It’s a gas, says Isuzu

Isuzu is turn­ing green with nat­u­ral gas, writes GRAHAMSMITH

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Front Page -

IN­DUS­TRY heavy­weight Isuzu has re­jected hy­brids and is pin­ning its faith on nat­u­ral-gas-pow­ered trucks as the way to a greener fu­ture. The top-sell­ing truck-maker has backed its be­lief in nat­u­ral gas by an­nounc­ing that it will release two mod­els ca­pa­ble of run­ning on nat­u­ral gas in the com­ing months.

Isuzu’s view that nat­u­ral gas will pro­duce a greener out­come for Aus­tralia than a hy­brid is based on lo­cal test­ing it has done over the past few months.

Test­ing showed hy­brids had to drive in stop-start dense traf­fic to achieve the op­ti­mal sav­ings in green­house gas emis­sions and fuel con­sump­tion claimed for them.

While that might hap­pen in road­clogged coun­tries such as Ja­pan, it is dif­fer­ent in Aus­tralia, where traf­fic flows at a higher av­er­age speed with fewer stops.

In those con­di­tions, Isuzu’s tests show the sav­ings from the hy­brid are less than 10 per cent com­pared with the 20-plus per cent claimed by some man­u­fac­tur­ers push­ing hy­brids.

Nat­u­ral gas, on the other hand, saves un­der all driv­ing con­di­tions.

The re­sults of field tri­als by the City of Gos­ford in 2004, on the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion of Com­pressed Nat­u­ral Gas (CNG) Isuzu trucks, showed a 30 per cent drop in run­ning costs over equiv­a­lent diesel trucks in the same fleet.

Isuzu had two nat­u­ral gas en­gine trucks at the Bris­bane Truck Show that Toll Ex­press will test to demon­strate nat­u­ral gas’s value, in the hope of cre­at­ing in­ter­est in al­ter­na­tive fuel trucks be­fore their release in com­ing months.

‘‘ The lat­est nat­u­ral gas ve­hi­cles of­fer sim­i­lar per­for­mance, and in some cases ex­ceed the per­for­mance of com­pa­ra­ble diesels,’’ Isuzu chief ex­ec­u­tive Phil Tay­lor says.

‘‘We are very pleased to be able to bring sev­eral of th­ese mod­els to mar­ket later this year.’’

Isuzu Aus­tralia tried to in­tro­duce trucks us­ing CNG in 2003 and 2004 without suc­cess, but Mr Tay­lor says the mar­ket is likely to be more re­cep­tive now.

‘‘Con­cerns about the price of diesel and the se­cu­rity of sup­ply are be­hind the grow­ing in­ter­est in nat­u­ral gas,’’ Mr Tay­lor says.

While the diesel price has dropped from the highs of a year ago, the price is tipped to climb again as the econ­omy re­cov­ers from the down­turn. When it does, nat­u­ral gas will be­come an even more at­trac­tive al­ter­na­tive.

Aus­tralia has abun­dant nat­u­ral gas re­serves and the fuel is priced in lo­cal dol­lars, so it is not sub­ject to im­ported diesel sup­ply prob­lems and doesn’t suf­fer price vari­a­tions through cur­rency fluc­tu­a­tions.

‘‘Nat­u­ral gas is read­ily avail­able in all cap­i­tal and re­gional cities and is of a very good qual­ity by world stan­dards, so it meets all the cri­te­ria for Isuzu de­sign pa­ram­e­ters,’’ says Colin White, Isuzu prod­uct plan­ning and en­gi­neer­ing sup­port man­ager.

Isuzu will release three CNG mod­els, light-duty NLR 200 4.5-tonne GVM and NPR 300 seven-tonne mod­els, and a medium-duty 12-or 14-tonne FSR 700/850. The en­gines are spark ig­ni­tion units us­ing elec­tronic in­jec­tion sys­tems in­stead of me­chan­i­cal vapour-mixer gas sys­tems used on the older model CNG trucks.

The N Se­ries mod­els use a 4.6-litre four-cylin­der en­gine de­liv­er­ing 96kW at 3200 revs and 353Nm, while the heav­ier F Se­ries mod­els are pow­ered by a tur­bocharged and in­ter-cooled 7.8-litre six-cylin­der en­gine that peaks at 162kW at 2400 revs and 735Nm at 1400 revs.

All meet Ja­pan’s ul­tra-low emis­sion ve­hi­cles stan­dards, which means they are far cleaner than the pro­posed Euro 6 stan­dards for par­tic­u­late mat­ter and ni­trous ox­ides that won’t come into play here for many years yet.

They also re­duce CO2 emis­sions by up to 25 per cent.

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