In recent truck tech news, the U.S. Department of Energy’s(DOE) SuperTruck program has made goal-busting achievements in efficiency. Their goal was to increase fuel efficiency by 50 percent from 2009 trucks, and they reached an 88 percent increase. This is extremely important to the trucking industry, the U.S. economy and the climate.
Commercial trucks haul up to 80 percent of the goods transported in the U.S. They make up only four percent of the vehicles on the road, but they account for 20 percent of the fuel consumed. When they improve their fuel efficiency, it lowers costs for owner-operators and companies transporting goods, thereby providing greater prices for the end user and benefiting the economy as a whole. Also, the DOE reports that, “If all Class 8 trucks in the U.S. were SuperTrucks, the country would consume nearly 300 million fewer barrels of oil and spend nearly $30 billion less on fuel each year.”
The SuperTruck Program is a DOE research and development initiative to gain momentum for sustainable innovations in trucking, particularly to improve freight efficiency. Several trucking companies have partnered with the DOE for the Super Truck program, including Cummins and Peterbilt and Volvo. Each company tackles the problem in a unique way. The main rule is that 20 percent of the efficiency improvements must come from innovation involving internal combustion engines. Other changes may be changes to the vehicle’s aerodynamics, weight, high-efficiency tires and equipment that reduces idle time.
Cummins And Peterbilt
Cummins and Peterbilt built an extremely impressive SuperTruck in 2014. It is a Class 8 tractor-trailer with a 20 percent increase in engine efficiency, a 75 percent fuel economy improvement and an 86 percent freight efficiency increase. It achieves 10.7 mpg under real-world driving conditions, and it was so impressive that President Obama used it as a backdrop for an announcement on new fuel economy standards and greenhouse gas emissions for medium and heavy-duty vehicles.
Wayne Eckerle, Cummins Vice President, Research and Technology has said, “The SuperTruck clearly demonstrates the technologies that can deliver significant fuel efficiency improvements over the next decade and beyond as we continue to develop for cost and performance attributes that will make them strong commercial successes.”
Volvo created the latest astounding achievement for the SuperTruck program in their truck that was unveiled this month.
Volvo kept their “body in white” design for their SuperTruck and upgraded it with a new shorter front end, cab exterior pieces, roof and lightweight aluminium chassis fairing to create optimum aerodynamics. It achieved an 88 percent freight efficiency improvement and exceeds 12 mpg on road tests. Solar panels on top of the cab power the battery and interior lights. It also features an ultra-light aluminium frame and 425 horsepower 11-liter proprietary engine. After all this, the tractor-trailer weight achieved an overall reduction of 3,200 pounds.
Volvo’s SuperTruck uses an upgraded version of their I-See technology, “ a new feature that memorizes thousands of routes traveled and uses that knowledge to optimize cruise speed and keep the I-shift automated manual transmission in the most fuel-efficient gear possible, was an integral part of the fuel efficiency gains seen during SuperTruck on-road testing.”
Also, the powertrain “includes a complex Rankine waste-heat recovery system, which converts heat normally wasted in exhaust into torque, boosting fuel economy by helping to power the vehicle.”
Pascal Amar, the principal investigator for the project shared, “We started by rethinking everything and we discovered that with every layer you peel back, you uncover new opportunities.”
The DOE has asked the Volvo Group and Cummins and Peterbilt to participate in a second wave of the SuperTruck program. This program aims to increase fuel efficiency by 100 percent from each manufacturer’s 2009’s best-in-class truck.
Unfortunately, all of the new features these trucks use become available to the commercial market. These are display trucks for the purposes of education and the raising of standards. The good news is that many of the features have and will enter the commercial market, including wave pistons, turbo compounding systems, common rail fuel injection systems, chassis fairings, redesigned bumpers and turbulence- reducing deflectors.
You can enjoy some exciting videos of these SuperTrucks below: