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Evidence of meeting #42 for Transport, Infrastructure and Communities in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was vehicles.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Steve Clark  Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation
Todd Mouw  Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech
Cameron Stewart  President, Maxquip

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

So you just cannot recover the capital cost within any reasonable timeframe?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

We cannot at the current time. It's three times the initial purchase price for the most part.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Do you expect that will change in the next several years?

9:35 a.m.

Director, Fleet Management, Canada Post Corporation

Steve Clark

I think with more public adoption and the ability to have commercial charging facilities, that will change.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Conservative Nepean—Carleton, ON

Okay. Thanks.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Mr. Richards.

June 7th, 2012 / 9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Thank you.

I have a series of questions for you, Mr. Stewart, on the DieselFlex technology, so I hope we can get through them all. We'll do our best anyway.

Does DieselFlex technology work in any diesel-powered vehicle? I think there has to be some kind of a conversion, obviously, but can it be done in any diesel-powered vehicle, or are there certain restrictions on what types of vehicles it can be used in?

9:35 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

We offer two different systems. The DieselFlex system will operate on any turbo-charged diesel engine. The Dieselblend system will operate on any diesel engine that has an electronic control unit on it. The Dieselblend technology integrates with the OEM's electronic control unit for that engine. The DieselFlex does not integrate with the OEM's electronic control unit. It's totally independent. It works off of turbo-boost pressure and exhaust gas temperatures.

9:35 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Okay. So for the conversion process, what does that look like? What's involved in that? What's the cost?

9:35 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

The cost is typically going to be in the range of $3,000 to $5,000. The main variable there is the size of the propane storage tank that you're adding to the vehicle. In both kits, the LPG is added after the air filter and prior to the turbo, so it blends in with the air, so it goes into the engine with the air, and the diesel fuel goes in through its own current injection process.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Is there any interest now from OEMs in manufacturing vehicles with that technology already in them, utilizing it right from the beginning, rather than doing the conversion?

9:40 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

The only one I'm familiar with is Cummins, which, I think, just recently announced that it's going to be using some of that technology on its stationary industrial engines, larger horsepower engines, which are typically used for power generation in remote sites. I believe they're going to be making that available in the next couple of years.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

Why only in that application is it being looked at, and why not in other uses in vehicles?

9:40 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

From an OEM standpoint, I'm not exactly sure. We supply this technology for stationary applications, as well as for on-road and off-road. We put them on farm equipment, diesel-powered tractors, highway tractors, passenger buses. Tyt Transport in Quebec has a few units on the highway. With a stationary engine, I guess maybe they're looking at the convenience of putting in a propane tank. Sometimes it's a little more awkward adding a propane fuel tank to an on-highway vehicle.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

As far as refuelling is concerned, is that one of the barriers? Essentially, you have two different tanks and you refill both and it injects from whichever tank you're using. Is that correct? Does it essentially work that way in terms of refuelling?

9:40 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

That's correct. You would have to refuel the diesel tank and the propane tank on that vehicle.

In terms of refuelling, when you add the system for LPG auto gas, you run into some of the same challenges we've talked about if you're converting a gasoline engine to run exclusively on LPG.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

What about mechanical repairs, maintenance, and that sort of thing? Are mechanics required to be certified differently? I would assume they probably must be. Is that a barrier for people being able to use this technology, to convert over to this technology? Is that one of the reasons why OEMs aren't looking at it, because the maintenance and repair costs are difficult? Or is it difficult to find mechanics who are certified?

9:40 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

I don't believe it is difficult to find mechanics. Essentially, when we look at training or certifying people to work on any LPG system, whether it's the DieselFlex, the Dieselblend, or a vapour sequential injection system, or a liquid injection system, we need to start with a trained automotive mechanic. We train them properly on the operating principles of the LPG auto gas and then train them on the specific equipment they're using in their fleet.

There certainly is an added cost to the maintenance of the equipment. On the flip side, on these DieselFlex systems you can realize cost savings of 10% to 15%. On some of these larger highway tractors, that adds up to a lot of money. So they have to look at their individual situation and see if there's a reasonable pay-back on that investment and training.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

You mentioned that there is some increase in repair and maintenance costs. Would that be offset, or do you think you would still come out ahead?

9:40 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

I guess the increase might be for training their people to be able to handle and maintain that equipment, but I don't believe the equipment itself adds any incremental maintenance cost to the engine itself.

9:40 a.m.

Conservative

Blake Richards Conservative Wild Rose, AB

So it's more on the training side.

I guess the only other question I have at this point is in terms of propane. I think it was you, Mr. Stewart, who mentioned this, but I would ask you and Mr. Mouw if you have anything to add to it as well. We've heard before about the issue of parking propane vehicles in underground parking garages and that kind of thing. I think Mr. Stewart mentioned there are some barriers that exist there. Can either or both of you tell us a little bit more about what those barriers are? Obviously, if you have safety issues, do you have evidence you can provide us that they are safe to be in underground garages? If so, could you share that with us? Also, could you explain to us the how and why of what those barriers are and how they would be removed?

9:45 a.m.

President, Maxquip

Cameron Stewart

In our business we're talking to fleets all the time about the pros and cons of converting their vehicles to run on LPG auto gas. Typically with courier companies in certain municipalities, they have to do deliveries and go underground to do that. One of the barriers they have to deal with is that they can't take these propane-powered vehicles underground.

With a propane tank, if it is filled to 80% it's totally safe to go into such environments. As long as the tank is not being overfilled there should be no venting issues with the product. There should be no reason for it to expand and escape from the tank. So as long as people are using the auto-stop filler valves that have been available since the mid-1990s, there should be no reason from a safety standpoint why these vehicles cannot go in underground parkades.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

I have to stop you there. I'm sorry.

Before I recognize Mr. Sullivan, in the United States have they adopted rules and regulations that apply to propane and natural gas? Part of our challenge is to find ways of reducing the barriers for usage. Would the regulations be the same if we were looking at propane and natural gas, or would we have to make adjustments for each one of them?

9:45 a.m.

Vice-President, Alternative Fuels, Roush Cleantech

Todd Mouw

I think you'd have to face four regulations that are the same, but the operating principles of propane and natural gas are a little bit different. Propane is typically a couple of hundred psi versus natural gas, which is 3,000 psi or greater. Propane is heavier than air and settles. Natural gas evaporates but rises to higher points. So there are some safety precautions that would be unique to each, but I think the regulations could be discussed by looking at the commonalities between them and start there, then looking at the unique differences and then craft a policy around those unique differences.

In the United States today there are some states that allow natural gas vehicles in tunnels, but they don't allow propane vehicles in tunnels. I'm not sure why. It goes back to education. For example, in New York State they didn't allow propane vehicles in the tunnels. They now do because we provided them the documentation showing them that it's safe and that there's no reason not to allow them.

9:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Merv Tweed

Great. I think it would be helpful for the committee to have some of that information made available to us.