Cummins Looks To Power Electric Fleet Vehicles

New York state legislators want to see vehicle fleets transition from diesel- or gasoline-powered engines to electric-powered vehicles.

Cummins Inc. is ready to provide the engines for those buses through Cummins’ New Power segment, which recently completed its second full year of operations. Tom Linebarger, Cummins Inc. chairman and chief executive officer, told financial analysts that the company’s first fully electric bus, manufactured with partner GILLIG, went into service in Santa Monica, Calif., late last year.

“In 2019, we delivered full electric powertrains to both the school bus and transit bus markets,” Linebarger told analysts earlier this week in a conference call. “These buses are not prototypes, but are full production units for commercial use.”

Cummins’ distribution business is providing service and support for the electrified buses as well as customers powering buses with natural gas or diesel fuel. Cummins began a partnership with Kalmar to manufacture the first electric-powered terminal tractor with production expected to begin early next year. The company has begun programs with end user partners to deliver electric prototype vehicles to be tested, including engines for United States Postal Service vehicles.

There are more than 200 fully electrified vehicles with Cummins New Power Systems in the hands of customers, Linebarger said.

Cummins also unveiled the Cummins PowerDrive, a flexible hybrid vehicle that seamlessly shifts between pure electric for environmentally sensitive areas with a 50-mile range and hybrid for jobs requiring more than 300 miles range. The PowerDrive was unveiled in October at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show. The PowerDrive system can be combined with various sizes of diesel or natural gas engines and battery pack outputs providing our on-highway customers with the flexibility needed to meet the demands of their diverse jobs and markets.

Linebarger also discussed the company’s acquisition of Hydrogenics last year, an acquisition that added additional fuel cell and hydrogen production capabilities to the New Power segment portfolio. Two months after the acquisition was closed, Cummins Inc. showed a fuel cell-powered truck at the North American Commercial Vehicle Show. Linebarger said the company is seeing significant interest in fuel cell technology in both on and off-highway market.

“The inclusion of hydrogen production technology as part of the Hydrogenics acquisition positions us well to support customers looking to utilize hydrogen fuel cells, because lack of access to hydrogen is a significant pacing factor in fuel cell adoption,” Linebarger said.

As laws like New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act or the federal Green New Deal are debated, passed and take effect, Linebarger said Cummins is trying to forge a market in the technologies that will provide transportation in the future. Some investments make more sense than others given the current economic slowdown in the global marketplace Cummins officials are dealing with. Linebarger said the company is investing heavily in projects with a short-term payoff. That is one reason the Hydrogenics acquisition and the partnership with Kalmar were important for the company.

“More broadly though, one thing that’s true is that, we are focusing a lot of our effort and attention on those markets where the near-term possibility for production level, demand of new power is higher,” Linebarger said. “I mean those products where electric and fuel cell power is more economically viable in the short-term. So that’s why pluses, has been big focus for us. And that’s why terminal tractors is a big focus for us, because when you do the range, you think about the range, you think about the ability to charge, frequently you think about the loads, those vehicles can actually almost make a case of it depending on where they get their power, today, on electric power, or on hybrid. And then same on fuel cells. A lot of our focus and attention is on trains today. It’s not because we don’t think there’s a viable truck thing we do. It’s just that the trains are more viable now, because you only have to refuel with hydrogen at one station and then the other — one and then the other. It doesn’t mean we aren’t focused on the truck side, we are. But the fact is that the volumes of those are likely a little further out than the volumes of these other things and we want to make sure that we’re putting our products into production, getting full testing in real-life situations.”

New natural gas and gasoline-powered products Linebarger discussed include three natural gas engines in North America that meet the California Air Resources Board’s offshore low nitrogen oxide standard of .02 grams per brake horsepower hour, a 90% reduction from the current EPA limit of .2 grams. Cummins launched its first natural gas variant of the Cummins Hedgehog engine platform, a 78-liter for power generation applications and is expected to launch several new on-highway natural gas platforms in China.

Last year also saw Cummins launch the company’s new X15 Efficiency Series, which meets 2021 greenhouse gas standards and delivers up to 5% better fuel economy. In India, Cummins will launch its new BS VI engines and after-treatment systems in 2020, driving more than $200 million in incremental revenue for the company and lowering nitrogen oxide by 50% and particulate matter by more than 80%, Linebarger said.

Linebarger also said Cummins will launch NS VI products in China over the next 18 months in preparation for full adoption fo NS VI regulations in July 2021.

“As you can see, we are continually innovating across our broad portfolio of power solutions from diesel and natural gas to fuel cells hybrid and fully electric options,” Linebarger said. “We plan to provide our customers with the right technical solution for their application at the right time and to continue to be the leader in power for commercial industrial equipment.”


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