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Seattle Industry Online is published by the Manufacturing Industrial Council of Seattle

Fall 2008 Issue - Special Report

Doing Well While Doing Good


Posted: December, 2008

Kenworth And Foss Pioneer Greener Truck And Tugs

by: Barbara Clements

Even before the alarm bells rang about global warming, freight businesses and port authorities were concerned about the growing volumes of diesel emissions that were clouding the nation’s seaports due to the dramatic growth in global commerce.

Because of these developments, two of the Pacific Northwest’s oldest companies – Foss Maritime, and PACCAR, through its subsidiary, Kenworth Truck – began exploring how they might use some of the world’s newest technologies to “green up” their tugs and trucks to reduce emissions.

Now that their new products are about to hit the market, the two companies may reap a bonus they weren’t originally counting on. With diesel bumping up against the $5 a gallon mark, up 50 percent from two years ago, their new trucks and tug may be more appealing to customers because they not only reduce fuel emissions, they also reduce fuel consumption and expensive maintenance cycles.

Kenworth began production this fall of its new diesel-electric hybrids and will begin producing a Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) truck in 2009.

Founded in 1889, Seattle-based Foss Maritime is nearly finished building the first hybrid tugboat. When construction is complete the tug will be deployed at the Port of Long Beach in Southern California, where it will be the first tug to exceed the port’s new air quality standards.

Internal support for developing the new technologies came from company leadership and a commitment to “do the right thing.” Now, like the Quakers in early Pennsylvania who profited from many of their good works, it appears the companies will wind up doing well by doing good.

Kenworth Truck CompanyKenworth Hybrid Lift Truck

Green for both the short and long haul
Just back from a U.S. tour, the two trucks gleamed – one blue, one neon yellow – in the Kenworth Truck Company parking lot outside its research and development facility in Renton.

One was a midsized delivery truck – the backbone of the distribution industry. The other was a utility truck equipped with a lift. Kenworth believes both medium-duty trucks represent a big part of the company’s future.

The trucks – officially named the Kenworth T270 and T370 models – are diesel-electric hybrids and, like the popular Toyota Prius, they are equipped with technology that reduces carbon emissions while getting good fuel mileage, making them ideal for stop-and-go urban driving. Each hybrid truck has a monitor in the cab so the driver can determine which source of power the truck is using.

The Kenworth hybrids use an integral transmission-mounted motor/generator, a frame-mounted 340-volt, lithium-ion battery pack, and a dedicated power-management system.

Advanced powertrain controls monitor driving conditions and automatically select the ideal power mode, smoothly switching among electric-only, combined diesel and electric, and diesel-only power modes. Electricity generated through regenerative braking is stored and used for acceleration, assisting the diesel engine. The hybrid system is monitored through a dash display. As the power requirements for different driving conditions change, the screen constantly updates the driver on system status.

The hybrids will cost about $40,000 more than comparable medium- duty trucks. But buyers should be able to recoup the higher purchase price in four or five years through lower fuel bills.

The hybrids will get about 8 to 10 miles per gallon. A comparable diesel truck gets 6 to 8. That difference means a fuel savings for customers of up to $10,000 a year, according to Kenworth. Customers may also be eligible for a tax credit from the federal government of up to $12,000 per truck.

While commercial production of the hybrids began in late summer at the PACCAR plant in Ste. Theresa, Quebec, over 130 limited-production vehicles have been sold to Kenworth customers over the past year. These included a truck with an aerial lift operated by the King County Department of Transportation and a delivery truck driven by Dunn Lumber in Seattle.

Mark Geyer, fleet manager for Dunn Lumber, said his company’s Kenworth hybrid truck at first got about 7 miles to the gallon while using the prototype battery. But after Kenworth installed the production model battery mileage improved to 10. The company based the hybrid truck at its store in the Wallingford neighborhood in north Seattle, an area with an extraordinary number of Priuses whizzing around local streets.

“It’s pretty exciting technology,” Geyer said. “Customers appreciated that our company was doing something to help the environment.”

Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Enterprises bought 120 Kenworth hybrid trucks for its distribution fleet and rising fuel costs have spurred other orders.

“The environmental payback–the reduction of greenhouse gas and emissions – it’s important to us as a company, and for our customers,” said Preston Feight, Kenworth’s chief engineer. “All this is making them very interested in this type of technology.”

Another part of Kenworth’s future is riding on the success of the T800, a larger, heavy-duty truck powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG). Earlier this year, Kenworth announced it will expand its presence in the growing LNG market by producing the LNG trucks at its Renton plant in 2009.

Company officials expect to see significant market demand for the T800, especially from southern California ports. The move to produce the truck coincides with the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach approving a new $1.6 billion Clean Trucks Program to help companies retrofit or buy replacements for the 168,000 big Class Eight diesel rigs that work at the ports.

