We asked some of the Company’s technical leaders to look at innovation at Cummins five, 10 and 15 years into the future. Here’s a quick look at what they said:
5 years out
Reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption
The near future will continue revolving around reducing CO2 emissions and fuel consumption.
In late 2012, Cummins announced its ISX15 engine had received the first certification from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for new greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel-efficiency rules, a full year before those regulations take effect in 2014. The ISX15, the top-selling engine in the heavy-duty truck market, will achieve up to a 2 percent fuel economy improvement over its predecessor.
The approach to meeting regulations in 2016 and 2017 will be largely the same as in 2014. There will be new requirements for on-board diagnostics and further improvements required in CO2 emissions and fuel efficiency. CO2 is a key contributor to global warming.
Possible technology improvements to reduce CO2 emissions beyond 2017 could include converting waste heat from the engine into useful energy, hybrid powertrains to capture energy lost in braking and deceleration, advanced combustion, and improvements to the aftertreatment and fuel systems.
10 years out
Vehicle fleets and equipment operators are already exploring alternative fuels to reduce emissions, improve operating costs, or adapt to locally available fuel sources. This trend is expected to continue over the next decade.
Natural gas has emerged as the most promising alternative fuel for many market segments. New drilling techniques have greatly expanded natural gas production and have significantly reduced fuel costs.
For example, in the United States, about 15 percent of new transit buses and 50 percent of new refuse trucks currently operate on natural gas. Meanwhile, industry assessments predict that natural gas adoption rates in the United States for the on-highway truck market may be between 10 and 20 percent by 2018 with further upside beyond that.
Cummins is a leading producer of natural gas engines and components for a wide variety of markets, including trucks and buses, oil and gas production and electric power generation.
Cummins’ current natural gas engine product line ranges from 50 to 2,700 horsepower, and the Company recently announced plans to develop several new engines.
A new engine requires an investment of $10 million to $50 million over the program life, so these new products represent a significant commitment to alternative fuels. Cummins is also working on technology to improve the efficiency of natural gas powered generation systems by 20 percent by 2018. These engines will also be capable of running on renewable fuels.
Also in the development pipeline:
- Technology to reduce long haul truck fuel consumption by 10 to 15 percent from the fuel consumption of the 2017 product.
- Engines fueled by gas that uses sewage and municipal waste as feedstock and gas derived from agricultural waste.
15 years out
Integrating power sources
Harnessing power generated from renewable energy sources like wind and solar is gaining interest today and will likely be a key issue in 15 years. Cummins is preparing now to meet that need.
Cummins Energy Solutions Business, part of its Power Generation business, has been installing combined heat and power (CHP) systems for some time. CHP, or cogeneration, is the production of two kinds of energy – usually electricity and heat – from a single source of fuel.
Small power systems that draw from multiple energy sources including renewable forms of energy are on the horizon, operating either as autonomous “microgrids” capable of storing and distributing power or connected to established grids.
Distributed generation technology that allows energy production at the point of consumption opens up the possibility of integrating traditional generators with renewable forms of energy.
Wind and solar, for example, cannot provide a continuous output of power by themselves. But using wind or solar with a diesel or natural gas engine to create a standalone energy system could offer many benefits.
Such a system would lower operating costs. And Cummins’ generator sets could be used to “firm” or support grids with a high penetration of renewable energy much faster and in a more efficient manner than conventional peaking power plants.