Selecting the Right Alt-Fuel Truck – Vehicle Research

Once you have made the decision to go green, there are a few questions you need to answer before selecting the best alt-fuel option for your operation and complete a thorough evaluation of duty cycles.  - Getty Images

After you have made the choice to go inexperienced, there are a number of questions it’s essential reply earlier than selecting the right alt-fuel choice on your operation and full a radical analysis of responsibility cycles. 

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Compressed pure gasoline (CNG), renewable diesel, biodiesel, propane autogas, electrical energy: Fleets haven’t any scarcity of alt fuels from which to decide on. Whereas it’s good to have selections, it may possibly make choosing the fitting alt-fuel truck sophisticated. Every gas kind has its advantages and downsides, so how do fleets simplify the analysis course of? 

These steps will help.

Begin with a Fleet Reality-Discovering Mission

When contemplating alt-fuel selections, an individual’s intuition might lead them first to ask questions concerning the fuels themselves. Nonetheless, Stephen Whaley, director of autogas enterprise improvement for the Propane Schooling & Analysis Council (PERC), stated asking questions on their fleet is the place to begin. 

“Step one for fleet house owners is to do a radical analysis of their fleet automobile’s responsibility cycles,” he stated. “As soon as they’ve that data, fleet house owners can work with vitality supply suppliers or OEMs to be taught what choices can be found to pick out an applicable vitality supply and automobile that meets their wants. These issues will assist decide which various fueled automobile options can be found on your specific vans and responsibility cycles.” 

Whaley urged contemplating such elements as: 

The variety of miles fleet models journey every day.Do the automobiles return to a central location through the gas cycle?Local weather the place vans will function (do they want air con or heaters?).The load class. Accessible gas cupboard space based mostly on physique configurations.Accessible area for infrastructure.How lengthy vans sometimes keep within the fleet.

Tim Thornton, vice chairman & basic supervisor, refuse, for Autocar Truck, stated analyzing the routes vans and vans sometimes journey will help slender down the choices, as distance and gas availability are important elements. 

For that purpose, fleets ought to understand how far drivers journey on common and whether or not fueling is on the market alongside these routes. 

“If vans are driving an extended distance, will they run out of gasoline? You may’t simply replenish anyplace. For EVs, there are only a few locations that you would recharge,” he stated. “Auditing the routes is an enormous a part of it. Fleets want to find out their gas wants for a full day after which, within the occasion of CNG, determine the tank capability to service these routes.”

Eric Foellmer, director of selling for XL Fleet, stated different questions fleets ought to ask about their functions and organizational targets embrace: 

What are the drive cycles? What efficiency traits are most essential? Do you might have particular automobile/OEM preferences?What are the precise MPG/ROI necessities for these automobiles?Are there sustainability mandates you’ve dedicated to? In that case, over what timeframe?

“As with every fleet challenge or initiative, understanding your targets is a very powerful first step in planning for achievement,” Foellmer stated. “Some of the essential issues a fleet can do is look into the info surrounding their drive cycles to achieve a deeper understanding of how their automobiles are performing. Are they idling for lengthy durations? Are they working primarily in cities? Are they driving nearly completely on expressways? These questions ought to dictate what sort of electrified or alt-fuel automobile resolution works greatest for a selected fleet.” 


Not every energy source can supply the power needed for larger vehicles. If you operate heavier-duty trucks, make sure your fuel can get the job done. - Getty Images

Not each vitality supply can provide the ability wanted for bigger automobiles. Should you function heavier-duty vans, be sure that your gas can get the job finished.

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Consider the Power Sources

When you’ve evaluated the fleet, it’s time to match the fuels. 

“Fleet house owners ought to ask about the advantages the choice vitality supply will present by way of the atmosphere, operation, value, and availability,” PERC’s Whaley stated. 

