Question is Not If But When the Demand Will Materialize
As Big-Engine Customers See Need for More Public Fueling
Cummins has placed development of its 15-liter spark ignition engine on hold for at least six months, having decided in December that it’s not sure when the market for the 450-horsepower dedicated natural gas product will materialize.
“Around mid-year we’ll take a look at it again,” says Roe East, on-highway natural gas business GM at Cummins, Inc. The firm remains committed to natural gas, he says.
The difference from the now commercial, 11.9-liter ISX12 G with Cummins Westport and the new engine – call it the ISX15 G – is the public infrastructure requirement, he says.
“Reality and Confidence in Reality’
“My gut feeling is that most of the people buying the 12-liter today have dedicated fueling,” East says – or run regular point-to-point routes. “The customer base demanding the 15-liter engine is more likely to run variable routes,” he says. “They need to be confident that they can stop at a public station.”
Infrastructure for both liquefied natural gas and compressed natural gas is being built. But according to East, “Reality and confidence in reality are two different things.”
That’s why the six-month program hiatus could be extended another six months, he told F&F, when Cummins revisits the issue in mid-2014.
A $30 Million+ Program
East declined to say how many Cummins people will be affected by the ISX15 G “pause,” but said that the Cummins investment in the program is significant. For any new engine, he said, “The starting point is around $30 million and it goes up from there.”
The fact of the existing ISX15 diesel block saves capital costs when the new engine enters production, but does little to reduce the design work involved for a spark-ignition variant. Like the 8.9-liter ISL G and the ISX12 G from Cummins Westport, the ISX15 G from Cummins will feature stoichiometric combustion and a three-way catalyst for exhaust treatment.
The ISX12 G has a maximum rating of 400-horsepower and 1,450 foot pounds of torque; the ISX15 G is expected to have maximum ratings of 450-horsepower and 1,750 foot pounds of torque.
‘Just Not Sure on When’
The engineers from the program will have plenty to do, East says, as work with Cummins Westport continues on a 6.7-liter engine for U.S. school buses and medium trucks and on products for the international market, while Cummins continues to develop new natural gas products for off-highway high horsepower applications.
“We’re still bullish,” he says, about the natural gas market. “We’re really bullish.”
“We’re really confident that a market will evolve [for the ISX15 G] but we’re having trouble predicting when that might occur. It’s certainly not a technical concern. The part we’re struggling with is clarity on when.”
“We’re just not sure on when.”
The fate of the ISX15 G will be a key topic
at ACT Expo 2014 May 5-8 in Long Beach, Calif.
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Source: Fleets & Fuels interview