The heavy-duty trucking industry is the lifeblood of the economy. This industry moves most of the consumer goods and freight in the country. With the upcoming EPA emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks, changes are coming to the industry. The new emissions targets are highly ambitious, and equipment manufacturers, fleet managers, and businesses in the trucking world will have to adapt. But how big of a change will the industry have to make?
First, let’s take a look at the facts. The heavy-duty trucking industry is huge in the United States. Here are some statistics from American Trucking Associations to help you get a sense of the scale of the industry and its place in the economy:
- Trucks move 72% of the nation’s freight.
- Trucks generate 80.7% of the nation’s freight bill, which added up to $940.8 billion in gross freight revenue in 2022.
- Commercial trucks paid $29.12 billion in Federal and State fuel taxes in 2021.
- 2-axle, 6-tire, or more trucks account for 5% of all registered vehicles.
- In 2021, over 327 million miles were traveled by trucks.
- There are over 750,000 active US motor carrier businesses.
As you can see from these numbers, the trucking industry in the US is significant and vital to the economy. So, meeting the new EPA standards to lower emissions will be a big challenge. You can read more about these new standards in our previous blog here.
Natural Gas May Be The Answer
The targets for the EPA’s new standards are highly ambitious, but they will also take time to meet. In the meantime, there may be an answer that can help the trucking industry begin to cut back on emissions now — natural gas engines. According to the US Department of Energy, there are already over 175,000 natural gas vehicles on the road. Natural gas engines are used for transit buses, garbage trucks, school buses, and more. You can read more about natural gas engines in one of our previous blogs here.
But the heavy-duty trucking industry has been a bit slower to embrace natural gas engines because they just usually aren’t strong enough for long-haul transportation. Most sizeable natural gas engines are 12-liter engines, and that’s just not enough power. But our friends at Cummins have a solution!
Introducing the Cummins X15N!
Cummins is a leading heavy-duty truck manufacturer, and they have seen the need for a stronger natural gas engine. So they’ve developed the Cummins X15N, a 15-liter, 500-horsepower engine that runs entirely on natural gas. This new engine will be available in 2024 in North American markets and is already in product and fleet service in China. Here are some of the facts about this engine from Trucknews.com:
- The engine will have an operating range of 1200 km or 745 miles.
- It’s 500 lbs lighter than the current Cummins X15 diesel engines and 200 lbs lighter than the 12-liter natural gas engine.
- It will be able to handle gross weights of up to 115,000 lbs.
- It will eventually be available in a version that runs on both hydrogen and diesel fuel and natural gas, likely by 2027.
- The X15N has a new platform design and engine management system that offers increased power and torque of up to 500 hp.
- The power cylinder has also been updated for improved control, reduced oil consumption, and longer drain intervals.
- Steel pistons are a key part of the engine design for better durability and improved combustion and temperature control.
- A new integrated injection and injector control system replaces the previous two independent systems.
- The fuel injection system has been upgraded to 8 separate solenoids for better fuel control.
These are just a few changes the new X15N will bring to the market. People are very excited about this engine. According to Puneet Jhawar, general manager of Cummin’s global natural gas business, “Our phones started ringing the day we announced the X15N. Our existing customer base was very enthusiastic about it. We also saw a phenomenal response from people who had probably looked at natural gas at some point but then moved away from it.” He continued, “I think for some fleets, the 12-liter engine just didn’t have the power they needed. They probably had routes with hills and valleys that the 12 didn’t have the power to get through. Some of these fleets tried the 12-liter and then handed it back to us, saying come talk to us when the 15 comes.”
The X15N hasn’t just been designed to fill a market hole and help meet the upcoming EPA emissions goals. It’s part of Cummin’s “Destination Zero” strategy for reducing carbon emissions. Their goal isn’t just to phase straight to electric but to focus on “fuel agnostic” engine machines that are designed with the same fundamental engine bases and parts. This strategy aims to make the transition easier for businesses and fleets to meet as the industry transitions towards a zero-carbon emission future. The X15N is a natural bridge for the trucking industry that can be used sooner rather than later. As David King, Cummins product manager for spark-ignited engines, says, “It’s going to be a very mixed market as we transition from diesel to the future, and natural gas is an option available today to get on that road right away. There’s a huge opportunity to reduce a fleet’s carbon intensity, and therefore greenhouse gas emissions for our planet, by switching to renewable natural gas.”
Chevron is ready to support the switch to natural gas
Transitioning to natural gas engines is only half the issue for the heavy-duty truck industry. While the X15N engine is a welcome announcement, the infrastructure to support natural gas trucks on the road still has a ways to go. But progress is being made with the help of Chevron.
In November 2022, Chevron announced that it acquired Beyond6, a natural gas fueling company. It has over 55 compressed natural gas (CNG) stations throughout the United States. This acquisition is designed to increase access to natural gas fueling stations as the industry shifts towards that fuel. The goal is to use the resources of Beyond6 to build a larger network of CNG and hydrogen stations in California over the next three years. According to the Department of Energy, there are currently over 800 public compressed natural gas stations across the country, and more are being built each day as the market expands.
Natural gas may be the future of your fleet
While the X15N isn’t on the market yet, we’re excited about this development. Cummin’s approach is a common-sense solution that can help companies meet new emission standards without radical changes. We’re excited to see how natural gas engines will change the heavy-duty trucking industry, and we are here to support our customers when they are ready to make the switch!