After 10 years and $20 million dollars of research, IMPCO Technologies is making a push to commercialize its conversion system that allows diesel engines to burn natural gas and propane.
The Eclipse Heavy Duty Management System requires taking the cylinder head off the engine, removing the injectors and electronic control unit, machining the head for a spark plug, machining the piston in situ, then reassembling the engine and adding the Eclipse system. A close-coupled oxidation catalyst is added to the exhaust. The entire process typically takes about 75 hours.
The company originally developed the technology in a project with vehicle and engine manufacturer Scania UK.
“They were responding to their customers in the U.K. that had an interest in low-emission natural gas trucks, but didn’t want to spend the high premium to purchase a new NGV,” [Lorne] Gettel [technical director of corporate business development for IMPCO] says. “To service this market Scania came up with an approach to supply re-engineered natural gas heavy-duty trucks based on three- or four-year-old diesel trucks coming in off lease.”
IMPCO converted 200 of the trucks for Safeway, which operates them 450 to 600 miles a day hauling produce to grocery stores. Safeway’s testing indicates NOx emissions of around one gram per brake horsepower hour, meeting the stiff Euro V standard. The low emissions enabled Safeway to get a government grant covering 75 percent of the trucks’ differential cost. That combined with fuel cost savings of more than 40 percent allowed the fleet operator to recover the entire differential in less than one year. Safeway continues to operate the trucks, which typically travel more than 100,000 miles per year. San Joaquin Valley Clean Cities Coalition site.
IMPCO’s tests show that the Eclipse system reduces NOx, hydrocarbons and carbon monoxides by more than 85% over diesel powered engines and that PM was virtually eliminated.
Mike Laplante, IMPCO Director of Sales/Marketing said, “field testing on a fleet of over 150 Eclipse equipped, heavy duty trucks has accumulated 5 million miles and has shown the same fuel economy with equivalent power as compared to running the same fleet of trucks on diesel fuel." Mr. Laplante further added that, "each truck saved over $28,000 per year in fuel costs by using natural gas." Natural gas worldwide is 40-60% less than diesel fuel.
Retrofitting could be a big business. The EPA estimates that there are 11 million in-use diesels that will either need to be retrofitted or replaced during the next ten years to meet emissions standards. The question will be: retrofitted to or replaced with what.