Clean Trucks Could Mean a Clean Future

ACT Expo High II
The 2012 Alternative Clean Transportation expo was held last week in Southern California, and it had record-breaking crowds. Fleets, sellers and buyers, tank makers, technology companies and alternative-fuel entrepreneurs mixed and mingled for the three-day event, all in the name of cleaner fuel alternatives in vehicles that do work.

Simply walking by the six or seven rows of trade-show carpeting at the Long Beach Convention Center, a casual observer might conclude that the future of commercial truck powertrains are in plug-in hybrid and natural-gas propulsion. And they wouldn't be wrong.

However, the big buzz at the expo was the interest in compressed-natural-gas conversions and factory-offered engines for lighter- and heavier-duty trucks. With the abundance of natural gas in this country, many see it as the strongest transition candidate to reduce our reliance on Mideast oil.

Here are some of the highlights from the show: 

GM Impco II
Two of the most exciting displays were companies showing off their advanced plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV) technology on a half-ton pickup truck platform. Rumors all over the convention halls suggested that GM's next-gen half-tons were already set with PHEV technology, ready to leap ahead all the other manufacturers. For now, the only GM vehicle highlighted here was the bi-fuel Chevy Silverado HD extended-cab long bed on display. 


Quantum PHEV II
The PHEV system shown by Quantum was an all-wheel-drive Ford F-150 that uses both forms of four-wheel-drive controls: floor stick and dash-mounted electronic dial. We assume one of them is for a different purpose. Also, we were told Quantum just signed an agreement with Remy International, which will supply the compact and powerful HVH250 electric motor (similar to the one used by Via Motors) for Quantum's fleet-ordered PHEV trucks. The new plug-in hybrid driveline does take a toll on payload (at only 900 pounds) and towing (maximum of 5,800 pounds). 


Hino Hybrid II
Another interesting display was at Hino, which showed off an inside look at the new Class 4 and 5 COE (cab over engine) work-truck hybrid powertrain. The strategy is similar to the Toyota Prius: It runs on full electric power up to a certain speed, when the computer controller determines when the engine — in this case, a stout four-cylinder turbo-diesel — can most efficiently start. The system uses nickel-metal hydride batteries, and it looks like this could easily be adapted for half-ton or three-quarter-ton platforms. Whether that means the system goes into a Toyota Tundra or an F-150 first (remember the Ford-Toyota partnership?), the Hino representatives wouldn't say. This particular system was started over 20 years ago, and it looks like it will get a few more refinements before we see anything from it in the next few years. Lastly, because of government incentives — namely, a $15,000 credit — the Hino hybrid costs less than the base model turbo-diesel. 


Ford Bi-Fuel II
Westport — a long-time global company in natural-gas conversions and bi-fuel applications and a top-tier supplier for Ford — also made news at the show by promoting an East Coast tour it will be doing with its latest F-250 bi-fuel heavy-duty truck all this week. Stops include Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York. The tour is designed to get more people to understand that the $9,750 upfit can pay off itself, in most cases, in less than three years. The key to more CNG acceptance will be strengthening the filling-station infrastructure. On a related note, we'll be getting an exclusive first look at one of the Ford Fleet and Commercial bi-fuel CNG Super Dutys — a 6.2-liter V-8 F-250 that has a range of 650 miles on a single tank(s) of fuel. We'll have more to report after we live with the vehicle for a while. 


Ram Bi-fuel II
GM and Ram Truck had their own bi-fuel trucks at the show, and they seemed busy describing the systems to prospective fleet buyers and explaining the advantages to all interested passers-by. This Ram model is the only system built inside a factory-owned production plant. 


PSI engine II
One display that caught our attention was at Power Solutions, which had a cool-looking big-block gas engine with an Eaton hybrid powertrain attached. Upon closer inspection, it was a natural-gas-converted GM 8.8-liter big-block V-8 (literally a punched-out 8.1-liter) conservatively rated at 400 horsepower and 500 pounds-feet of torque. The company does a strong business offering a replacement for the thousands of GM HD work trucks out there with the old 8.1-liter V-8 powertrain. The versatile motor — which can be set up to burn CNG, LNG, propane, gas, bifuel, just about anything — costs around $15,000.


