West Virginia University engine emission experts are in California helping part of one of America’s largest grocery store chains convert its delivery trucks into greener energy consumers.

Ralphs Supermarkets, a California centered division of The Kroger Co., wanted to pursue a greener energy footprint by using cleaner fuels and engines to power an extensive fleet of delivery vehicles that dot the highways from Los Angeles’ freeways to the country roads of the California mountains.

The company is currently transitioning half of its truck fleet to less polluting CNG. Ralphs leadership looked to WVU’s Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions to help turn those green plans into green reality.

“Ralphs has been a great research partner for many years,” Dan Carder, CAFEE director said. “The company’s commitment to improving fuel economy among its fleet of vehicles is unparalleled – and its generous lending of its Riverside distribution center, an ideal location for our type of research, helps our engineers and scientists tremendously.”

The CAFEE experts were in the neighborhood anyway.

With a cross-country road trip from Morgantown to Riverside, CA – and having become the first university-based research team to measure heavy-duty emissions compliance for 2,500 consecutive miles – CAFEE scientists were anxious to tackle the Ralph’s Grocery challenge and put some of the results of their trans-continental experiments to good use.

“The cross-country trip generated valuable real-time emissions data over a wide range of operating conditions, from flat roads in the Midwest through the high altitudes of the Rocky Mountains, including 11,000 feet at Loveland Pass,” said Arvind Thiruvengadam, a Ph.D. candidate in charge of data collection on the trip.

“It was great to see how our mobile laboratory systems reacted to different atmospheric pressures at different elevations,” said Thiruvengadam. “The primary objective was to study the effect of road grade on emissions from advanced heavy-duty diesel engines, but we took the opportunity to collect as much seed data as possible for various other possible research endeavors.”

The five-day research trip included a stop at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Denver. It was sponsored by the South Coast California Air Quality Management District, the California Air Resources Board, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Once in California, CAFEE scientists set up shop at Ralphs massive distribution center in Riverside and established a staging ground for CAFEE’s mobile emissions laboratory.

While at the Ralphs facility, WVU scientists are chassis-testing heavy-duty vehicles to ensure the engines are compliant with emissions regulations by collecting and examining emissions data from diesel, CNG and dual-fuel engines.

WVU is nationally-known for its engine mission expertise because it is home not only to a highly trained cadre of experts, but also the only mobile heavy-duty chassis dynamometer in the U.S., which allows it to visit sites where vehicles are being used in real-world situations.

In the event that non-compliance is identified, CAFEE works with engine, vehicle and exhaust after treatment systems manufacturers to design and fabricate retrofit solutions to meet compliance. That means peace of mind for Ralphs if its growing fleet of green vehicles passes the WVU tests and a growing collection of important engine emissions data for future conversions at sites across America.

“With a huge thrust in natural gas vehicles in California, the current project will provide an excellent comparison of the benefits of advanced natural gas vehicles over older model year diesel vehicles,” said Thiruvengadam. “The comparative emissions data will help enable fleets such as Ralphs to have a better knowledge of the real-world emissions of the various heavy-duty vehicles.”

Results will be shared with both the California Air Resource Board and South Coast Air Quality Management District, which will provide a better understanding of the effectiveness of current regulations.

CAFEE, part of WVU’s Advanced Energy Initiative, has become a national leader in applied and fundamental research in heavy-duty engine emissions that, among other achievements, helps fuel suppliers and vehicle manufacturers make better products that comply with complex and changing federal requirements and helps U.S. cities improve air quality while maintaining a realistic handle on technology costs. The AEI coordinates and promotes University-wide energy research in science, technology and public policy.

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sg/gg/12/15/11

CONTACT: Scott Gillespie; Center for Alternative Fuels, Engines and Emissions
304.293.0804; Scott.Gillespie@mail.wvu.edu

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