Tyson Foods to test opposed-piston technology engine

 Tyson Foods will be testing a tractor that will utilize Achates Power’s opposed-piston engine technology that is said to reduce NOx emissions by 90% from current standards. ( Photo: Truckstockimages.com )

Tyson Foods will be testing a tractor that will utilize Achates Power’s opposed-piston engine technology that is said to reduce NOx emissions by 90% from current standards. (Photo: Truckstockimages.com)

With recent news that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to address oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from heavy-duty trucks, it is timely that a demonstrator program is working toward developing an alternative combustion engine that would meet a potentially lower limit.

The Achates Power program, managed by CALSTART and partially funded by the California Air Resources Board (CARB), has developed an opposed-piston (OP) engine that program organizers say will reduce NOx levels to 90% of current standards. Current NOx levels are set at 0.20 g/bhp-hr., and CARB and others are pushing the EPA to lower that level by – surprisingly, 90%.

Regardless of what the final levels are set at, the Achates program has picked up another test fleet in Tyson Foods, which plans to deploy an OP engine-equipped tractor in a feasibility study early next year. The pilot, expected to last into the second quarter of 2020, will delivery customer shipments from Tyson’s Tolleson, AZ, facility, throughout California, explains Rob Lyall, vice president of transportation.

“We actively research emerging motor technologies to further reduce freight costs and lessen our environmental footprint,” Lyall tells FreightWaves. “The 15% reduced CO2 emissions and 90% NOx emission reductions of the Achates Power opposed-piston engine are promising features for an engine that has potential to meet the needs of our fleet.”

According to Achates, its OP technology utilizes “two pistons per cylinder, working in opposite reciprocating action, these engines do not need cylinder heads which are a major contributor to heat losses in conventional engines. Ports in the cylinder walls replace the complex poppet valves and friction-creating valve trains of conventional engines. The intake ports at one end of the cylinder and exhaust ports at the other are opened by the piston motion and enable efficient uniflow air scavenging.”

While Tyson is always looking for technologies that could help it meet its 30 by 30 environmental target (30% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030), the size and scope of the fleet is a concern when considering alternative power engines, Lyall notes.

The company is also launching a test of an all-electric terminal tractor.

“While fuel efficiency and emission reduction are the primary performance factors of this pilot, we’re also interested in comparing this technology to current internal combustion engine technology,” Lyall says. “Our long-term goal is to stay on the leading edge of motor technologies that increase engine performance while minimalizing maintenance requirements. These are two factors that can impact total freight costs.”

The Achates Power engine project is being funded with a $7M grant awarded by CARB. It calls for the development of two Achates Power OP engines into two separate Class 8 trucks to be operational by 2020. Tyson will be trialing one of those and Walmart the other. Tyson’s engine will be inputted into a Peterbilt 579 (NASDAQ: PCAR) model built specifically for the Achates engine.

“Performance and efficiency are primary factors we will be evaluating through the pilot project,” Lyall points out. “Achates Power reports the engine will perform comparably to existing engine designs with respect to horsepower, torque and load capacity. The technology is promising and we’re eager to see the results.”

Achates says it has 10 “concurrent customers” with contracts covering five different engine applications: passenger vehicle, light commercial, heavy commercial, military, and marine/stationary power.

Tyson will be working with the programs other participants to discuss maintenance of the vehicle.

The project team consists of Aramco Services, BASF, Corning, Dana, Delphi, Eaton (NYSE: ETN), Faurecia, Federal Mogul, Honeywell (NYSE: HON), Litens and Federal Mogul, along with the Southwest Research Institute. CALSTART is managing the project and will collect and analyze emissions and performance data.