Westport Innovations has agreed with Isuzu Motors to develop a prototype Elf truck powered by a Westport Cycle natural gas engine.

The project has been initiated by Isuzu, which will also fully fund it. Leading the effort is Isuzu’s Powertrain Engineering Division and Natural Gas Group. The development will take place at Isuzu’s engine manufacturing plant in Fujisawa, Japan. Westport will support Isuzu’s vehicle team in producing, testing and calibrating the prototype vehicle and will retain all ownership of its Westport Cycle intellectual property, which uses high-pressure direct injection to bring natural gas into the engine cylinder.

The Isuzu Elf truck will use a four-litre diesel engine that runs solely on natural gas using Westport’s hot surface ignition technology. The natural gas version of the engine is expected to achieve the same performance and fuel efficiency as its diesel counterpart but with lower emissions and fuel costs.

“Demonstrating this technology in one of our most advanced diesel-based commercial trucks represents a significant milestone in our relationship with Westport,” said Isuzu powertrain chief Takashi Urata.

“We are sponsoring this initiative because we are optimistic about prospects for the Westport Cycle in Isuzu diesel engines.”

In June 2003, after internal testing and evaluation by Isuzu, the prototype vehicle will be demonstrated to the Japanese government, including the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO). It will also be demonstrated to the Japan Gas Association (JGA).

The natural gas-powered direct injection engine will be based on an advanced diesel engine fitted with cooled exhaust gas recirculation and common rail fuel injection. The diesel-fuelled version is currently in commercial production.

The light- to medium-range Elf truck, which will have a payload capacity of 2-3 tonnes, is used for city deliveries, food services, light contracting and many other applications

Westport currently has an agreement with Isuzu to test its proprietary technology in an engine intended for light and medium duty trucks. Westport and Isuzu have commenced discussions to extend the current agreement, which expires in March 2003.