October 3, 2020. With 103 stores and two distribution centers across seven states, and more to come, Wegmans’ geographic footprint continues to grow, but at the same time, they’re taking steps to reduce their carbon footprint. One way they’re delivering on this commitment is through a focus on maintaining a well-tuned, efficient fleet. The stars of that fleet: a pair of new compressed natural gas (CNG) trucks, equipped with near-zero NOx emissions Cummins engines, and one, featuring a Hyliion Hybrid CNG system for increased power.
“Our early model CNG trucks were everything we hoped they would be from a diesel reduction standpoint. However, when compared to our diesel-powered trucks, it was clear that if we wanted to continue to increase the ratio of CNG trucks in our fleet, improvements in the trucks’ performance were needed,” said Matt Harris, Wegmans Fleet Maintenance Department Manager. “Historically, one of the biggest limitations with the CNG driveline, which holds true for our first-generation CNG trucks, is its lower horsepower and torque output that limits the amount of weight you can haul. In Wegmans’s case, this is important because we often pull tandem trailer sets on the Thruway, and that requires a lot of power.”
Just months after bringing CNG to the Rochester fleet, the Wegmans transportation department partnered with Hyliion, a leader in electrified powertrain solutions for Class 8 commercial vehicles, to retrofit an existing Wegmans’ CNG truck with an electric drive axle. The goal: give the truck the power it would need to make pulling tandems possible. After testing the system, it was clear it was a viable option.
In addition to the limitations in power and performance for hauling, the first generation CNG trucks lacked a high-performing transmission and had a lower fuel capacity than their diesel counterparts. This decreased the distance the trucks could go on a single tank and caused range anxiety for the drivers.
Enter two new Volvo CNG trucks. For more than two-and-half years, the fleet team has worked to build a CNG-powered truck that offers the power, performance, range, and driver comforts that allow for a completely reimagined, diesel-free fleet. Both Volvo CNG trucks offer a completely different transmission for improved shifting performance, as well as nicer comforts for drivers in the cab, with heated windshields, automatic wipers, and a back-up camera with an 8-inch screen. The trucks’ CNG systems, built by Agility and filled with fuel from NYS CNG partner, American Natural Gas, eliminate range anxiety with a 30 percent increase in fuel capacity over the older models, which puts them on par with any of our diesel trucks.
The first Volvo CNG truck Wegmans added to its fleet was designed to improve upon older CNG models and to be used exclusively for pulling a single trailer. The second is a hybrid Volvo truck with a Hyliion Hybrid CNG system, a true performance game changer that gives the truck enough torque and horsepower to pull a tandem set. As the first-ever Volvo truck fitted with the system, the two engineering teams worked together on the design and installation of the electric drive axle. While tweaks have been needed along the way, the truck can now consistently and confidently pull tandem trailer sets.
While the idea of a diesel-free fleet is now a reality, it will take time to achieve. Wegmans is currently operating 19 CNGs in its fleet of nearly 175 trucks, and two of those are equipped with the Hyliion system for tandem use. Wegmans plans to increase their overall number of CNGs in 2021, while continuing to make a case for more widespread use of tandem trailer application CNG trucks in the future.