Challenge Bibendum sees heavy-duty clean

Entrants in the world’s premier clean-energy vehicle event—Challenge Bibendum—recently competed for environmental honors amidst the natural beauty of California’s Sonoma Valley. This year’s Challenge, created and sponsored by Michelin, opened competition to commercial vehicles for the first time and the trucking industry responded enthusiastically. There were 12 commercial vehicle entrants covering

Entrants in the world’s premier clean-energy vehicle event—Challenge Bibendum—recently competed for environmental honors amidst the natural beauty of California’s Sonoma Valley.

This year’s Challenge, created and sponsored by Michelin, opened competition to commercial vehicles for the first time and the trucking industry responded enthusiastically.

There were 12 commercial vehicle entrants covering Class 3-8, drawn both from OEMs and fleets, as well as numerous industry exhibitors. On hand were vehicle entries or exhibits from Allison, Cummins Westport, Isuzu Truck/Westport, Eaton, Freightliner and Volvo Truck North America. Along with Michelin, Bosch and ChevronTexaco served as the main sponsors.

Big winner from the trucking field was a joint entry by Isuzu Motors Limited of Japan and Westport Innovations Inc. of Canada. The prototype medium-duty Isuzu ELF (sold here as the Isuzu and GM N-Series) powered by a direct-injection compressed natural gas (CNG) powered truck developed by Westport drove away with gold medals for fuel efficiency and emissions performance as well as a silver medal for vehicle noise.

Tadashi Ioka, Isuzu’s manager of corporate communications, told FleetOwner that the truck is the world’s first mono-fuel “diesel-cycle” CNG truck. He said the OEM is considering “commercial opportunities” for the truck in Japan, North America and elsewhere.

The delivery truck’s 4.5-liter direct injection engine is unique in that it employs Westport’s “hot-surface assisted” CNG-DI technology, which the partners said delivers “significant” power, performance and emissions advantages and requires no use of diesel as a “pilot fuel.” In plain English, it starts up and runs entirely on CNG.

“Isuzu is delighted with our results at this world class event,” said Takashi Urata, executive officer—powertrain for Isuzu Motors Ltd. “Isuzu’s goal was to prove that the combined technology from Isuzu and Westport Innovations could provide the best environmental performance anywhere in the world without compromising the performance that thousands of our existing Isuzu ELF customers have come to rely on.”

The Isuzu/Westport ELF CNG-DI prototype employs Westport’s “hot-surface assisted” CNG-DI technology, which the partners said delivers “significant” power, performance and emissions advantages.

“Westport was honored to work with Isuzu on this program over the past three years,” noted Michael Gallagher, Westport COO.

“The ELF demonstrated how our partnership has successfully delivered on the goal of creating vehicles that meet customers' operational needs while having much lower impact on our environment."

Also coming away with honors from trucking’s ranks was Volvo Trucks North America. Its demonstrator vehicle, the VN780 Tech Truck, scored the highest rating in its class, while using the least energy during a simulated overnight idling competition.

The VN780 Tech Truck achieved an “A” rating in its category during the idling test. It measured the amount of energy consumed by competing heavy-duty trucks during a 12-hour period, and converted it into the equivalent gallons of diesel fuel consumed per hour.

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