Questions fleets might need to ask embrace:

What are the environmental advantages? Are they extra vital than the present gas used? “There must be a discount in emissions over the lifecycle of the vitality supply, ideally with out rising value or dropping effectivity,” Whaley defined.Does the vitality supply present a monetary profit? The price of the gas itself is one issue, however fleets must also take into account whether or not the alt-fuel reduces the whole value of auto possession mixed with its wanted fueling infrastructure. Does it present an operational profit? “The automobile ought to carry out as properly or higher than the unique gas with out compromising vary,” Whaley stated.

Some alt fuels is probably not plentiful (or fueling infrastructure could also be too large of a hurdle to beat), so fleets must also guarantee they are going to have entry to the gas they’re contemplating. When contemplating biodiesel, Scott Fenwick, technical director for the Nationwide Biodiesel Board, stated fleets must also embrace specs concerning the gas kind of their bid necessities. 

“Fleets must work with the unique gear producers (OEMs) most keen to help their efforts to decrease their fleet’s carbon footprint by means of the usage of larger biodiesel blends. Embrace a requirement for B-20 or larger biodiesel mix help within the automobile procurement bid specs for any new diesel automobiles or gear bought,” he defined. “The overwhelming majority of OEMs within the medium- and heavy-duty automobile market already help B-20, however there are a few holdouts that also simply help B-5.” 

The Nationwide Biodiesel Board provides a Fleet Supervisor Information with directions on together with B-20 in bid specs.


Once you know your fleet’s needs and how it operates, then evaluate the alt fuels and benefits.  - Getty Images

As soon as you realize your fleet’s wants and the way it operates, then consider the alt fuels and advantages. 

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Matching Fuels to Work

Some alt-fuels are higher suited to some responsibility cycles and functions than others. The next are issues for every alt-fuel kind: 

■ Propane Autogas

Makes use of: Whaley stated propane autogas is good for medium-duty (Class 3-7) fleets that want to contemplate vary and efficiency along with considerably reducing their emissions. 

“If a medium-duty fleet must function greater than 100 miles a day or carry a heavier payload, propane autogas will be capable to meet these wants extra effectively than different various vitality sources, like electrical, which have limitations in these areas,” he stated. 

Ideas: Examples of fleets that depend on propane autogas embrace paratransit, meals and beverage supply, and bundle supply. Whaley stated fleets like these use propane autogas as a result of it may possibly help their vary and payload wants.

“Not each vitality supply can meet these wants — electrical automobiles must recharge lengthy earlier than a propane autogas automobile would wish to refuel. Plus, when fleets must refuel, propane autogas is a liquid that pumps on the identical charge as gasoline and diesel,” he stated.

Availability and infrastructure: With propane autogas, fleets can set up a non-public, centralized refueling station and leverage the choice for cellular fueling when crucial.

“Propane fueling infrastructure is totally scalable, and storage tanks are sometimes modified to a bigger measurement because the fleet measurement grows with out having to change the allotting gear,” Whaley stated.

“Your native propane provider will help establish the fitting refueling setup. Most often, propane suppliers will present the gear in trade for a gas contract that locks in a set value per gallon for a length helpful to each events.”

Concerns for establishing a non-public propane autogas fueling web site embrace obtainable area, anticipated development, and site visitors necessities. Gas tank sizes vary from 1,000 to 30,000 gallons.

“If fleet house owners journey exterior the vary of their infrastructure, there are literally thousands of publicly accessible refueling stations, half of which of that are positioned at native U-Haul services,” Whaley stated.

■ Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel

Makes use of: Biodiesel and renewable diesel are each choices for fleets that presently function diesel-powered automobiles.

“Each biodiesel and renewable diesel can be utilized in any diesel engine with out modification, offering comparable energy, efficiency, hauling functionality, and gas financial system as diesel gas whereas working seamlessly with fleets’ current responsibility cycles,” Fenwick defined. “If it has a diesel engine, it may possibly get the job finished equally properly operating on biodiesel or renewable diesel whereas additionally decreasing carbon emissions and different pollution within the course of. In lots of circumstances, the fitting truck for the job is the diesel automobile that’s already of their fleet.”

