Reducing your fleet’s emissions with natural gas engines

trucks and cars in traffic

There are many good reasons to switch to vehicles with natural gas engines, such as saving money on fuel and on vehicle, a better ability to forecast operating costs and avoiding cold-weather problems.  

Another top reason why many fleet operators invest in compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles is that they can drastically lower emissions. In fact, the 2022 State of Sustainable Fleets Report found that 96 percent of CNG users surveyed say CNG vehicles are equal to or better at reducing emissions than diesel and gasoline engines. 

Why is it important to reduce emissions? 

Motor vehicles are an indispensable tool for many businesses. Unfortunately, they can cause air pollution and contribute to climate change. The right upgrades can reduce emissions of both greenhouse gases and common pollutants, which impact air quality locally. 

For some businesses, reducing emissions is a matter of being responsive to the needs of their customers. Garbage collection companies, for example, can improve their reputation in the communities they serve by operating cleaner and quieter trucks. Contracted school bus companies can differentiate by operating buses that don’t cause air pollution around schools at pickup time. 

Some companies also have broader environmental, social and governance goals that include a reduction of emissions. Though emission reduction upgrades have a cost, many public companies share the view that ESG progress increases shareholder value in the long term.  

In some cases, reducing emissions is a matter of compliance with environmental rules. The Port of Los Angeles, for instance, has strict emissions standards that drayage trucks serving the port must comply with. 

Why pick natural gas to reduce fleet emissions? 

There are several ways to reduce a vehicle’s greenhouse gas emissions. Using biofuels, for example, is a good way to make a vehicle’s operation more carbon neutral.  

There are also other ways to scrub a vehicle’s exhaust from NOx, particulate matter and other pollutants. Diesel vehicles fitted with a particulate filter and a catalytic converter, for example, can operate with minimal emissions. When you switch to natural gas engines, you can do both.  

Natural gas vehicles are a tried-and-true technology that has been around for decades. In the United States, about a third of all transit buses built each year run on natural gas. Beyond transit buses, there are many other examples of natural gas engines on trucks and buses. 

There are many benefits of natural gas engines in transportation. You can reduce your fleet’s emissions of common pollutants and cut the level of greenhouse gases. Natural gas also tends to be significantly cheaper than petroleum fuels, so there is an immediate economic benefit when adopting natural gas engines

Throughout 2021, CNG maintained a clear cost advantage and relative price stability when compared to the price volatility of diesel. CNG saw an approximately 3% price increase on average at public fueling stations whereas diesel prices increased nearly 19% nationwide and were, on average, 25% higher than the price of CNG on a DGE (Diesel Gallon Equivalent) basis. Consequently, fuel cost was a primary benefit of CNG users in the annual State of Sustainable Fleets survey, with 79% of respondents reporting lower costs as an advantage. 

What outcomes should you expect with natural gas engines? 

As you are upgrading a fleet of older vehicles, you can expect reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  

A new transit bus equipped with a Cummins L9N natural gas engine, for example, will typically have 11% less well-to-wheels greenhouse gas emissions than an older diesel bus. (If the older bus is replaced with a new bus with the diesel version of the L9N engine, emissions would be reduced by only 6%). Replacing a medium sized fleet consisting of 100 transit buses with CNG buses can, on average, eliminate about 1,300 tons of CO2 emissions per year. That’s equivalent to taking 280 cars off the roads. 

If renewable natural gas (RNG) is used, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions can be even greater. Renewable natural gas is manufactured primarily using methane that comes from the decomposition of organic waste. This can include landfill gas or methane captured from wastewater treatment facilities or agricultural waste. 

Using RNG brings the total carbon intensity score down, because RNG is made with methane that would have otherwise been off gassed. Capturing those gases prevents them from entering the atmosphere and reduces the total well-to-wheel score significantly. It can even drop the carbon intensity to below zero depending on the RNG feedstock. Renewable natural gas is functionally identical to natural gas obtained from fossil resources. Blending fossil natural gas with even small quantities of RNG can result in immediate environmental benefits. And every year RNG becomes a bigger percentage of all CNG being used in North America, contributing towards the role natural gas to play in our renewable future

It doesn’t matter why you’re considering integrating natural gas vehicles into your fleet. Cummins has a range of CNG engine options to get the toughest jobs done. 


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Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar is the General Manager of the global natural gas business for Cummins Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the product vision, financial management and overall performance of the natural gas business. Over his 14-year career at Cummins, Jhawar has cultivated successful relationships with a number of Cummins’ largest customers. Jhawar has extensive global experience, with roles based in the Middle East, India, Europe and the US.

