CEO Describes Continued Evolution of Company & Market
Agility Fuel Systems is now more than five years old – what’s change
Agility CEO Kathleen Ligocki with a CNG-fueled Freightliner Cascadia at ACT Expo 2016 in Long Beach. The truck has a 160-DGE Agility back-of-cab fuel system, integrated with the ECU to allow Cummins Insite diagnostics of both the engine and CNG fuel system.
Agility Fuel Systems has experienced tremendous growth over the last five years. We joined two very innovative predecessor companies to create the leader in natural gas fuel systems in the North American market today. We offer products that are designed and engineered for durability, performance and safety. With over 30,000 vehicles on the road our experience in the industry is unparalleled. But clearly that is not the end game. Our company continues to evolve from a custom shop assembler to a fully integrated manufacturer of state-of-the-art fuel systems… the next phase of our quest is to be the best world-class supplier in this industry.
Is this the reason why you opened the new facility in North Carolina?
Yes, we have committed significant capital to construct a new green field facility in Salisbury, N.C. allowing us to insource all key manufacturing processes including OEM class paint capabilities, fabrication, assembly and vehicle integration. We are very pleased with our progress in launching our North Carolina plant and we believe it positions Agility to continue to lead the transition to natural gas in the transportation industry.
How is your joint venture with Hexagon Composites working out?
The relationship with Hexagon Composites is a strong one. In fact, we are celebrating two years since we created the joint venture with Hexagon to manufacture cylinders. Our objective was to gain economies of scale and to jointly develop innovative new products more quickly. This week at ACT Expo, we are presenting a new 27- inch diameter cylinder that will increase our flagship behind-the-cab system from a capacity of 160 to 175 diesel gallon equivalents while maintaining the same dimensional characteristics. This new product introduction is a great example of how this joint venture is showing outstanding results.
Last year you also signed a collaboration agreement with Cummins – can you provide us with an update?
Cummins is both an outstanding strategic partner and a long-term investor in Agility. During our year of collaboration, we have focused together on driving the adoption of natural gas by improving uptime and product performance. We have started this process by training and certifying 30 Cummins distributors as Agility Authorized Service Providers, which will significantly improve our nationwide service coverage. We will also distribute parts through the Cummins network to improve parts availability and uptime for our customers.
On the product performance side, at ACT Expo we will present our first prototype of an Agility fuel system utilizing a Cummins ECU, allowing service technicians to use the Cummins INSITE tool to diagnose both the engine and the fuel system. We are very excited by the suite of advanced features that this connection between the engine and the fuel system will provide our customers in the near future.
How do see the see the natural gas vehicle market in a scenario of low oil and diesel prices?
We are firm believers in the long-term future of natural gas commercial vehicles driven by both economic and environmental factors. On the economic front, our customers purchase a commercial vehicle for five to 15 years, a long-term fleet commitment. The price of oil fluctuates wildly versus natural gas, a stable and abundant fuel source. Many of our customers have invested in fuel stations, allowing them to purchase gas wholesale at rates still below the price of diesel. While we do not have a crystal ball, we do believe that the equilibrium price of oil is closer to $75/barrel making natgas purchases a prudent decision. On the environmental front, NGVs can make a substantial impact in terms of reducing greenhouse gases which negatively affect global warming, while also reducing NOx emissions, the main contributor to smog in urban areas.
Certain segments of the market, particularly in the refuse and transit industry, have continued their commitment to transition their fleets to natural gas vehicles, as these companies recognize the environmental and societal benefits NGVs provide in the communities they serve.
NGV history last year with a $40 million investment in 179 Detroit-based parts-haulers for FCA Transport (F&F, December 4). The tandem axle day cab Peterbilt 579 tractors have Type IV CNG cylinders by Hexagon Lincoln in back-of-cab Agility assemblies. Each holds 160 diesel gallon equivalents of natural gas affording a single-fill range of more than 600 miles. TruStar Energy provided a CNG fueling facility for the Fiat Chrysler fleet.
In the heavy truck segment, where shorter-term return on investment calculations can be critical, this year we have noted fleet operators and OEMs balancing natgas with diesel. Still, we see many examples of great companies with broader environmental strategies and long-term fleet perspectives continuing to reduce their environmental footprint by switching to NGVs.
We at Agility are very excited with the prospects of natural gas vehicles transforming the heavy duty transportation industry and our role in providing solutions for a more sustainable future for generations to come.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels at ACT Expo 2016 in Long Beach, Calif.