Ideas: Fenwick stated fleets that use biodiesel in a more moderen diesel automobile ought to expertise a seamless transition, and most OEMs don’t require any notable modifications within the oil change or gas filter upkeep intervals. 

Suppose a fleet is switching to biodiesel in an older diesel automobile that has run for a number of years on petroleum diesel gas. In that case, they need to remember that biodiesel’s cleansing properties might loosen the deposits amassed over time on the gas tank partitions and flush them out into the gas filters. 

“Some fleets might should be extra proactive with their gas filter modifications for the primary few months utilizing biodiesel on this case, however as soon as the gas tank is cleaned out, they need to be capable to return to their regular upkeep schedules,” Fenwick stated.

Availability and infrastructure: Fenwick stated infrastructure is much less of a priority for biodiesel blends, as it’s obtainable at greater than 2,400 main truck stops and distributors nationwide. Renewable diesel, alternatively, is presently solely obtainable on the West Coast.

■ Compressed Pure Gasoline (CNG)

Makes use of: Thornton stated CNG is usually utilized by refuse fleets, which must haul, load, and unload and journey in residential neighborhoods. 

“Refuse markets profit considerably from the CNG vans, in addition to some metal scrap haulers that function roll-off vans,” he stated. “The traditional cab DC-64R roll-off truck might be configured for a lot of functions. The DC-64R, with an OEM-installed roll-off hoist, treats the chassis and physique as one full instrument that may serve a number of functions for hauling. The DC-64 severe-duty typical truck can be utilized for refuse functions, rear-discharge mixers, or dump vans. It’s obtainable in each 12.0L and 9.0L CNG.”

Ideas: When contemplating CNG, fleets ought to concentrate on the situation of the tanks to make sure they don’t hinder the operation of vans whereas within the discipline.

“The truck’s design performs an essential position within the measurement and places of the CNG tanks,” Thornton defined. “A rear-loader versus a roll-off truck, for example, might have tanks in several places because of the physique configuration and chassis format. CNG tanks mounted vertically on the again of a cab may be a problem for overhead clearance. Some configurations might have the CNG tanks under the body on both facet, leading to much less floor clearance. It’s vital to engineer a truck and tank configuration that’s optimized for the applying.”

Availability and infrastructure: Based on the American Gasoline Affiliation’s CNG Infrastructure Information, the U.S. has roughly 1,200 private and non-private CNG stations. The U.S. has greater than 120,000 retail gasoline stations, which ends up in a ratio of roughly one CNG station for each 100 retail gasoline stations and indicators the restricted availability of CNG by comparability. For that reason, CNG customers might want to make plans for a way vans might be fueled. 

“The infrastructure normally focuses on having a pipeline to make use of, however there are alternatives with out the large six-inch major strains within the floor,” Thornton stated. “Some firms have introduced in trailers that they’ll have crammed routinely and fill their vans there. So, even with out the pipelines, you may make it work.” 

■ Electrical and Hybrid Electrical

Makes use of: Foellmer stated that hybrids and plug-in hybrids present versatility and efficiency for a lot of fleet functions. 

“XL Fleet’s vary of hybrid and plug-in hybrid electrical drive options for business and municipal fleets, together with Ford, GM, Ram, and Isuzu automobiles, work properly for almost each work truck software,” he stated. “XL Fleet prospects utilizing hybrid and plug-in hybrid techniques span a number of industries, together with last-mile supply, beverage distribution, utility work, and meals service, together with a big selection of municipal functions.”

Ideas: Whereas absolutely electrical propulsion could also be appropriate for a lot of functions, Foellmer cautioned that there are be some functions for which it isn’t the most effective match. 

“As with every various gas automobile, electrified automobiles usually are not essentially the fitting instrument for each job in your division,” Foellmer stated. “It’s essential to know the efficiency traits in addition to the strengths and limitations of the EVs you’re contemplating for every software. As we transfer ahead and EVs turn out to be more and more mainstream, a typical fleet supervisor will doubtless have a spread of electrified automobile choices working of their fleet at any given time.”