Natural gas engine insights for truck and bus fleets

Trucks parked outside a building in a row

There are growing choices in the commercial vehicle space that can help fleets reduce their overall transportation emissions. It can be a difficult space to navigate, whether a fleet is trying to keep up with tighter emission regulations or meet corporate ESG and sustainability goals. The complexities around incorporating lower carbon fuel types, training drivers, learning new service requirements, or cutting through the political uncertainty of alternative fuel adoption can be overwhelming and confusing.  

Most importantly, though, fleets can’t afford major disruptions to their business model. They need to maintain similar performance and range they get from diesel engines to effectively run their business, while taking steps to run cleaner and more efficiently. That’s where Cummins can help. 

Cummins is developing a wide range of low carbon solutions to help fleets begin the journey to zero emissions without causing major disruption to the day-to-day operation of the business. Cummins has products that deliver zero tailpipe emissions, like battery electric (BEV) and hydrogen fuel cells. We also produce near-zero internal combustion offerings, such as propane, hydrogen, and natural gas. 

In this article, we’ll focus specifically on compressed natural gas (CNG) engines and vehicles, which are among the most mature, proven, and least disruptive low carbon vehicle types available today.

What are the benefits of natural gas engines and vehicles? 

Natural gas engines and vehicles (or NGVs) have been around for decades. Cummins has a history of manufacturing CNG engines that dates back more than 30 years. We’ve built more than 85,000 natural gas engines in that time. The engines are tested, proven and available today. 

Natural gas is an abundant domestic fuel source that isn’t connected to the global oil market. That means fuel is widely available and the price is more stable—and cheaper—than the price of diesel and gasoline. 

Natural gas can also deliver power and torque ratings similar to what fleets are used to achieving with diesel, so it’s easy to incorporate CNG vehicles into a fleet or replace older diesel trucks without making major concessions around the total payload the vehicle can haul or the range it can travel. This is especially important for applications like transit bus, regional haul, garbage collection, and pick-up and delivery applications. A CNG vehicle is expected to go hundreds of miles and operate with a full load for most of the time it’s running.  

Another major benefit of natural gas in transportation is the ability to achieve sub-zero carbon emissions with renewable natural gas (RNG). Renewable natural gas is manufactured primarily using methane that comes from the decomposition of organic waste. This includes landfill gas or methane captured from wastewater treatment facilities or agricultural waste. 

Using RNG brings the total carbon intensity score down, because RNG is made with methane that would have otherwise been off gassed. Capturing those gases prevents them from entering the atmosphere and significantly reduces the total well-to-wheel score of RNG vehicles, dropping vehicle-generated carbon intensity to below zero depending on the RNG feedstock. Renewable natural gas is also functionally identical to natural gas obtained from fossil resources. Blending fossil natural gas with even small quantities of RNG can result in immediate environmental benefits. And every year, RNG becomes a bigger percentage of all CNG being used in North America, contributing towards the role natural gas will play in our renewable future

This major drop in the carbon intensity of RNG is one of the reasons why companies like Waste Management, UPS and Werner Trucking are making investments in natural gas trucks. 

These companies aren’t alone. The 2022 State of Sustainable Fleets Report found that fleets with trucks powered by RNG consistently cite reduced emissions as a key benefit of natural gas vehicles. In 2021, the average carbon intensity of all the natural gas reported in the California Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) was below zero, making NGVs the only carbon-negative transportation option for fleets.

What is the economic impact of switching to natural gas engines? 

Throughout 2021, compressed natural gas maintained a clear cost advantage and relative price stability compared to diesel, which had a more volatile year. The clean fuel continued to prove its value, with the price of CNG increasing approximately 3% on average at public fueling stations compared to 2020. 

Diesel prices increased nearly 19% nationwide and were, on average, 25% higher than the price of CNG on a DGE (Diesel Gallon Equivalent) basis. Fuel cost is a primary benefit of CNG users in the annual State of Sustainable Fleets survey, with 79% of respondents reporting lower costs as an advantage. 

What applications are a good fit for natural gas engines?  

Most commercial applications are a good fit for natural gas. There are many examples of natural gas engines on trucks and buses. Fleets leading the way in adopting NGVs include vehicles covering refuse, regional haul, transit bus, cargo, municipal and public utility applications. Just like diesel vehicles, these fleets “return-to-base” each day to refuel at CNG refueling points installed on-site for easier fill-ups. 

