Bankrolled by $7.1 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), researchers at Southern California Gas Co. (SoCalGas) are partnering with three organizations to advance natural gas technologies in the transportation sector.


SoCalGas plans to kick in another $730,000 for the projects. The Sempra Energy utility is partnering with Cummins Inc., the Gas Technology Institute (GTI) and the West Virginia University (WVU) research corporation to expand fuel cell and near-zero emission natural gas technologies, along with reducing alternative fuel vehicle maintenance costs.

In conjunction with Cummins, SoCalGas plans to develop a single prototype zero-emission fuel cell design for hydrogen fuel cells to power heavy duty trucks and transit buses. Aiming for advances that are “modular, sclable, and fully integrated” in trucks and buses, the project seeks to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and air pollution. 

Another collaboration plans to develop and demonstrate a natural gas hybrid rail locomotive to lower emissions and operate on renewable natural gas. The plan is to create a “commercially viable compressed natural gas (CNG) hybrid system” to power a 4,300 hp rail locomotive. 

The third project involves WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions to study the difference in maintenance and labor costs for alternative fuel trucks powered by natural gas, propane and electricity compared to standard diesel trucks. 

For SoCalGas, the trio of projects is part of the utility’s broader strategic goal of becoming “the cleanest gas utility in North America,” according to Yuri Freedman, senior director of business development.