Availability and infrastructure: EVs require charging infrastructure, however hybrids can depend on their combustion engines as wanted. 

“The state of your automobile charging infrastructure is a major consideration when scoping an funding in electrified automobiles,” Foellmer stated. “Look at your present and near-term plans on your charging infrastructure to assist select the most effective class of EV on your specific scenario.”

In 2020, the U.S. had 26,000 publicly accessible charging stations with 80,000 locations to cost. This quantity is projected to develop as charging gear producers, automakers, utilities, Clear Cities coalitions, municipalities, and authorities companies set up a nationwide community of public charging stations. 

Beyond application and infrastructure, fleets should consider operating environment, maintenance, and power outages. - XL Fleet

Past software and infrastructure, fleets ought to take into account working atmosphere, upkeep, and energy outages.

XL Fleet

 Different Components to Think about

Past software and infrastructure, fleets ought to take into account working atmosphere, upkeep, and energy outages. 

■ Climate

A standard false impression about biodiesel is that it may possibly’t be utilized in chilly climate, however Fenwick stated that’s not the case. 

A gas containing 5% biodiesel (B-5) sometimes has a cloud level much like or the identical as 100% No. 2 petroleum diesel. Gas containing 20% biodiesel (B-20) can have a cloud level of roughly 2° to 7° F larger than 100% No. 2 petroleum diesel. 

“Biodiesel blends as much as 20% are getting used efficiently by 1000’s of fleets all through the nation year-round. If correctly managed, blends of ultra-low sulfur diesel and biodiesel of any feedstock can be utilized efficiently even in difficult winter climates,” Fenwick stated. “Nevertheless, like petroleum diesel, biodiesel blends might be enhanced for cold-weather efficiency utilizing field-proven components and proactive tank administration decided by information of weather conditions.”

■ Pure Disasters and Energy Outages

When pure disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, or blizzards occur, the ensuing energy outages might have an effect on gas availability.

“If the electrical grid goes down, propane supply vans can decide up and dispense gas at your facility with out counting on electrical energy,” Whaley stated. “Propane autogas is a conveyable vitality supply that performs properly in all excessive climate.” 

■ Modifications within the Store

Relying on the vitality supply, fleets might must implement coaching, modify services, or change upkeep processes and schedules to regulate accordingly. 

“Talking particularly to propane autogas, it’s corresponding to a spark-ignited gasoline engine. Since propane is heavier than air, it behaves like gasoline and diesel, so your store doesn’t should have modifications for the detection or evacuation of vapors. In case your store is already as much as code for gasoline and diesel, then no infrastructure modifications are required,” Whaley stated. “Since new liquid propane gas injection engines are much like gasoline engines, they use comparable gear for upkeep, analysis, and restore.” 

■ Working Surroundings

If vans function in residential neighborhoods, as refuse vans do, the noise degree may very well be one other consideration. Thornton stated CNG-powered vans are usually quieter, decreasing the noise degree when servicing prospects. 

“Individuals have instructed me that in the event that they neglect to place their trash out, they normally hear the trash truck coming down the highway, to allow them to run out and get their trash to the curb,” he stated. “They won’t be capable to try this with CNG vans as a result of they’re a lot quieter, however most are fairly completely satisfied with out the truck noise.” 


A Match for Each Fleet

Whereas no alt-fuel is ideal for each fleet, fleets ought to be capable to discover a match that works for them. 

“With what number of various vitality sources there are as we speak, there’s no purpose a fleet can’t discover a method to decrease their emissions considerably. The hot button is choosing the fitting vitality supply for the job,” Whaley stated. “Take the time to judge all facets of your fleet and discover the vitality supply that greatest fulfills all of your wants. Discuss with automobile resolution suppliers, vitality supply suppliers, and fellow fleet house owners to be taught what’s best for you. 

This text initially appeared in Work Truck Journal, a sister publication to Automotive Fleet. 

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