Innovative Natural Gas Truck Technology Now Ready for Short Haul Shipping

Amid environmental concerns and new requirements for trucks, natural gas has proved a great option. Natural gas is closest to diesel in terms of speed and power. Trucks can also re fuel faster when using natural gas, in around 10mins. They have a good range of on average 966kms before the fuel needs to be refilled too. On top of that, natural gas prices are at an all-time low. Prices are the lowest they have been in 25 years.

In California this month the two largest ports (Los Angeles and Long Beach), announced the readiness of near zero emissions trucks for short haul transfers. These heavy-duty trucks, running on natural gas are now recognised as TRL-9 (Technology Readiness Level 9) in their feasibility for drayage. TRL-9 is the highest level possible, meaning it is safe and ready for commercial use. The California Natural Gas Vehicle Partnership has approved the upgrade requested by the LA and Long Beach ports, for use immediately.

Twenty natural gas-powered trucks were used to demonstrate their effectiveness in order to gain approval for permanent use. The trucks used run on Cummins ISX12N NZE engines. The demonstration was run by Cummins in partnership with Clean Energy. The same trucks have now completed over 1,609,000 kilometers of deliveries throughout California.

Both main Californian ports have already started upgrading their current trucks and using the new fuel system. This is a great move for the industry in general. No doubt others around the globe will now look at natural gas as a feasible option for their short haul trips.

Environmentally speaking, natural gas is significantly less destructive and lower emissions than traditional diesel or petrol. The new natural gas truck technology expected to be used in California is ‘near zero’ emissions. It is not quite zero, but will still make a huge positive difference from using the traditional diesel drayage trucks.

Other companies across the globe are currently working on fully zero emission trucks. Toyota has recently developed a hydrogen fuel cell heavy duty truck for shipping purposes. Their truck will be zero emission but lacks some of the benefits of a natural gas run truck. Electric is another low emissions type truck, that the likes of Tesla are progressing well with.

Natural gas is a bi-product of shale drilling. It is used industrially as a fuel for the development of plastics, pharmaceuticals, ethane and propane and antifreeze. It has been used safely for a range of purposes, and as a fuel for years. Natural gas is a viable option as a fuel source for heavy haulage trucks as well. It also comes in liquid form for easy re-filling.

Natural gas is cheaper. Another draw card for developing trucks run on natural gas is the cost. Prices are dropping due to warmer than average temperatures, reduced consumption and increased supply. The cost of natural gas is expected to sink further, into the foreseeable future. The coronavirus pandemic has had an impact on natural gas prices too.

The move to natural gas-powered trucks in California will have a measurable impact on the whole state, and the country. Air pollution from diesel trucks impacts 90% of Californians, which equates to over 35 million people. There are over 17,000 short haul trucks travelling to and from the ports of California in any given day. The impact is phenomenal.

In California around 75% of natural gas is already from renewable sources, according to the California Air Resources Board. There is an extensive natural gas refueling network across the state with public access. The infrastructure to roll out more of these natural gas powered trucks is there, ready and waiting. The potential is there, and the private sector is willing to invest further into infrastructure to run their trucks as needed. The project will help the public greatly, without even requiring any tax-payer contributions, it’s a win win.

Shipping and truck rental companies are looking toward a cleaner, greener future and working to meet government emissions targets. California in particular has put in place strict short deadline emission reduction targets, particularly on the transport sector. There is a world-wide move towards lowering carbon emissions, as is necessary for the future of the planet.

Other countries like the UK, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand also have short and long term targets for phasing out the use of diesel trucks. The world is gaining real traction now with working towards zero emission transport. The transport industry, for both freight and passenger vehicles is responsible for 28% of total greenhouse gases worldwide. Low to Zero emission type vehicles and innovative fuel ideas are on the rise, and predicted to continue to rise steadily until they become the majority of the transport market.