For heavy, or long-haul trucks, refueling is more difficult. Long-haul trucks rely on public refueling stations along major interstates. Currently, the number of public CNG pumps is dwarfed by the number of diesel pumps, but Cummins and several transportation industry partners are making strides to change that. The company recently announced a plan to collaborate with Love’s Travel Stops and Trillium to enhance low and zero carbon fuel and powertrain solutions.  

Cummins also recently announced plans to develop a 15-liter natural gas engine, the X15N, designed for class 8 long-haul applications. News of the X15N is already generating significant interest and excitement in the North American heavy-duty truck market. So much so it was named one of the Top 20 New Products of 2022 by Heavy Duty Trucking (HDT). 

When does it make sense to transition to natural gas engines? 

The bottom line is that when to switch to natural gas engines comes down to a business decision based on the specific duty-cycle and mission profile of an individual fleet. The operational and financial implications should be carefully evaluated. A growing number of businesses recognize the benefits NGVs provide, but each situation is different.  

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Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar is the General Manager of the global natural gas business for Cummins Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the product vision, financial management and overall performance of the natural gas business. Over his 14-year career at Cummins, Jhawar has cultivated successful relationships with a number of Cummins’ largest customers. Jhawar has extensive global experience, with roles based in the Middle East, India, Europe and the US.

Hydrogen engine insights for fleet operators

Heavy duty trucks parked diagonally in a parking lot

If you manage a fleet of commercial vehicles, you have probably read or heard about hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells. Fuel cells have come a long way over the years, and they have a bright future. Hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells each have their roles in decarbonizing the commercial transportation sector today and the decades ahead. When it comes to hydrogen engines, there are other important insights for fleets to consider in addition to reliability and durability. 

Hydrogen engines are a familiar technology 

Powering vehicles with hydrogen engines is as familiar as it gets—just pump hydrogen into a regular internal combustion engine.  

Well, almost regular.  

Hydrogen engines do require some modifications to operate safely and efficiently. For example, the ignition system needs to be specifically designed for hydrogen to avoid issues, such as pre-ignition and engine knocking. But the overall engine and drivetrain architecture, and how the hydrogen engine works, remain nearly the same as their diesel counterparts. The one exception is the fuel system. Hydrogen is stored in gas cylinders specially designed to withstand very high pressures. Training is recommended to learn safe hydrogen handling practices during maintenance. 

Transparent semi with red engine inside

Hydrogen internal combustion engines (ICEs) can be extremely efficient and have a compelling total cost of operation compared to other zero-carbon fueled solutions. With Cummins spark ignited technology and fuel agnostic engine platforms, we can achieve brake thermal efficiency (BTE) that exceeds today’s natural gas engine efficiency. With further refinement, diesel-like efficiency may also be achievable. Efficiency can be further enhanced by combining hydrogen ICE in a hybrid powertrain and through the use of advanced features, such as Cummins’ ADEPT system. 

Hydrogen engines are an effective way to lower emissions and to decarbonize 

Crucially, hydrogen engine vehicles do not release any CO2 besides trace amounts that result from the combustion of lubricants. So long as they run on green hydrogen, their operation doesn’t cause any carbon emissions well-to-wheel. 

Operating near-zero emissions vehicles comes at a price, though. This is true of every low carbon technology. For certain applications, however, examples of hydrogen engines will likely be more prevalent, such as heavy-duty trucks. 

When are hydrogen engine vehicles right for your business? 

So let’s say your business needs to cut greenhouse gas emissions. When are hydrogen engine vehicles the right solution?  

First, you need a fueling strategy. Fleets whose vehicles “go home” to a central depot each night are good candidates. Hydrogen fueling points can be installed at the central depot. This type of refueling strategy will be familiar to many CNG vehicle operators.  

If your vehicles tend to drive back and forth between distribution centers that are within a few hundred miles of each other, a similar refueling system can work. 

If you operate long-haul trucks on fixed routes, hydrogen engines can also make sense so long as hydrogen fueling points are installed along the routes. Several companies and government entities are building hydrogen corridors for this very purpose. 

Medium and heavy-duty vehicles that drive more than two or three hundred miles per-day will be better off with a hydrogen engine than with battery electric technology today. Trucks use a lot of power, so electric trucks require large batteries. In theory, a larger battery can extend the range of an electric truck. But this comes at a price in terms of lost cargo space, increased charging downtime, and higher capital costs. Hydrogen engine vehicles, in contrast, can refuel in minutes and achieve similar ranges as diesel vehicles without trading payload capacity for range. 