The first ACT expo held last year was an extension of the Low Carbon Fuel Conference Series, and it was only about half the size of this year's event in total number of show participants and attendees. The expo is scheduled to happen again next year, moving to Washington, D.C., in honor of the 20th anniversary of the Clean Cities Coalition Act. Dates will be June 24 to 27. For more info about the ACT expo, click here. 



now all we need is the diesel 1/2 tons.

like to see the big 3 really improving!

I like the idea of cheap CNG but CNG takes it's toll on fuel economy, power, torque, towing, hauling, design costs, and storage space. Obviously they add a lot of cost to the vehicle's purchase price.

And then there's a fraction of available CNG filling stations. Unless you're bi-fueling it or a fleet operator, there's a good chance you'll experience range anxiety. And even more range anxiety since the trend looks to be larger CNG engine displacements.

I think the Hino tech should stay with Toyota only along with this A regular gas hybrid system should come of the Toyota-Ford partnership.

wowee 8.8 lt 400hp 500lbtft hybrid? I need to get to work on my old 1996 454SS, that is sitting at by fathers barn, with a blone engine!! does the $15,000 include the batteries or are batteries not included? I know the truck needs a good resto but man oh man can you imagine? 0-60 in -5sec and 20-25mpg?

I forgot Mark Williams can you us your thoughts on this HD Truck shootout. Another win for Silverado HD.

Nice to see a lot of suppliers and heavy hitters at the show.

I'd imagine that all of the truck makers will have some kind of hybrid models offered in their next generation trucks (2014-2016 model years) due to CAFE. I doubt they can cut out 800 lbs. as easily as they can add a hybrid powertrain like the Hino system.

As other have commented the GM hybrids don't improve the highway mileage very much but that is common on all hybrids, with the biggest improvements in the city ratings. Realistically most of us drive more miles in city driving anyway and most trucks do too (meaning delivery vehicles, work trucks, etc.) I hope they use Li-ion since more of the battery capacity can be used and higher voltages reached which will be needed to move 5000 lb. vehicles.

I am not necessarily a Toyota truck guy but with their overall experience I bet theirs will be the best out of the gates. No wonder Ford is partnering with them (I know Ford has their own program for cars that is quite good, but they don't have the experience and critical mass Toyota does)

@5.3L LOL -- It's always fun to see car guys try to test (or even drive) big pickup; however, I thought CandD did a pretty good job here. Clearly, they've been reading some of our past stories and it's always nice to see auto writers towing heavy loads. We posted a quick note when they first published the story onlinie ( and it is definitely worth a detailed look. Of particular interest is their scoring sheet, which you'll want to take a look at. Although they chose the Chevy Duramax the winner, they're scoring seemed to weight more subjective and interior categories quite heavily.

(Rumors all over the convention halls suggested that GM's next-gen half-tons were already set with PHEV technology, ready to leap ahead all the other manufacturers.) It wouldn't take much their already the only picktruck manufacturer with a hybird since 2005, yet another truck test with chevy duramax spanking ford and dog ram LOL!!

At some point it is no longer about resources at your disposal. The tech just isnt there yet and Id prefer they kept these kinds of things to a minimum until it is. CNG with its decreased mileage, power, etc and lack of infrastructure does not sound promising. Also it may be cheap now but what if half the people in the country switch to it? It wont be so cheap anymore. Hybrids, what a complete waste. Nuff said. They should all be poring money into making batteries that are worth a damn and quick charging systems. Fully electric is the only thing worth investing in for the long term.

I wonder how a Tundra powered by a V6 and twin electric motors would do kind of like whats is being designed for the Supra successor (no way this thing should be linked to a Supra) As we all know electric motors can produce peak torque at zero rpm and have a flat torque curve.

Chrysler had Natural Gas powered vehicles since the 1980's !!!

