Photo: Neil Abt/Fleet Owner
The Cummins Westport 12-liter ISX12N engine is expected to help boost sales of natural gas trucks.

Penske says interest in alternative fuels growing as diesel prices move higher

May 8, 2018
With the U.S. diesel average about 60 cents higher than a year ago, more fleets are taking a fresh look at alternatives.

LONG BEACH, CA. Dean Stapleton, senior manager of alternative fuels for Penske Truck Leasing, said his phone is ringing more often these days.

With the U.S. diesel average about 60 cents higher than a year ago, it is leading more fleets to take “a fresh look” at alternative fuels, he said.

Speaking with Fleet Owner during the Advanced Clean Transportation (ACT) Expo, Stapleton said fleet executives often assume the best alternative choice is compressed natural gas (CNG).

That might be the case for some, especially with the introduction of the Cummins Westport ISX12N natural gas engine.

“That engine is going to benefit from all of the experience from the first generation of natural gas engines,” said Stapleton, adding that there is growing excitement about its expected performance and reliability.

However, CNG is just one in a crowded space of alternatives to diesel that keeps Penske Truck Leasing on its toes, matching business operations of fleets with the right fuel choice.

For example, Stapleton called propane a good choice for fleets involved in local deliveries using light- and medium-duty trucks. Maintenance shops do not need the same alterations as those using natural gas, and propane is generally priced competitively with other fuels.

While electric vehicles continue to garner significant attention, Stapleton said until battery technology improves and maintenance challenges are better understood, it will be a number of years until there is widespread adoption.

Electrification advancements were a major theme through ACT Expo, but there were also a number of announcements involving alternative fuels:

- Renewable Energy Group Inc. launched REG Ultra Clean diesel, a proprietary blend of renewable diesel and biodiesel. It has received approval from the California Air Resources Board for year-round use.

- Trillium CNG said it was changing its name to simply “Trillium,” and announced a partnership with EV Connect, a provider of electric vehicle (EV) charging solutions.

- Freightliner displayed two new Cascadia CNG trucks. One of the vehicles was developed with UPS, and is equipped with the Cummins Westport ISX12N engine and Eaton Fuller automated manual transmission.

- Just prior to ACT Expo, Clean Energy Fuels Corp. announced it will begin supplying its Redeem renewable natural gas to 118 Catalina Pacific ready-mix concrete trucks that operate throughout Southern California.

- The National Biodiesel Board touted a new study that found 18 percent of fleet participants use biodiesel – up from 15 percent in 2017. That makes it the top choice for greening fleet operations in North America, according to the 2018 Fleet Purchasing Outlook study from NTEA.

About the Author

Neil Abt

Neil Abt, editorial director at Fleet Owner, is a veteran journalist with over 20 years of reporting experience, including 15 years spent covering the trucking industry. A graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., he began his career covering sports for The Washington Post newspaper, followed by a position in the newsroom of America Online (AOL) and then both reporting and leadership roles at Transport Topics. Abt is based out of Portland, Oregon.

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