Cummins is developing a set of hydrogen engines, including 6.7 and 15 liter engines. Once these engines are fully tested and validated, they will be made available to vehicle manufacturers. Cummins is working with Werner Enterprise, a major transportation and logistics company, to validate its new 15-liter natural gas and hydrogen engines. Hydrogen engines are nearly drop-in replacements to traditional engines, so a hydrogen engine version of your favorite truck may become available within the next few years. 


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Jim Nebergall

Jim Nebergall

Jim Nebergall is General Manager of the Hydrogen Engine Business at Cummins Inc. and leads the company’s global efforts in commercializing hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines. Hydrogen internal combustion engines are an important technology in the company’s accelerated path to decarbonization.    

Jim joined Cummins in 2002 and has held numerous leadership roles across the company. Most recently, Jim was the Director of Product Strategy and Management for the North American on-highway engine business. Jim is passionate about innovation and has dedicated his Cummins career to advancing technology that improves the environment. He pushed the boundaries of customer-focused innovation to position Cummins as the leading powertrain supplier of choice, managing a portfolio ranging from advanced diesel and natural gas to hybrid powertrains. 

Jim graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. In 2007, he completed his Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University.

Hydrogen engine insights for truck and bus manufacturers

Transparent semi with red hydrogen engine inside

If you’re a truck or a bus manufacturer that already has a hydrogen fuel cell program, you should consider offering a line of vehicles with a hydrogen internal combustion engine (ICE) as an option for your customers.

Why? The reasons are simple. It is easier to swap out a diesel engine for a hydrogen engine than it is to design a vehicle around a different technology. Additionally, customers interested in purchasing fuel cell vehicles are likely to be interested in purchasing vehicles powered by hydrogen ICEs as a means to get started with hydrogen while fuel cell technology continues to advance. Familiarity with current engine technology, though, is at the core of both reasons. 

Hydrogen internal combustion engines look and feel familiar 

For an original equipment manufacturer (OEM), current vehicles can be redesigned to host a hydrogen engine with minimal effort. Often no major changes to the driveline, transmission, brakes, or truck chassis are needed. The most intensive modification to the vehicle’s architecture in the redesign phase may be the addition of a hydrogen fuel system. But Cummins is helping to make these modifications as frictionless as possible through a joint venture with NPROXX, a leader in hydrogen storage systems. By offering end-to-end hydrogen systems, Cummins enables OEMs to design hydrogen engine vehicles easily. This same approach is also relevant to fleet operators interested in hydrogen engines. 

Hydrogen engines get the job done and help to decarbonize 

The end-customer experience of owning and operating a hydrogen ICE vehicle is comparable to owning and operating a Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) vehicle. 

Vehicles with a hydrogen engine have the power to get the toughest jobs done. Drivers will find that hydrogen engines deliver the same performance as natural gas engines and, for that matter, performance that’s even comparable to a diesel engine. Maintenance managers will find that most mechanics qualified to work on a traditional gasoline or diesel engine can maintain a hydrogen engine. Customers who have set up CNG fueling points on their premises may also discover that operating a hydrogen fueling point isn’t much different. 

Hydrogen is also a carbon-free fuel, enabling hydrogen ICE owners to start meeting their decarbonization goals sooner. Hydrogen engines can help reduce the overall commercial transportation emissions generated by vehicle fleets, reducing a company’s overall carbon footprint. 

Hydrogen engines pave the way for fuel cell vehicles 

So, how do your fuel cell program and hydrogen engines complement each other? Hydrogen engines and hydrogen fuel cells are not an either-or choice. On the contrary, the adoption of hydrogen engines is likely to help drive broader adoption of fuel cells.  

Considering Cummins will be in scale hydrogen engine production in 2027, you can expect to see more customers operating trucks with hydrogen engines in the coming years.  

Inevitably, as more hydrogen vehicles begin to hit the road, the benefits of hydrogen engines for hydrogen infrastructure will become more apparent. Your customers will find it easier and cheaper to procure hydrogen. They will also be more comfortable overall with using hydrogen as a fuel. Hydrogen storage technology will also be more mature and used at greater scale. These will eventually make the adoption of fuel cell vehicles easier too. 

If you are interested in learning more, don’t forget to check answers to frequently asked questions around hydrogen engines.   


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Jim Nebergall

Jim Nebergall

Jim Nebergall is General Manager of the Hydrogen Engine Business at Cummins Inc. and leads the company’s global efforts in commercializing hydrogen-fueled internal combustion engines. Hydrogen internal combustion engines are an important technology in the company’s accelerated path to decarbonization.    