Kenworth will use the Vancouver, B.C.– based Westport Innovations Inc. LNG fuel system technology, which was adapted for a Cummins 15-liter engine. Westport’s fuel technology is currently the only alternative fuel system that meets the qualifications set by the California Clean Truck Fund.

About 200 T800s have already been delivered or are on the way to customers serving the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Eight of the trucks are currently in operation with Total Transportation Services, Inc., in Rancho Dominguez, California. These eight are the first alternative fuel vehicles to operate in full-time drayage service at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach under the Clean Trucks initiative.

Innovation is nothing new at Kenworth, PACCAR, or the company’s other subsidiary, Peterbilt Motors Company. PACCAR trucks typically cost more but their customers pay because of the company’s longstanding reputation for high quality, dependable products, and high resale values.

Originally founded in 1905 to build railroad cars at what is now the site of the Nucor Steel plant in West Seattle, PACCAR is the second largest truck manufacturer in the United States and ranks third globally for “big rig” truck production PACCAR earned the National Medal of Technology in 2006 for its leadership in developing aerodynamic, lightweight commercial vehicles that have dramatically reduced fuel consumption and increased the productivity of freight transportation. The medal was accepted on behalf of PACCAR and its employees by Chairman and CEO Mark C. Pigott during a ceremony with President Bush at the White House.

Truck sales have slowed in the past year or so due to the cyclical nature of the industry, but in 2007 PACCAR still turned a net profit. It was the 69th year in a row that PACCAR did so. Which just goes to show “green” isn’t exactly a new concept at the PACCAR family of companies.

Foss Hybrid TugFoss hybrid tug in production

Foss Maritime was founded in Tacoma by a Norwegian immigrant named Thea Foss, who later became the model for the female hero of the Tugboat Annie movies. The company thrived in the last chapter of the sailing age because the sheltered waters of Puget Sound often lacked reliable wind, creating a thriving market for tow and tugboat services.

More than a century later, Foss continues to make waves as a national leader in the tow industry, and later this year it will produce the world’s first hybrid tug at its shipyard in Oregon.

The concept for the hybrid emerged about two years ago when Susan Hayman, vice president of environmental development at Foss, mulled over the idea of a hybrid tug with colleague John Barrett, Foss’s fleet engineering manager and champion of the idea for the hybrid tug at the company.

How could they make a hybrid boat? Would there be a market for it? Where would it be used? Should they try retrofitting an existing tug or build a new tug? Where would the batteries go? Would the batteries be too heavy?

In considering these questions, the pair used as their model another hybrid – a short-haul switch locomotive developed by RailPower Technologies.

After coming up with a working concept, the engineering team got the go-ahead from Foss president Gary Faber; the Foss team then developed the prototype in partnership with a Canadian firm, AKA Group, and Vancouver, B.C. designer Robert Allen.

The trick was to figure out how to engineer the hybrid tug so it was dependable and cost effective. The tug has two main engines, each 1,800 horsepower. The engines are smaller than the ones in a regular tug, but generate the same horsepower. The hybrid tug also has 600 hp in batteries. The energy management system was developed by the AKA Group, a Canadian systems integrator, and its affiliate, XeroPoint Energy.

The batteries will kick in when the engine is idling, which is 65 percent of the time. In all, the hybrid engine will cut PM and NOx emissions by 44 percent, and fuel costs by 30 percent. That adds up fast because tugs normally burn up to 5,000 gallons of fuel daily.

The $8 million hybrid cost about $2 million more to build than a regular tug, and Foss received about $1 million in assistance from the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The tug will be operating in San Pedro Harbor sometime in December.

In the future Hayman will be looking into alternative forms of fuel, like LNG, because the Hybrid can operate using any fuel source. Hayman also said Foss is considering retrofitting some of its existing tugs to hybrid technology.

The company’s colors are dark green with white trim, but even so the hybrid wasn’t the company’s first green endeavor.

Foss provides a “shore power” system to power up its boats at the dock – literally plugging the tugs into the electrical grid while they’re parked there. Foss has also switched its entire fleet to burn ultra-low-sulfur diesel, the cleanest fuel available.

“It costs a little more,” Hayman said of the fuel switch. “But it results in a huge environmental benefit.”

She is grateful that Foss management gave the go-ahead for the hybrid in spite of high development costs. Innovation at Foss dates back to the company’s First Lady, Thea, who turned Foss into a powerhouse back in the days when tugs were powered by a precursor to gasoline, naphtha.

“It’s part of our core values,” Hayman said. “Maybe we can’t solve all of the world’s problems, but we do what we can. We want to be on the leading edge.”