It’s clean and it’s cheap, so why not use it? That’s the question that has to be asked about natural gas, which has gone largely unnoticed and under-utilized as a vehicle fuel. But that may be changing. A company called Hybrid Fuel Systems has launched a new system designed to convert truck and bus diesels to natural gas.
“As truckers and bus operators throughout the world realize that high diesel fuel prices are here to stay, people are looking for practical systems to reduce diesel fuel costs without replacingexpensive engines and vehicles,” says Mark Clancy, CEO of Hybrid Fuel Systems (HFS) Temple Terrace, Florida.” HFS is introducing a solution to Latin American markets where cheap, reliable natural gas is available.”
What is the solution? Surprisingly, HFS systems rely upon an engine computer to start the engine with diesel fuel and inject more natural gas and cut back on diesel as the engine speed and load increases. The benefits of this approach are lower costs because no expensive engine modifications are needed, the engine power and efficiency are not diminished, and the system can be adapted to old and new diesel engines at a low cost. HFS engines are also quieter and cleaner in a way that is immediately noticeable: the black soot cloud disappears.
Priced at US$3,500 depending upon quantity, the system costs far less than the “dedicated” natural gas engines or the expensive, complex alternatives that typically cost more than $30,000 to $50,000 more to convert a new or existing truck or bus.
“It’s a simple idea, but it takes a long time to get it right,” said Frank Davis, who invented the technology in the early 1990’s and has converted over 1400 trucks and buses, primarily in the US. “The trick is to give the engine the correct mix of diesel and natural gas fuels and this changes every time the driver presses down or lets up on the pedal. The HFS computer is smart enough to provide the required precision, but as we have improved the system and gained experience with customers, we have kept it simple and reliable.”
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