It’s a gas, says Isuzu
Isuzu is turning green with natural gas, writes GRAHAMSMITH
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.