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Propane terminal trucks help reduce port pollution

CleanFUEL USA, a leading supplier of alternative fuel infrastructure and liquid propane engine systems, has announced a partnership with Capacity of Texas, Inc., to develop and certify the country’s first terminal trucks utilizing its cleaner-burning, liquid propane injection (LPI) engine on a General Motors (GM) 8L platform. Air quality issues at U.S. ports are gaining attention due to the impact that the growing foreign trade and cruise industries have had on expanding landside operations to service increased port traffic. The new line of Capacity propane-powered off-road trucks is targeted to meet the demand for alternate-fueled vehicles in port communities that are challenged to comply with stricter emissions rules.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that U.S. ports and waterways handle more than 2 billion tons of domestic and import/export cargo annually, with forecasts estimating containerized cargo and the number of cruise passengers will double by 2020. While trade and travel through U.S. ports yield tremendous economic benefits, the volume of traffic also impacts air quality in and around port communities. This is a particularly vital issue for ports operating in counties that are designated as "non-attainment" or "maintenance" areas under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, which the EPA uses to enforce emissions reductions.

"Environmentally-friendly and cost-effective terminal trucks are key advantages for our fleet customers today," said Phillip Ford, Capacity of Texas President. "Especially those that operate in ship yards that no longer permit older vehicles to be ‘grandfathered’ in by emissions laws that were set the year the vehicle was manufactured. As the first propane-powered OEM terminal truck designed with CleanFUEL’s advanced LPI system, we believe this new cargo-carrier will fill an immediate market need for clean tractor trucks when it hits the market in 2012."

Terminal trucks are used extensively in dock yards and large warehouse operations to move intermodal containers and freight trailers between ships, railroads, cruise ships, etc. The duty cycles of a typical terminal truck are relatively severe. The trucks are rarely non-operational and move multiple trailers of freight at one time. To maximize torque, the vehicles are geared low, achieving speeds of 25 – 40 mpg. The large loads the vehicles are required to tow result in high fuel consumption; double that of a comparable on-highway vehicle. A key benefit for fleets considering a switch to propane is that CleanFUEL’s 8L LPI engine (33,000-lb GVWR) offers the same horsepower, torque and performance as a gasoline-powered vehicle.

"This project opens the propane industry up to a whole new commercial fleet customer," said Tucker Perkins, President and COO, CleanFUEL USA. "Capacity and CleanFUEL are ideal partners for this endeavor, as Capacity is the top domestic supplier for terminal trucks and CleanFUEL is a leader in developing state-of-the-art propane engine technology for high-performance lower emissions fleet vehicles."

The Propane Education and Research Council (PERC) approved a $2.4 million grant to support the development of the trucks. Allison Transmission, CleanFUEL, Capacity, FCCC (Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation), GM and Powertrain Integration are all project stakeholders.

Propane is the most widely used transportation fuel after gasoline and diesel. About 15 million cars and trucks worldwide are powered by propane today, and it is gaining popularity as a transportation fuel because of its cost – roughly 40-50 percent less than gasoline/diesel per gallon – and its environmental benefits. Propane produces 87 percent less hydrocarbons and 50 percent fewer toxins than gasoline. Propane is also an approved alternative fuel under the Energy Policy Act of 1992 and qualifies for several alternative fuel vehicle tax incentives.

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