An alternative approach: FPT Industrial invests in industrial engines running on natural gas

  • 05-May-2017 07:46 EDT
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“Natural gas is the most eco-friendly fuel for internal combustion engines,” said Annalisa Stupenengo, Brand President of FPT Industrial and a member of CNH Industrial’s Group Executive Council.

The demand for greater environmental sustainability in urban areas coupled with the upcoming reforms that are expected to drastically reduce limits on NOx and CO2 in North America and within the European Union signal a growing requirement for alternative power solutions in both on-road transport and further afield in the off-road machinery segments in the years to come.

Alternative fuels are a key part of CNH Industrial’s product development strategy as the company continues to research their uses as well as provide an existing range of market-ready commercial vehicles powered by natural gas, biomethane, biodiesel and bioethanol. Its powertrain business, FPT Industrial, is a market leader in natural gas engines, offering the broadest engine range with solutions from 136 to 400 hp (101 to 298 kW) for light, medium, and heavy vehicles. The brand is also in the advanced stages of trialing natural gas engines for agricultural equipment.

“Natural gas is the most eco-friendly fuel for internal combustion engines. It improves local air quality by nearly eliminating potentially harmful pollutants and mitigates global warming by significantly reducing CO2 emissions. It also lowers engine noise. Furthermore, natural gas offers a competitive Total Cost of Ownership thanks to the well-tested reliability and fuel economy of our stoichiometric technology,” said Annalisa Stupenengo, Brand President of FPT Industrial and a member of CNH Industrial’s Group Executive Council.

Natural gas is getting more attention as governments look to reduce their nation’s environmental footprint. Transport is the main cause of air pollution in cities representing almost a quarter of Europe's greenhouse gas emissions and over a quarter in the United States. Europe's answer to these challenges is an irreversible shift to low-emission mobility in terms of carbon and air pollutants—and further on, the enforcement of zero emission zones.

The U.S. natural gas industry has undergone a change of unprecedented magnitude and pace, with production increasing by 33% between 2005 and 2013. The rapid growth of production in the Marcellus and Utica Basins has been most important for infrastructure, a trend that is expected to continue to 2030. This has been stimulated in part by the Renewable Fuel Standard Program (RFS) created under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). It aims to achieve higher volumes in renewable fuel categories such as Conventional Biofuel by 5 billion tons and Advanced Biofuel by up to 25 billion tons by 2022.

As a result, transportation, especially urban, could require significant investment in order to evolve towards zero-emission propulsion systems, while a “near 0 NOx” natural gas engine could represent a valid alternative in all the areas where electric infrastructure is not available or too costly. With new standards, public tenders are foreseen to be most accessible to manufacturers that are equipped to produce low-emission machines on a large scale.

FPT Industrial has been developing alternative propulsion systems since 1997. “Our market-ready F1, NEF and Cursor engines can be powered by natural gas in its compressed (CNG), liquefied (LNG) or renewable form (biomethane). These engines can be fitted into commercial vehicles, buses and other on-road applications. We are developing prototype engines (such as the NEF 6 NG engine) to satisfy the future demand for natural gas propulsion in the off-road sectors,” Stupenengo explained.

In terms of key projects, the brand is working on natural gas engines that deliver diesel-equivalent performance, while reducing fuel consumption by 10%, optimizing engine and calibration to reduce CO2 emissions.

“The development of a tractor that runs on alternative fuels together with New Holland Agriculture, also part of CNH Industrial’s brand portfolio, is an on-going project that we are proud to be pioneering with prototypes of the New Holland T6 Methane Power tractor working at farms in various international locations. This opens up great opportunities for achieving overall greenhouse gas reduction targets, and will enable farmers to become fuel self-sufficient,” said Stupenengo.

The second-generation T6 Methane Power tractor can bring down fuel costs, has 80% lower polluting emissions than a standard diesel tractor, and can further reduce CO2 emissions by using biomethane.

Increasingly seen as one of the most important and sustainable alternative fuels for the future, biomethane can be produced from raw materials such as agricultural waste, manure, plant material or food waste. It is ideal for applications such as agriculture and can already be used to power on-road vehicles.

Regarding recent important milestones, 2016 saw the launch of the Cursor 9 CNG, the most powerful 9-L CNG engine on the market. It offers up to 400 hp at 2000 rpm, and torque up to 1700 N·m (1254 lb·ft) at 1200 rpm. At the same time, its emissions are lower than that of a Euro VI. Off the back of this, we saw the European introduction of the Iveco Stralis NP (Natural Power): the first natural gas truck suitable for long-distance missions. The truck is fitted with a Cursor 9 engine, with a dual LNG tank, guaranteeing a fuel range of up to 1500 km (930 mi).

So what are the future challenges that face this powertrain business? Stupenengo sums it up succinctly: “As we explore opportunities for alternative solutions in the off-highway market, we are faced with different hurdles such as how to combat the limitations of autonomy due to the low energy density of CNG and LPG. Legislation for biogas is premature across many parts of continental Europe and the U.S. together with the plans for their supporting infrastructure. It also has yet to be introduced in emerging markets where we see great potential for natural gas engines. That said, we are optimistic that our leadership in natural gas engines and the synergies offered by our sister brands in the CNH Industrial portfolio will provide us with the authority and solutions that we need to further develop and evolve our products.”

FPT Industrial submitted this interview with Annalisa Stupenengo, Brand President of FPT Industrial and a member of CNH Industrial’s Group Executive Council, for Truck & Off-Highway Engineering’s annual Executive Viewpoints series.

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