Bruce Winchester, Executive Director at Canadian Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance

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Canada: A modest Natural Gas Vehicle deployment, but a leader in developing NGV technology

A natural gas bus drives past you, and it suddenly lights a bulb inside your head, it quickly triggers a click on your mind on how to save money, on how to help your country.

This happened to Bruce Winchester around 2009 while working for the Ministry of Natural Resources in Canada, without knowing that several years after that he would be the Natural Gas Vehicle Alliance Executive Director.

Check the full interview:

With all his public policy background experience, he represents the industry (producers, distributors, equipment, fleet users) in one of the countries with the most prolific technology developments around the NGV sector.

The alliance is looking deeply into the medium and heavy-duty transportation sector, as a result of an evolution in the demand for economic options for long haul trucks.

Bruce recalls the very early developments for Westport, were the beginnings for the 1985 Hamilton Street Railway’s world’s first CNG Bus Fleet with 7 buses converted from Diesel. But also, the gas utility companies started supporting taxis and light-duty vehicle fueling stations.

Bruce Winchester

Several years after that, when price difference came into place and decreased the adoption of light-duty, heavy-duty long haul trucks got more and more interested. A lot of light-duty stations around Canada have disappeared and have been replaced by large stations, receiving mainly class-8 trucks, with very impressive compression equipment and huge operations.

A good amount of federal programs have been put in place over the years, including a specific program where the point was to support new natural gas stations for public access (meaning several fleets) through repayable contributions, so if the station is very successful, the federal government would be benefited as well.

At this moment Canada showcases around 140 refueling locations, where about 45 of are high capacity, in great locations specific for the long-haul transportation sector. The remaining of those are time filling stations for refuse or bus fleets. Not very impressive numbers considering that Canada is the 3rd largest natural gas producing country in the world.

Also, the “Go with natural gas” brand, was developed as an industry-government alliance. It is a go-to resource for Canadian fleets interested in learning more about natural gas vehicles including the availability of factory-built trucks and buses, driving range, technology improvements, stations, emissions benefits, payback and fuel savings as well as learning about how natural gas compares to diesel in terms of energy use, properties, and safe handling.

Go With Natural Gas

In Canada, transportation emissions are the 2nd highest greenhouse effect emissions source. The first being the oil and gas production sector. This has triggered province programs, where for instance Quebec and British Columbia offer huge support for fleets, meaning accessible rates or incentives in place. 

Companies like Waste Management have deployed multiple fleets, and municipal collection fleets have been using CNG for a long time now. It’s a huge opportunity to reduce emissions from transportation as Canada moves a considerable amount of goods every day. But it’s still a very modest adoption rate.

Ths slow adoption of natural gas vehicles in the country hasn’t stopped Canadians from innovating in the sector and becoming a reference worldwide with great products and solutions. New products like the Fuelmaker appliance, companies like GFi (a conversion kit manufacturer), and Cummins Westport came to the industry in Canada. 

The success stories of Canada in the NGV sector are tightly related to the long history of automotive manufacturing of the country. An industry with a long tradition in automotive technology innovation.

Cummins Westport, a leader in the heavy-duty sector besides developing first-class natural gas engines, has been leading innovation by developing the new High-Pressure Direct Injection system for LNG transport, dedicated to dual-fuel systems allows having even a 95% substitution. Agility, with ts renown products, also leads the area with a great R&D center and constantly building top of the line solutions for trucks and vehicles around the globe. A cylinder manufacturing company called Luxfer in Calgary, have also been a leader working with custom cylinders, and type 3 tanks. Kraus, the dispenser manufacturer is also a historic reference for Canadian high-quality manufacturing.

And even when adoption inside the country can be the Achilles Heel of the industry, the Vedder Transportation experience shows that Natural Gas is the viable option when it comes to an Alternative Fuel solution.

Vedder invested $12 million in the 50 LNG vehicles to transport milk, $3 million more than for ordinary diesel trucks. For Vedder, the LNG business case rests on the number of vehicles and the chance to reduce fuel costs. Savings from the use of LNG means that the fleet can pay back the investment in LNG vehicles in less than two years. 

….More in the Part 2 interview with Bruce that will be published on November 20th.

Here’s what we discuss in this episode:

  • How Bruce got into the NGV business (4:30)
  • About the development of the NGV Industry in Canada (10:00)
  • How the companies and truck fleets became interested in NGVs (14:02)
  • Greenhouse Effect Emissions in Canada (18:00)
  • What have been the Federal Government Initiatives regarding NGVs (19:01)
  • How the CNG station market evolved from light-duty to heavy-duty (24:00)
  • How many CNG stations does Canada have? (26:40)
  • The Vedder Transportation success story (29:15)
  • Why Canada is so related to the automotive innovation sector (31:55)
  • About the Cummins Westport, Agility, Luxfer, Kraus and Xebec success stories (40:01)
  • About Xebec Adsorption and other innovation companies (42:50)


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