Navistar Inc., a major manufacturer of medium- and heavy-duty trucks, and natural gas transportation fuel and infrastructure leader Clean Energy Fuels Corp. said Wednesday their new strategic partnership will make it easier for truck fleet operators to switch to vehicles powered by either compressed natural gas (CNG) or liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Clean Energy is to provide the fuel and infrastructure while Navistar said it plans to offer the broadest range of Class 6-8 CNG/LNG-powered vehicles for medium- and heavy-duty vehicles.

The companies plan to build on Navistar’s existing integrated vehicle and powertrain platforms, which were built to run on natural gas. The partners hope to make it easier for fleets to invest in CNG and LNG transportation technologies, which include incentives to “neutralize” the cost difference for diesel fuel equivalent purchases.

Navistar has a network of dealers with links to major fleet operators, and Clean Energy is one of the leading providers of gas transportation fueling support systems. Clean Energy has been working with Pilot-Flying J Travel Centers to create a national “natural gas highway,” which eventually could have 150 fueling stations (see Daily GPI, Aug. 25, 2011). Ninety-eight of the fueling locations have been identified; 70 are expected to open by the end of this year.

Clean Energy’s Chief Marketing Officer James Harger said the deployment of “new, innovative heavy-duty natural gas engines” by original equipment truck makers like Navistar is “accelerating the transition to natural gas fuel as a game-changer for heavy-duty trucking.”

Navistar CEO Dan Ustian said natural gas has emerged as “the most realistic alternative fuel option for the trucking industry.” By working with Clean Energy, he hopes the partners can create “a breakthrough program” that offers fleet operators quicker payback on their investment, as well as fuel cost savings.

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