For years, natural gas advocates have praised the fuel as an affordable alternative to gasoline. While some cars and trucks can utilize the fuel, it hasn't been a viable option for larger vehicles -- like semi trucks. That could soon change.
Colorado State University’s Energy Institute, in collaboration with two corporations -- Cummins Inc. and Woodward Inc. -- have landed a $1.2-million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to develop medium, heavy-duty and on-road natural gas engines for the bigger trucks. The scientific problem: the big vehicles and the loads they carry weigh a lot more and require more power.
“The goal is after year three, we are ready to commercialize,”said Anthony Marchese, a professor of mechanical engineering at CSU. “We know the market is there, but we just have to push the technology a little bit.”
Marchese is on year-one now. He and his team hope to create a natural gas engine with the same power as a diesel engine, but with less of the pollution and more affordability. If they succeed, it could be a big step in the evolution of trucking that’s a win-win, lowering costs and improving air quality, including for the people who drive the trucks.
“It would be a benefit for society if we produced these engines that are as efficient as diesel engines and also produce lower emissions,” said Marchese. “A truck driver gets exposed to a lot of the exhaust from their engine over their lifetime.”
Marchese says the study will start with some high-level fundamental research. In the later stages of the project, the team will seek to hit the road with what they believe is a better engine for the industry.