The California Energy Commission (CEC) on Wednesday approved a $1 million grant to develop a large size (12-liter) version of a natural gas vehicle (NGV) engine that produces near-zero (NZ) nitrogen oxide tailpipe emissions.

Under the grant, the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) will work with Canadian-based Cummins Westport, a producer of smaller NZ NGV engines, to develop a commercial 12-liter version.

As promoted at the Alternative Clean Transportation Expo earlier this year, the NZ NGV engine using renewable natural gas (RNG), or biomethane, can attain levels of cleanliness that surpass electric vehicles (see Daily GPI, May 6).

CEC’s grant will focus on existing engine research. including engine development and on-road vehicle demonstrations, according to the state agency, which also handed out awards for compressed natural gas (CNG) fueling infrastructure.

“[A 12-liter NZ] engine will offer fleets an option for larger vehicles, such as drayage trucks equipped with NGV NZ technology,” said a CEC spokesperson, noting the drayage trucks are ubiquitous in Southern California as a means to haul cargo containers from the busy Long Beach and Los Angeles ports to distribution centers and rail yards inland.

“The development of the NGV engine also will help meet California Air Resources Board (CARB) 1020 emissions standards and support efforts to improve air quality in the SCAQMD and San Joaquin Valley air basins,” the spokesman said.

CARB’s Sustainable Freight Action Plan, released earlier this year, underscores the impact that heavy duty vehicles play in the state’s aggressive goals for reducing climate change emissions.

Separately, the CEC on Wednesday awarded a $500,000 grant to the Fullerton Joint Union High School District to upgrade its CNG fueling infrastructure in La Habra, CA. The upgrade will include improvements and expansion to the school district’s fleet refueling system, along with an added fast-fill dispenser for public use.

With the upgraded NGV fueling, the school district plans to retire more diesel and gasoline-powered vehicles in its bus and service vehicle fleets. The upgrades will also help Fullerton schools meet 10-year plans for increasing use of CNG.

The dual hose fast-fill dispensers on the public CNG vending islands will operate unmanned 24/7, with an automated payment system.