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Before that, only 9-liter engines were available. “Tat boosted the OTR market because

you could get a big-enough truck,” Hoelscher said.

Price is still an issue, though, he

acknowledged. Stirk’s 12-liter CNG truck cost $45,000 more than a lifetime diesel engine, he said. “You’re talking about 30 percent more

than a diesel truck,” Hoelscher said. “You have to recover that cost. Te only way is the cost of fuel and the cost of maintenance. Te two big advantages to the natural gas side of the equation is the price of fuel — and the volatility of that price — and maintenance. CNG engines don’t require aftertreatment to meet EPA standards.” Right now, Stirk’s main focus is on

demonstrating the capabilities of a dedicated CNG truck. But there are also dual-fuel options, such as an aftermarket retrofit that allows a truck to run on a combination of CNG and diesel. With the dual-fuel system in place, a truck can replace about 50 percent of its diesel with CNG.

“Te benefit of that is if you run out of

natural gas, then the truck continues to run on 100 percent diesel, so there’s no range anxiety,” Hoelscher said. “We’ve had a couple of fleets start to use some of these systems.” Te glider market, in particular, has been a

good one for dual-fuel systems, he said. “Tose systems work very well on a pre-emissions diesel motor,” he said. As a region, Nebraska and surrounding

states aren’t as far along in developing a CNG infrastructure as some other states, particularly in the South, McClymont said. Tat’s not surprising, given the difference in state energy policies. Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, for instance — all major producers of natural gas — have very aggressive state programs to promote CNG, he said. In Colorado, environmental concerns have pushed the state to invest a lot of money into CNG. “Te I-40 corridor is big,” he said. “Te

East and West Coasts have some corridors stock full of stations.” Nebraska and Iowa, on the other hand, are ethanol states, and they haven’t been as

aggressive on CNG. Federally, there’s been a push for years —

so far unsuccessful — for a tax credit to offset the difference in purchase price between CNG and diesel engines. Te only federal incentive available is a 50-cent-per-gallon rebate that goes to the seller of the fuel. “Tat provides us with 50 cents a gallon

we’re able to pass along to our fleet customers,” Hoelscher said. “Tat takes natural gas to $1.30 a gallon, and all of a sudden you start seeing a pretty big difference in price again.” For now, Hoelscher said, the biggest

obstacle to growing the CNG market is the low price of diesel fuel. “In five to seven years, if diesel stays at $2

to $2.50 a gallon, we might be the dumbest people alive,” he said. “But overall we believe that CNG has a place in the market. It’s not going to replace diesel, but the conversation always comes back to the idea that it’s the sum of all parts — bringing together multiple fuels. We believe in natural gas as part of that equation.” NT

Cornhusker International

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