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CSU Researchers Want To Build A Better Big Truck Engine

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Colorado State University researchers are engineering natural gas engines for big trucks.

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.


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