The propane industry will soon see the introduction of the first factory-built propane-fueled bobtails, as Freightliner Custom Chassis Corporation will begin production of the vehicles early this year.
In a unique partnership with the Propane Education and Research Council, Powertrain Integration, and Clean Fuel USA, Freightliner has been working since 2010 to develop a commercial chassis that will fuel the industry's 33,000-pound propane delivery bobtails. PERC provided a $2 million grant to help certify the chassis, and Freightliner worked with industry experts to help them with the design.
The propane industry, which currently operates over 35,000 propane delievery bobtails, represents a significant market for the new bobtails. Many have converted existing bobtail vehicles to run on propane autogas, but demand has been strong for a factory-built model. Most bobtails still run on diesel. "The propane industry running our trucks on (them) is a no-brainer," says one industry veteran who works for a propane company in the Southeast.
Michael Taylor, director of autogas business development for PERC, notes that there are several key reasons that propane companies should make the switch to the new Freightliner model: operating costs will be substantially less than diesel models; warranty and maintenance issues will be minimal compared to diesel engines; and costly requirements like anti-idling and regeneration on new diesel emissions technologies will be avoided.
Bryan Henke, manager for product marketing for the vehicles with Freightliner, sees the concept simply: "It's propane delivering propane," he says. Propane companies can showcase the utilization of propane autogas as a fuel in their own fleets.
The Freightliner S2G propane commercial chassis is scheduled for full production at the company's factory in Gaffney, South Carolina. The vehicles will be certified for both Canadian and US markets.