Jim joined Cummins in 2002 and has held numerous leadership roles across the company. Most recently, Jim was the Director of Product Strategy and Management for the North American on-highway engine business. Jim is passionate about innovation and has dedicated his Cummins career to advancing technology that improves the environment. He pushed the boundaries of customer-focused innovation to position Cummins as the leading powertrain supplier of choice, managing a portfolio ranging from advanced diesel and natural gas to hybrid powertrains. 

Jim graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in electrical and computer engineering. In 2007, he completed his Master of Business Administration degree from Indiana University.

Examples of natural gas engines on trucks and buses

Orange and grey Metro Local bus parked

Compared to traditional diesel engines, natural gas engines have several advantages. A few of the benefits of natural gas engines are that they cause less air pollution, are quieter and run on fuel that is cheaper and less volatile than diesel. On the other hand, operating natural gas vehicles requires a deliberate fuel strategy because there are few compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling stations in the wild.  

Because of these attributes, you can more frequently find examples of natural gas engines among heavy and medium-duty applications. Here are some leading natural gas engine applications. 

Vocational trucks with natural gas engines 

Natural gas engines are a great option for businesses operating vocational trucks. Examples of successful natural gas use cases include refuse trucks, dump trucks and terminal tractors (yard spotters). Natural gas engines can deliver torque and power ratings similar to diesel engines. Even very heavy vehicles, such as loaded concrete mixers and drayage trucks, can rely on a natural gas engine without any problems. 

Natural gas is an especially good fit for vocational vehicles that operate in an urban environment. There is no such thing as a silent garbage truck, but natural gas engines can make garbage trucks quieter—and less polluting. Waste collection businesses often report increased customer satisfaction as a result of switching to natural gas trucks, especially customers that have their trash collected early in the morning.  

Natural gas engines can also offer environmental benefits and help improve air quality. For example, the Port of Los Angeles –  one of the busiest ports in North America – sees very concentrated truck traffic. Every day, thousands of heavy trucks drop off and pick up containers. Their traffic contributes significantly  to air pollution in nearby communities, such as the neighborhoods along Interstate 710. Improving air quality is one of the reasons why Cummins worked with several hauling companies serving the Port of Los Angeles. The objective of the collaboration was to demonstrate that natural gas engines could be effective in drayage operations. One year into the program, twenty trucks had accumulated more than a million miles of trouble-free driving using Cummins’ ISX12N natural gas engines. 

Transit and school buses with natural gas engines 

Transit systems are among the biggest operators of natural gas vehicles. According to the US Department of Energy, nearly 30% of all transit buses in service in the United States in 2019 operated on natural gas. It’s easy to understand why. Transit buses tend to operate in cities and tend to return to a central depot at the end of the day where they can refuel each night. 

It can also be difficult for transit systems to adjust fares when the price of diesel is high. In some cases, transit systems are obliged to eliminate routes or reduce service to avoid financial difficulties. With natural gas, whose price is lower and more stable than the price of diesel, bus operators hedge their exposure to this kind of risk – another important financial benefit of natural gas engines

Natural gas buses are also popular with school districts for many of the same reasons. Reducing children’s exposure to air pollution around schools, however, is especially important. In the United States, a variety of state and federal grants are available to help school systems upgrade their bus fleets. 

Medium-duty trucks with natural gas engines 

Medium-duty trucks used in local and semi-local applications also constitute great use cases for natural gas engines. Urban delivery and last-mile delivery are typical examples. In both cases, vehicles can usually complete a day’s work without refueling. At the end of the day, they return to a “home base” where they can fill up their cylinders overnight using a time-fill CNG dispenser. In the United States, UPS, one of the leading national delivery companies, is moving ahead with plans to invest in more CNG vehicles. UPS said it would purchase more than 6,000 CNG trucks between 2020 and 2022.  

If these use cases are relevant to you, consider starting to think about when to switch to natural gas engines

Regional haul trucks with natural gas engines 

CNG vehicles can also be used for longer range transportation, so long as fuel stations are available along the way or at destinations. This can be the same case for trucks running fixed routes between distribution centers.  

If these examples resonate with your needs, don’t forget to also check our answers to frequently asked questions about natural gas engines. These answers cover topics such as cost, practicality and feasibility of integrating natural gas into commercial fleets.   

 


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Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar

Puneet Singh Jhawar is the General Manager of the global natural gas business for Cummins Inc. In this role, he is responsible for the product vision, financial management and overall performance of the natural gas business. Over his 14-year career at Cummins, Jhawar has cultivated successful relationships with a number of Cummins’ largest customers. Jhawar has extensive global experience, with roles based in the Middle East, India, Europe and the US.

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