November 2010, Business Fleet - Cover Story
New Strategies for Managing Diesel Fleets
Soaring pump prices and new emissions controls have made running trucks and vans on diesel an expensive proposition. Learn how fleet managers and OEMs are responding to the high cost of lower emissions.
By investing in propane injection systems for County Beverage’s medium-duty trucks, Ron Burkhart has realized a fuel economy improvement of up to 100 percent and reduced his diesel spend by about a third.
New Retrofit Burns Cleaner Diesel
Ron Burkhart runs a fleet of 35 medium-duty trucks, most of them Kenworth T300s and International HT 570s, for County Beverage, an Anheuser-Busch wholesaler in Lee's Summit, Mo. The 30-year fleet veteran and longtime truck mechanic was searching for a diesel alternative, but instead found a system that works with his existing diesel engines to make them burn cleaner and get better fuel economy.
Burkhart uses an injection system from Diesel Performance Products (DPP) that mixes propane vapor with diesel fuel on the intake stroke. The bolt-on system, called Powershot 2000, uses a patented regulator/valve design to gauge boost pressure and inject propane from a proprietary tank; either progressively or variably with the turbo boost pressure. The result is an approximately 30 percent LPG, 70 percent diesel mix. The compression ignites the diesel fuel, which in turn ignites the LPG. The result is a cleaner burn - up to 100 percent of the diesel in the chamber - and less "black smoke."
"When we started back in 2000, our focus was on performance," says DPP's founder, Keith Long. "We began to see Powershot as 'green' technology around the same time fuel prices shot up, in 2007."
The results for County Beverage have been impressive. Burkhart has seen a nearly 100 percent improvement in fuel economy, burning eight to 10 miles per gallon in trucks that used to get four or five. Overall, he has reduced his fuel spend by about a third, and his drivers are happy as well.
"They love it for the performance," Burkhart says. "These trucks have 250 or 275 horsepower, and they start out loaded heavy. With the propane injection system, they can get up hills, pass cars - it has all the power they need."
It's clear that diesel is in a transition phase, but the fuel's leadership role in truck applications is in no immediate danger. Until the economies of scale catch up to the goals of clean-air advocates, fleet managers and manufacturers will continue to find ways to adapt to the new rules of the road.