A number of fleet customers in attendance at the 4th Annual WestStart-CALSTART Clean Heavy-Duty Vehicle conference shared comments on March 2 about the future of natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in their organizations, according to WestStart-CALSTART.
These fleets have been using NGVs, but discovered they may not be able to buy replacement vehicles, as a number of car and truck vehicle and engine manufacturers are ending or limiting sales of their products. One major agricultural operator in California's San Joaquin Valley learned that he would not be able to purchase a 400 h.p. natural gas truck to replace their three-year-old fleet of 20 LNG trucks, according to Weststart-CALSTART. Caterpillar is no longer producing that size natural gas engine through its partnership with Clean Air Partners, and Cummins-Westport Innovations has also announced that they will not be bringing a natural gas engine of that size to the market for some time, added Weststart-CALSTART.
Dr. Chung Liu, Deputy Director of the South Coast Air Quality Management District, stated in the Weststart-CALSTART e-mail newsletter that the district is not reassessing any of its alternative-fuel fleet rules as a result of Ford's actions, including rules governing airport ground access vehicles. He added that the district was actively encouraging Ford to continue supplying natural gas vans and trucks, or to authorize a vehicle upfitter to serve this market based on widely used Ford NGV models.
The leading engineers for both Detroit Diesel and Volvo Truck and Bus indicated that they didn't believe the low-volume sales of natural gas engines justified the engineering costs, and spoke pessimistically about the likelihood of future natural gas engine sales, according to Weststart-CALSTART.