simple process to obtain this low pricing.
Adam discussed ROUSH CleanTech’s history and their commitment to alt fuels and sustainable technology, then reviewed ROUSH’s contribution to the industry beginning with PERC-funded research and development nearly twenty years ago. One of ROUSH’s most recent innovations has been development of a “near-zero” NOx engine. This engine can be speced on school buses and other ROUSH systems. It achieves NOx emissions 90% less than the diesel standard and even greater reductions from actual diesel emissions, based on recent testing.
Sam briefly reviewed Cummins long involvement in alternative fuels. He began focusing on propane about five years ago, from an engineering standpoint, and has grown increasingly enthusiastic about the options and potential. Cummins is now in the pre-commercial stage of efforts to develop a new 6.7L turbocharged engine that will be optimized for propane’s higher-octane rating. Amerigas has deployed a vehicle with this engine and results are very encouraging, delivering 900 ft lbs of torque and 370 HP. The increasing environmental benefits from renewable propane and the ultra-low NOx engine provides more reason for excitement.
Our 1 pm session, Smart Logistics: Levels of Autonomy in Goods Movement, included Andy Wolpert from City of Columbus as Moderator, Rich Granger from DriveOhio, Richard Bishop, an independent consultant, and Çetin Meriçli with Locomation. All panelists emphasized that strong business imperatives are driving technology developments. It’s a question of “when,” not “if.” All agreed that COVID may have slowed some work near term, but it has accelerated efforts overall because the pandemic has illustrated how brittle supply chains are today.
Andy reviewed the Smart Circuit AV project in downtown Columbus, and the Linden Leap project, connecting people to goods, job, community resources.
Richard’s involvement in automated vehicle (AV) technologies dates to the 1990s. Richard reviewed the AV market landscape and defined some terms: Controlled environments are low speed, specialized high user needs, such as distribution yards. It’s not a large market but AVs are very impactful. Robo Delivery is a larger market focused on final delivery of goods for consumers. Resource Roads are remote areas, often unpaved. It’s a small, but critical market to some companies, such as the forestry industry. Finally, the highway market is big, challenging and highly diverse in terms of technology solutions.
Rich discussed DriveOhio’s goods movement focus, motivated by the critical importance of logistics to Ohio’s economy. He reviewed several DriveOhio projects and partnerships. The I-70 Truck Automation Corridor is funded by a USDOT award and includes partners in Ohio and Indiana. Deploying Automated Technology Anywhere (DATA) is just getting launched with a focus on the rural portions of Ohio. It will help ensure that rural needs are addressed. The project includes goods and passenger movement. Projects at Bowling Green State University and the Smart US33 corridor are two more examples of Drive Ohio projects. SkyVision is an airspace monitoring project with drones.
Çetin discussed Locomation’s work to develop AV convoy vehicles, evolving into full autonomy. Locomation’s work breaks into four areas on a timeline: V1 is autonomous relay convoy, V2 is AV drone follower. V3 is Full highway AV. V4 is dock to dock AV. The focus is delivering value to shippers and fleets – more cargo, faster, and farther with labor savings and fuel economy benefits. Business needs are driving development of these technologies. Locomation is based in Pennsylvania but is also setting up shop at the Ohio-based Transportation Research Center.
The 2:30 pm session, Fleet and Retail Best Practices for Biodiesel was moderated by Andrew Conley at Clean Fuels Ohio. Panelists were Larry Campbell from City of Ft. Wayne, IN, Jeff Markusic from Franklin County, Ohio Engineer, and Ted Augustine with Triplett. Generally, panelists emphasized how truly easy and reliable blended biodiesel is today. Since it requires no changes other than initial tank cleaning and fuel filter monitoring, the only reason a diesel fleet isn’t using the fuel today is simply lack of awareness of the benefits biodiesel offers today at the same cost as petroleum diesel.
Larry began by emphasizing the importance of tank cleaning. Since B20 is a great solvent, it will bring out residual deposits. Once cleaned, biodiesel will perform better than conventional diesel. It’s also important to work with a BQ-9000 certified producer and distributor. Finally, use injected blended product, not splash blended.
Jeff agreed with all of Larry’s comments. He focused on Franklin County’s more recent story and experience. Jeff was asked by management to make improvements throughout Franklin County’s fleet management, and this included on the environmental side. He did significant researched and talked with peers and industry resources. He decided to source B20 in the summer and B5 in the winter from Benchmark They also have benefitted by buying off the City of Columbus’ contract. They have had only positive experiences.
Ted explained that Triplet, which owns a chain of retail stores in Kansas, got into biodiesel game recently. That have had no issues or concerns themselves, retail or fleet customers. They offer B20 at six of eight retail stores. They use only soy-based, BQ-9000 compliant fuel. They have a 25,000 gallon tank that they turn over multiple times per week. Part of their motivation is to capture greater margins since biodiesel is available to them at a lower cost than conventional diesel. They expect that to increase as the economic continues to recover and petroleum costs increase.
Recordings of all sessions will be available, likely by sometime Friday or certainly by early next week.