Electric vehicles are a dud !! U.S/Canada's big cities are running out of power,in the winter they tell us to turn off the lights,turn down the the Summer they tell us to turn off the lights turn off the a/c unplug your t.v,radio,toaster when not in use !!! And they want us to plug in a electric vehicle !!! Obviously Electric Vehicles are an EPIC FAIL !!!

Furthermore,man made global warming is not proven,look at the real science,not the brain washing going on by the gov and most news outlets !! Do your research,we have tons of oil for thousands of years,Canada and the U.S didnt even break ground into what oil they actually have !! The war on oil is to FORCE people to walk/cycle and take transit !! Time to wake up America and demand this so-called greening to stop,its just going to limit everyones movement and make us poor !! Ya think electricity is going to be cheap if we drive electric cars ??? You will be crying for the good old days of $4 a gallon gas !!!

Also,we have record amounts of ice in the North Pole/Greenland,Mount Klimanjaro has record ammount of snow,dont believe al Gore all his so called facts were proven to be lies !!!! We have record ammounts of Polar Bears,Penguins dont believe the far left fear mongering !

Even the looney U.N is changing their global warming propaganda daily because the science doesnt go toward man made global warming....Its natural,and we are in a cooling trend !!

By the way it was warmer in North America when the Vikings came to the East Coast !! They never had gas powered Ships !!!!! Please wake -up before its over and we are forced to live like the 1600's thats what the far left elite wants,do your research and dont be ignorant to the facts...Good - Day !!

@Internal Combustion- I enjoyed your statement and would like to subscribe to your newsletter. However, as much as I would love to believe that, Im inclined not to. Not the global warming part, I think thats crap. The "thousands of years" worth of oil part is hard to believe. Again, Id love for that to be true. I just dont think it is... On topic: Trucks and stuff. I agree.

The 8.8L engine is not a GM it is a PSI block manufactured by Power Solutions. The back-end was a Kollmorgen hybrid with an Allison transmission and after talking with the guys I don't think you could buy one for $15,000 stripped down.

Where is the Gordon Gecko of the automobile biz? I want someone with street cred to stand up and shout: "Carbon is good." State the obvious; that commercial transportation only works (i.e. its cost effective) with liquid fuels.

GW is a false economy, and a false religion of do-good, feel-good indulgences.

Easiest and cheapest way to become more energy self-reliant, drill for our own oil! Heck we got so much more than they ever thought we had, yet the gov won't let us drill for it..... keep electing these morons and we'll keep shipping wealth and jobs to somebody else.

Plug in gas hybrids are the next step forward. Not CNG.

With electrics, everyone has their own oil rig. You're not at the mercy of some inadequately regulated, greedy oil or natural gas industry. Instead you're dealing with a heavily regulated and in some places non-profit public utilities. It's home grown energy. Not made in the middle east. Not made in Canada. Not made in the gulf at the expense of our oceans.

It's not without some serious drawbacks but it beats the alternative which is being increasingly gouged at the pump and not seeing any increase in MPG.

When are we going to let go of this farse called manmade global warming?

Private companies like Clean Energy are teaming up with commercial companies like Love's and Pilot to build the initial infastructure on our main highways. States like Oklahoma, California and New York have been using CNG for years and state governments with their private filling stations have been doing this for decades. The move to make this available to the public is increasing with demand. Honda has made a Civic for the last decade and is has always gotten rave reviews. GMC has a truck you can pre-order with bi-fuel (CNG/Unleaded), but it is pricey. Cost will come down when demand for CNG increases.

Go ahead and make developments for that proposal and may we all have a clean future. Many would admire your insights, Good luck on having that published.

Among the World's 20 million + CNG powered vehicles, USA has only 110,000 of them. Its high time, USA converts all the 18 wheelers and other heavy trucks which do high mileage to CNG/LNG combo.

Also, many vehicles which just go around 50 miles/day can be converted to Plugin, so every day they drive Electric miles.

Buses and Vans are also candidates for either CNG / Electric.
After all Natgas is also locally produced fuel.

Oil companies have become natgas companies which their gas production exceeding oil production.

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