Interest in alternative fuel vehicles is continuing to increase, and equipment manufacturers are moving forward with equipment that has the potential to provide cost savings and reduce the consumption of diesel fuel.
To help advance the use of alternative fuels, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration has announced its second round of alternative fuel corridor designations.
Forty-four states now are designated as corridor-ready or corridor-pending for one or more alternative fuel types. As part of the FAST Act, which was signed into law in December 2015, Congress directed the DOT to establish fueling corridors to support alternative-fueling stations, including electric, hydrogen, propane and natural gas fueling infrastructure along major national highways.
Penske has significant operational and maintenance experience with alternative fuel vehicles and leases and maintains electric, electric hybrid, natural gas and biodiesel vehicles. Penske is also working closely with equipment manufacturers to stay current on available and emerging alternative fuel technologies.
Some of the most widely available alternative fuel vehicles are those powered by natural gas.
Penske has more than 25 years of experience with natural gas vehicles in vocational applications and has facilities equipped to provide full maintenance service on natural gas vehicles. Penske can work with customers to spec both compressed natural gas and liquefied natural gas.
Paul Rosa, senior vice president of procurement and fleet planning at Penske Truck Leasing, said interest in natural gas technology has decreased. “Years ago, it was more sought-after and there was more activity. When diesel dropped dramatically a few years ago, that flipped it upside down."
Rosa said the number of inquiries Penske receives on electric trucks has grown, particularly as companies such as Tesla and Thor continue to make headlines. While there are electric vehicle options available for smaller classes, there isn't a long-haul Class 8 electric tractor on the market today.
“It will still be many years in the future when we're going to see a long-haul Class 8 electric tractor," Rosa said, adding that Penske is working with manufacturers to stay up-to-date on the technology. “We're talking with everyone that is potentially going to be in this space. We want to learn and we have to understand the options. We want to be prepared."
Rosa said there are numerous questions that need to be answered in the electric vehicle world. For example, while a prototype unit may perform well in certain environments, it may be different in real-world conditions, such as cold weather or extreme heat. “These are the questions that people don't have answers to yet," Rosa said. “There are all of these different scenarios that have to be figured out."
Penske has a team that can work with its customers to find alternative vehicles that fit their needs. “We work with customers to see if the technology makes sense for their duty cycle and where they travel," Rosa said.
Penske is recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. The office is administering a grant to bring more vehicles fueled by alternative energies to Penske's customers, as part of its Alternative Fuel Vehicle (AFV) Demonstration and Enhanced Driver Experience Project. With this project, Penske expects to introduce more AFVs and technology to our customers at previously unheard-of rates.