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Werner broadens base as test bed for new trucking powertrain technologies

Hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine joins carrier’s myriad explorations

(Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

If there’s a new trucking technology to try, it’s a good bet that Werner Enterprises will be among the first to test it.

The latest example is a hydrogen-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) from Cummins Inc. that could bridge the gap to hydrogen-powered fuel cells.

Werner (NASDAQ: WERN), a dedicated truckload and logistics provider, also is in line to test a Class 8 fuel cell truck when Cummins (NYSE: CMI) and Navistar International are ready to provide it. That experiment was announced in November 2020.

But first, validation and integration of Cummins’ 15-liter natural gas engine begins in the second half of the year, Cummins announced in a press release on Friday. The Columbus, Indiana-based market leader in diesel engines has branched out into several alternative fuel and new power ventures, including battery-electric and fuel cell powertrains.

‘A range of gaseous fuels’

“I think the gaseous-fueled ICE is [going to be] around for a long time. What the gas is is what’s in question,” Cummins CEO Tom Linebarger told FreightWaves in a December interview. “We’re going to 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.”

“I think the gaseous-fueled ICE is [going to be] around for along time. What the gas is is what’s in question.”

Tom Linebarger, president and ceo, cummins inc.

Werner will get the large natural gas powerplant, which complements Cummins’ 12-liter natural gas engine. Cummins debuted the 15-liter in China in 2020. Inquiries of fleets in the U.S. found significant interest in the long-haul, on-highway version. It launches in 2024.

The 15-liter engine will offer up to 500 horsepower and 1,850 pound feet of torque, while bypassing selective catalytic reduction that diesel engines will need to meet tougher 2024 California Air Resources Board or Environmental Protection Agency emission standards.

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Running on renewable natural gas (RNG) made from non-petroleum-based feedstocks, the engine could potentially be a carbon-negative powerplant. The 15-liter can be paired with an Endurant HD automated manual transmission from the Eaton-Cummins joint venture and the Cummins fuel delivery system for a fully integrated natural gas powertrain.

“Our broad range of powertrain solutions from advanced diesel, natural gas, hydrogen to electrification allows Cummins to provide multiple options that meet our customers’ specific business needs and sustainability targets today,” said  Srikanth Padmanabhan, Cummins engine business president.  

Werner’s range of technology tests

Werner is also an adviser to startup Hyliion Holdings (NYSE: HYLN), which is developing a hybrid natural gas-electric powertrain that offers up to 100 miles of zero-emission electric range before switching to run on natural gas or RNG.

In January 2020, Werner was among the first recipients of the Peterbilt Model 579 electric truck. Werner has since evaluated a Class 8 Freightliner eCascadia from Daimler Truck. 

A year ago, Werner announced an investment in and joined the executive advisory board of autonomous tracking software developer TuSimple Holdings (NASDAQ: TSP), which is developing a Class 8 driverless truck with Navistar targeted for 2024.

But Cummins is at or near the top of Werner’s technology partners.

“The options Cummins is providing align with our long-standing focus on sustainability and reducing our carbon footprint,” said Derek Leathers, Werner chairman, president and CEO. “They understand the priority we place on using technology to minimize our impact on the environment.”

The FreightWaves Top 500 For-Hire Carriers list includes Werner Enterprises (No. 10).

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Click for more FreightWaves articles by Alan Adler.

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.