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We Can Rebuild Them. We Have the Technology.

UPS LNG tractor being refueledTwitter chatter about our LNG vehicles has hit it on the nose. One read, “Fleets w/ #natgas = fastest way to replace foreign oil.” True, when applied to the right vehicle, the right way, in the right environment. Hybrids and electrics are good for the short stops, but as alternative fuels they don’t pass muster for the long haul. That’s where LNG comes in.

UPS needed a derivative of the venerable diesel, something that could go 600 miles with heavy cargo-laden trailer and power the engine of an 18-wheeler over a mountain if necessary. Taking the proven diesel tractor and adapting it to run on liquefied natural gas is UPS’s answer. The solution is straightforward. Implementing it is a little more complex.

Liquefied natural gas, or LNG, is an extremely dense fuel that is created by cooling natural gas to -260 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, that’s not a typo. We’re talking the kind of cold that Boba Fett could use to freeze Han Solo. The kind of cold that can shatter a Terminator into a million pieces.

The LNG, through a special fueling apparatus, is poured into two 70-gallon tanks on the modified diesel tractor. Another 20-gallon tank is filled with diesel—the catalyst, the plunger for the dynamite. Small amounts of diesel and large amounts of LNG are fired into the engine’s combustion chamber under high pressure, where the diesel ignites the super-cooled liquid gas.

The result? A 450-horsepower tractor trailer springs off the line with its cargo, except this time, it’s accomplishing this task using only 5 percent of the diesel usually needed and with 25 percent fewer greenhouse gas emissions and 90 percent fewer NOx and PM emissions. The best part is it still packs the energy to get a 600-mile range in all driving conditions. So far, we have 11 LNGs in California and have purchased another 48.

If it were an alternative like compressed natural gas (CNG), it wouldn’t be dense enough to pack into reasonably-sized tanks. In fact, to get 600 miles worth of energy out of CNG or electric, you’d need an extra trailer full of CNG or batteries in addition to your cargo!

Just imagine if Optimus Prime had to haul two trailers every time he and the Autobots went looking for Megatron. Wait, do Transformers even use fuel? And if they do, are they switching over to alternatives? They’re pretty smart. I’m sure Wheeljack and Ratchet are working on it as we speak.

UPS tractor trailers—Transform to LNGs and roll out!

Category: Sustainability
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