Canada’s first natural gas-electric hybrid to be demonstrated

AYR, Ont. - Hiller Truck Tech has taken delivery of the first natural gas-electric hybrid Class 8 tractor, which it plans to demonstrate June 18-19. The 2015 Freightliner Cascadia has a 12L Cummins natural gas engine, coupled with a retrofit Hyliion electric axle. The combination, according to Hiller Truck Tech owner Dave Hiller, overcomes the weight restrictions that have thus far limited adoption of the Cummins ISX 12G natural gas engine in Canada.

Immediately upon taking delivery of the tractor, Hiller said it was put to the test grossing 124,000 lbs pulling a load of corn. He's confident the combination will be a good fit for fleets wanting a low-GHG engine capable of pulling heavier payloads. Some big-name fleets, including Groupe Robert, C.A.T., Loblaw, Challenger, The Beer Store, municipalities and others are expected to attend the two-day demonstration, Hiller said.

Afterwards, Hiller Truck Tech will rent out the truck so that fleets can test it in their own operating environments.

(Photo: Hiller Truck Tech)

Hiller is located at the Flying J Truck Stop in Ayr, Ont., at Exit 268 off the 401. Keeping all Covid-related precautions in mind, visitors will have the opportunity to take the truck for a test drive and to learn more about the technology. The demos will run from 9 a.m. till 6 p.m. both days.

The Hyliion axle can be factory-installed or retrofit, with some additional wiring and electronics work required at a plant in Austin, Texas. Dana is part-owner of the e-axle company. The first batch of natural gas-electric hybrids were delivered to a grocery delivery company in New York, Hiller said, adding the company has placed a second order for more units.

The ISX 12G produces just 400 hp, but propulsion assistance provided by the Hyliion e-axle makes it compatible for heavier payloads required in Canada. But Cummins has thus far refused to budge on increasing warranty coverage for gross weights in excess of 80,000 lbs. Hiller said talks are in progress to discuss this issue.

"We are talking to them now, saying this is an electric assist system. There's also some aftermarket warranty we can purchase," Hiller said. "This is all new to Cummins, and they are still stating 'No, this is supposed to be an 80,000-lb truck (engine).'" Hiller is optimistic the combination could be a good alternative for fleets, such as Robert, which were reliant on the now-discontinued 15L Westport LNG engines.

Hiller acknowledged there will be a 10-20% fuel economy penalty compared to diesel, but added natural gas is less expensive, helping to offset higher operating costs.

There is also a growing network of renewable natural gas supply stations available to help fleets significantly lower their GHG emissions.

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