ACI Bureau

Headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, USA, Agility Fuel Solutions is into clean fuel solutions. The company makes a variety of clean energy products to run trucks and buses instead of diesel. The company’s products include modular on-board storage systems for Compressed Natural Gas (CNG), Liquid Natural Gas (LNG), propane, and hydrogen; battery packs for electric and hybrid vehicles; low-emissions propane and natural gas engines, and propane dispensers.

In case of the CNG products, Agility manufactures Type-4 composite cylinders in its Lincoln, Nebraska, USA facility, the largest-capacity facility, globally, for the manufacture of composite CNG cylinders for vehicles. Agility’s products are sold to global automotive manufacturers including Daimler, Volvo, Scania, MAN, and New Flyer for use in their medium- and heavy-duty trucks and buses. The company and its predecessors sell clean fuel products in 45 countries. The company has operations in the USA, Canada, Norway, the UK, and Brazil, with a sales office in Bengaluru. In India, Agility plans to expand its business extensively.

Composite Cylinders for the Indian Market

With the Indian automotive market focused on the implementation of the stringent Bharat Stage VI (BSVI) emissions standards from April 2020, CNG and other clean fuels are naturally on top of the mind for Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and vehicle owners alike. A challenge in the large vehicle market has been the range limitations and heavy weight of on-board steel CNG cylinders. However, Type-4 composite cylinders such as those made by Agility are poised to overcome these challenges. In 2017, India’s CCOE approved the use of Type-4 cylinders, opening the Indian market to these lightweight gas cylinders which are in wide use across the European and North American markets for more than 20 years now. Composite cylinders are the latest and most advanced technologies. They have a pedigree of over 50 years in automotive and aerospace applications. Agility’s cylinders business in fact made composite cylinders used on the Space Shuttle in the 1980s, as an example of mission critical applications to demonstrate safety, reliability and performance.

Type-4 cylinders are made with a plastic liner that is fused to aluminum ‘bosses’, the openings at either end to which gas valves are attached. Over this liner, is wrapped a high-strength carbon fiber composite. These composite cylinders offer significant advantages over steel cylinders, especially when packaged into a CNG storage system. The Type-4 cylinders are 70% lighter than steel cylinders. Because they have a plastic liner, they exhibit zero corrosion or rusting irrespective of the quality of the gas; in fact, international standards do not require periodic hydrostatic retesting of Type-4 cylinders as is the case for the steel cylinders. In addition, the cylinders’ plastic liner is not subject to metal fatigue as the tank is filled and emptied over many cycles. Because of their construction, Type-4 cylinders can be made in much larger dimensions than steel cylinders. This allows fewer, larger cylinders to be used to store the same amount of gas, making the overall gas storage system on a vehicle simpler and lighter.

Long-Range Composite CNG Bus Systems

Agility also offers complete CNG systems to bus and truck manufacturers, including composite cylinders plumbed into storage arrays on the roof or underneath the body of a bus, with an integrated fuel management module for filling, pressure regulation, fuel filtration, and electronic control and telematics. Because of its use of composite cylinders, the company is able to offer a CNG storage system with the same CNG storage capacity as in the case of a typical Indian city bus having 250-300 km range. It makes use of 2 large composite cylinders instead of 8 to 10 steel ones. This then radically simplifies the fuel storage system, reducing the amount of plumbing and expensive valves needed, and drastically reducing the number of potential leak points. Most importantly, this system weighs a full 750 kg less than a system of similar capacity made with steel. It translates to a reduction of 750 kg in weight on the roof of the bus, which allows for the bus itself to be built with a lighter structure. This light weighting contributes greatly towards increased passenger capacity, better mileage, better performance, lower maintenance, lower cost of operations and improved ease of driving and safety.

Agility additionally can also offer larger capacity CNG systems with 4 large composite cylinders that enable a range of over 800 km between refuelings. This product, which Agility is introducing at Busworld India, opens up the possibility of long-range intercity CNG buses in India for the first time. These storage systems can be fitted to new buses, and the company can assist in conversion of the storage on existing CNG buses from steel cylinders to composite cylinders. Through its strategic partners, Agility can also have the diesel buses converted to CNG or dual fuel.

Powertrain Solutions

Agility also brings to India the capability to develop and certify cost-effective and high-power natural gas and propane engines based on leading automotive manufacturers’ diesel and gasoline engines. At Busworld India 2018, the company displayed its 366NG natural gas engine. This is a General Motors 6.0-litre V-8 engine with an Agility natural gas fuel system, certified by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to meet their optional Low NOx emissions standards and greenhouse gas emissions standards. The 366NG develops over 300 brake horsepower and is certified to have NOx emissions that are 90% below the already stringent BSVI standard.

The company representatives say that they are looking forward to working with Indian manufacturers to develop certified powertrains that are sure to exceed BSVI standards. These engines can power newer generation of buses and trucks to meet the requirements of higher power, newer emission standards, and in turn change the way the fleets drive. With huge increase in road infrastructure in India, and good quality high speed highways in place, this cost-effective but high-power powertrain is aimed at the future India.

Trucking Systems for the Long Haul

Agility has integrated LNG storage systems on thousands of long-range trucks in North America. But its high-capacity composite CNG systems have largely replaced LNG in that market in long range trucking. With various innovative design options aimed at saving space and increased safety, Agility truck CNG systems can be designed for a behind-the-cab system of up to 2300-litres water capacity (660 DLE) and with side mount systems of 800-litres water capacity (220 DLE) each. In combination, trucking companies can have a horse that can haul a trailer over 1800 km on CNG. Combined with Agility’s high-power CNG engines, Indian fleet owners can look forward to haul large loads at higher speeds and with greater efficiency across India—say, from Pune to Delhi, or Mumbai to Kolkata—using CNG. Long-range CNG is expected to revolutionise the Indian truck transport industry, and with a presence in India, Agility looks forward to turning this idea into a reality.

Future Fuel Options

Recognising that no single fuel will be the preferred solution in every situation, the company also has in place solutions for propane powertrains, as well as hydrogen storage systems and modular battery packs. One of the pioneers in hydrogen vehicles, Agility partnered with fuel cell manufacturers starting in 2001 to put hydrogen vehicles on the road in North America in a variety of uses. More recently, the company has completed hydrogen storage systems that are setting durability records in bus fleets in the USA and Canada, and hydrogen storage systems for heavy trucks from major global vehicle manufacturers being tested for goods movement in California. It offers a variety of hydrogen systems today with 350 bar operating pressure and is actively working toward composite hydrogen storage systems operating at 700 bar pressure, which will enable more efficient on-board storage of this lightweight, zero-emissions fuel. Agility also launched this spring a line of configurable, high-performance battery packs for electric and hybrid trucks and buses. Taking mass-produced high-voltage battery modules, Agility combines these into sealed packs of varying shapes and sizes to meet the needs of a range of vehicle types.

Clean Energy in India

With its range of solutions that span across CNG, propane, hydrogen, and electric systems, the company is poised to help the global and Indian automotive industry stay future-ready for the next 10 years. And with Agility’s growing presence in India and commitment to clean air, that future certainly looks bright.


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