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Cummins reworking its engine families to run on multiple low-carbon fuels

Engine maker goes agnostic on fuel source, as long as it is low carbon

Cummins is changing its manufacturing processes to make all of its engine families capable of running on diesel, natural gas or hydrogen. (Photo: Cummins)

Cummins Inc. is making all its engine families capable of running on diesel, natural gas or hydrogen in a move to meet its pledge of reducing lifetime greenhouse gas emissions from its new engines 25% by the end of the decade.

The fuel-agnostic engines will use engine blocks with the same architecture and core components but customized for different fuels. These new platforms will draw on lessons from millions of diesel and natural gas engines in use. Cummins will leverage digital and connected technologies to adjust for different engine duty cycles.

The Columbus, Indiana-based company also wants to partner with its customers to cut 55 million metric tons of GHG from existing products by 2030.

“Getting to zero is not a light-switch event. Carbon emissions that we put into the atmosphere today will have a lasting impact,” Srikanth Padmanabhan, president, Cummins Engine Business, said in a press release. “This means anything we can do to start reducing the carbon footprint today is a win for the planet.

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“We cannot wait for the perfect solution to happen. Instead, our approach must be a combined effort of using zero emissions power where it’s available and using cleaner power where it is not. The planet cannot afford for us to hit pause in the meantime.”

Earlier hints

Cummins (NYSE: CMI) executives had previously talked about using a 15-liter natural gas engine that debuted in China last year as the basis for a multiple fuels approach. On Monday, the company expanded that to all its B-, L- and X-series engine families.

Cummins is making all its engine families capable of running on natural gas, hydrogen or diesel fuel. (Photo: Cummins)

“Having a variety of lower-carbon options is particularly important considering the variation in duty cycles and operating environments across the many markets we serve,” Padmanabhan said. “There is no single solution or ‘magic bullet’ that will work for all application types or all end users.”

Below the head gasket of each engine will largely have similar components, and above the head gasket will have different components for different fuel types.

“What we’re going to do is launch a set of platforms this decade whose bottom end looks the same and whose top end is able to take a range of gaseous fuels,” Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger told FreightWaves in a December interview.

Cummins sees the manufacturing change as benefitting truck OEMs and end users through similar engine footprints, diagnoses and service intervals. Manufacturers will be able to integrate a variety of fuel types across the same truck chassis with minimal costs to train technicians and retool service locations. That should result in a lower total cost of ownership for the end user. 

“No matter what type of work a fleet does, we’ll have an engine powered by lower-carbon fuels with diesel-like performance to get the job done,” said Jonathon White, vice president of engineering in Cummins’ Engine Business.

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Alan Adler

Alan Adler is an award-winning journalist who worked for The Associated Press and the Detroit Free Press. He also spent two decades in domestic and international media relations and executive communications with General Motors.