Cummins transitions from diesel engine to 'power technology' company

  • 19-Jun-2017 12:17 EDT
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Cummins chairman and CEO Tom Linebarger announces electric powertrain coming in 2019. Cummins VP and CTO Jennifer Rumsey looks on.

When Tom Linebarger became chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc. in 2012, the company was still very focused on its core diesel engine technologies. However, the commercial and industrial markets have started to diversify their power requirements as worldwide regulatory standards push for reduced and zero emissions. To address these new and broadening needs of customers, Cummins announced its first electrified powertrain for 2019, a new internal organization designed to streamline innovation called Digital Accelerator and an increased investment in alternative power technologies like electrification, fuel cells and hydrogen.

“It is a very critical juncture in my time at Cummins,” said Linebarger. “We are a technology leading company and a lot is happening in our markets technically. Over the past 100 years, our ability to innovate and adapt has fueled our success and we are confident we are on the right path to do it again. We are not just a diesel engine company; we are a power technology company.”

Cummins sees the urban market as the first adopter with the highest need for electrified powertrains to reduce emissions. While the company has been researching electric power sources for over a decade, it believes now is the time to release this option to customers as the component prices have finally reduced to become a viable option for specific duty cycles. Competition in electric powertrain options for the commercial and industrial markets is increasing from new competitors such as Tesla and Uber, but Cummins believes it can continue to lead due to its history of knowing and delivering on customers’ needs for the past century.

“Cummins will be the leading provider of electrified powertrain in the commercial and industrial markets,” said Julie Furber, Cummins Electrification Business Development Executive. “We will provide the entire electrified powertrain solution as well as some of the most critical components that have the largest impact on performance, quality and power system to deliver the most value to our customers.”

Not only is electric powertrain an area of focus for Cummins, but other digital technologies are becoming another core competency going forward. Telematics have been on diesel engines for years, but increases in digital monitoring have caused escalated data production and analytics needs. Sherry Aaholm, Cummins Chief Information Officer, is leading the Digital Accelerator organization to speed up commercialization of concepts within the company. A separate company called ZED Connect was also recently launched by Cummins to develop an electronic logging device (ELD) for any trucking customer, not just their own.

Cummins is backing the claim of bringing new technologies to market with an increased investment in Research and Development. Other alternative power sources like proton exchange membrane (PEM) and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) technologies are being researched. They partnered with Microsoft to test whether a fuel cell power source was viable for a data center in Seattle, which led the computer giant to estimate that this could double the energy efficiency of the Cloud with this model.

Going forward, Cummins is expanding its portfolio of power options to identify the best choice for customers based on duty cycle and emissions requirements—whether natural gas, fuel cell, electric or diesel. The company recognizes the spectrum of customers worldwide and is positioning itself to continue to be a leader in the commercial and industrial markets. Linebarger is moving Cummins beyond being just a diesel engine company.

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