Blasting into the future with gaseous ingenuity, Toyota Transport, the automaker’s in-house vehicle transportation trucking branch, has unleashed the first car hauler in its fleet to run on Compressed Natural Gas (CNG). Looking to all the world like a regular big-rig, the Long Beach-based Peterbilt does what every other hauler out there does, except for the fact that it’s emitting 85% less particulate matter and 10% less carbon dioxide. Originally commissioned by Toyota, this rig was custom designed and built in collaboration with Peterbilt and Cottrell, Inc., the respective truck and trailer manufacturers.
“We started exploring the CNG option more than three years ago, and it has been worth the wait,” says Kirk Welch, Senior Analyst for Toyota Transport Compliance in an official press release. “Natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel and will help Toyota advance our environmental efforts to reduce fleet emissions.”
That’s not to say that there weren’t design problems along the way; the initial placement of alternative fuel tanks presented quite the headache for engineers looking to utilize a rig that tows a 9-car trailer and an over-the-cab head rack. Eventually this obstacle was overcome, and after closely working around Toyota’s specs, Peterbilt and Cottrell developed a unique combination that accommodated both CNG tanks, and a trailer that didn’t compromise any extra hauling space in the head rack area.
“Cottrell, Inc. is proud to help Toyota become the first domestic carrier to employ a CNG fueled car hauler. This was a first for Toyota Logistics but also for Cottrell. We were able to work with Peterbilt and Agility Fuel Systems to alter the design of our head rack to accommodate the natural gas tanks while still maximizing payload” says Adam Strong, Western Regional Sales Manager for Cottrell, Inc.
As of now, Toyota Transport’s southern California Vehicle Delivery Operations in Long Beach and Mira Loma have 32 diesel-powered trucks in service. With the group delivering around 200,000 vehicles annually, many of these trucks see over 100,000 miles of asphalt-time a year. The automaker plans on deploying the CNG-equipped truck in Long Beach as a test mule to evaluate both performance and efficiency numbers against the current trucks in a close-to-home, snow-free environment. Expected to hit an average of 7,000-8,000 miles per month, this massive metallic guinea pig is a prototype that Toyota hopes will become a poster child for the future of freight.
Unleashing this truck on America’s roads marks the automaker’s latest environmental endeavor supporting the EPA’s SmartWay program, something Toyota calls “a public-private initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution created by freight transportation in corporate supply chains.” Toyota’s commitment to Mother Earth has been pretty widely recognized, even outside of the new Prius and Hybrid RAV4 offerings, winning a SmartWay Excellence Award this year for its Truck Carrier program.
Since 2004, SmartWay and its partners have saved over 144.3 million barrels of oil and $20.6 billion in fuel costs, with clean air achievements eliminating 61.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, 1,070,000 tons of nitrogen oxides, and 43,000 tons of particulate matter. Think that’s a lot? Imagine all of the crap that isn’t curbed by the EPA, hitting our environment with countless carbon-clad knuckles every minute of every day, slowly stamping-out any chance future generation’s will have of living a pollution-free existence.
Not to sound like a total pessimist, but even the most advanced movements toward alternative energy are bad for the environment. The SolaRoad from the Netherlands looks absolutely amazing, but the last time we checked solar cells were pretty goddamn bad for the environment, during both the manufacturing and refinement process. Many steel manufacturers want to turn spent gases into alternative fuel, but that yields headaches like sub-par conversion levels, high energy consumption rates, and unexpected environmental side effects. Wide-scale hydrogen use is too bloody expensive and energy-intensive, Audi blended water and C02 together to make crude diesel, but no one trusts the technology, harnessing lightning to power electric cars is shockingly expensive and dangerous, and Toyota’s own Denso Group can turn microalgae into crude in no time flat, but the process requires massive amounts of electricity.
Oh, and as for Compressed Natural Gas, I reported earlier in the year that all the negatives associated with drilling for natural gas tend to offset many of its benefits to the environment. The extraction process is a a filthy one, so no matter how environmentally friendly the EPA says this tractor-trailer may be, there is no getting around the fact that every day watersheds across America are getting poisoned by natural gas-related fracking.