ClearFlame begins on-road vehicle testing

10 February 2022

ClearFlame test truck ClearFlame Technologies has begun testing its engine technology, which is designed to allow a diesel engine to operate on ethanol and other no-carbon fuels, in a Class 8 truck. (Photo: ClearFlame)

ClearFlame Engine Technologies announced it has it has successfully completed an on-road demonstration of its proprietary technology designed to enable a heavy-duty truck diesel engine to operate on 100% renewable plant-based fuels. The company said its initial road testing, which began in December, marks a critical milestone in its objective to decarbonize heavy-duty transportation.

“This demonstration proves the workability of our technology that takes the dirty diesel fuel out of heavy-duty trucks,” said BJ Johnson, CEO and co-founder of the Geneva, Ill., headquartered company. “The transportation sector is currently the largest contributor of greenhouse gas emissions. Simply hoping that we get to net-zero greenhouse emissions by 2050 is not good enough.

“If we want to get serious in the fight against climate change, we need more solutions that can enable swift decarbonization today, particularly for heavy-duty trucks, which are among the worst offenders.”

The test vehicle

The demonstration of ClearFlame’s engine technology involves a 2019 International LT 625 Class 8 truck equipped with a 15 L Cummins X15 diesel engine rated 500 hp. The engine was retrofit with ClearFlame’s engine technology to operate on E98 ethanol. “It’s similar to the amount of work you would do if you were doing an overhaul on the engine,” said Julie Blumreiter, ClearFlame’s co-founder and chief technology officer of the modification process. “We rebuilt the engine using ClearFlame’s technology and now we can drive the vehicle around to get that additional experience and proof beyond the dyno cell. Some things you can only learn doing vehicle testing.

“Right now, we’ve just driven it bobtail for these very early tests. But on the dyno, we’ve demonstrated the engine matches the full lug line of the production diesel. We have plans to get the truck under load on a proving ground, and also get it under load on a chassis dyno, so stay tuned as we check these additional boxes leading up to fleet handoff.

“We already know what the engine can match the diesel performance curve exactly. So there’s no concern on our part that we will be able to pull a load the exact same way.”

The company said the wide availability, cost-effectiveness and lower emissions of renewable ethanol made it the fuel of choice for testing but stressed that the ClearFlame technology is fuel agnostic and able to operate on virtually any zero-carbon liquid fuel.

Emissions benefits

Along with reducing CO2 emissions, ClearFlame’s engine technology also cut emissions of particulates and NOx to the point where aftertreatment could be downsized and no diesel particulate filter would be required.

With a potential payback in as little as 15 months, ClearFlame believes its technology has the potential to mitigate carbon in the heavy-duty truck sector faster and at substantially lower cost than any alternative, including hydrogen and battery EV, without compromising engine performance.

John Deere ClearFlame Engine Technologies co-founders Julie Blumreiter, chief technology officer, and BJ Johnson, CEO. (Photo: ClearFlame)

“Due to the incredible work and dedication of our engineering team we’ve taken a massive step in showing the world how our technology is a game-changer for decarbonization of the heavy-duty transportation sector,” Blumreiter said. “This vehicle is truly one-of-a-kind – the only Class 8 truck to run on 100% ethanol fuel without any additives and without any diesel fuel.

“Driving this vehicle today is actually less carbon intensive than a comparable electric-powered truck. The ClearFlame-enabled engine meets the performance and efficiency requirements customers expect from their diesel trucks, while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fuel costs.”

Following its initial testing, ClearFlame is aiming to hand its vehicle off for fleet testing this summer and also plans to retrofit other fleet vehicles for testing at fleets in September. “We have a target there to have at least seven of them in fleet hands in September and continue to scale that up,” Blumreiter said.

This latest milestone comes less than four months after the company announced it secured $17 million in Series A Financing, led by Bill Gates-founded Breakthrough Energy Ventures, with participation from Mercuria, John Deere and Clean Energy Ventures.

ClearFlame is also working with Deere on a pilot demonstration project for an off-highway engine platform, demonstrating the company’s technology in original equipment integration.

To see a video of the ClearFlame truck in operation, click here.

More details on the ClearFlame engine technology will be included in an upcoming issue of Diesel Progress.

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