INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – The Green Truck Summit overcame some adversity this morning, when its keynote speaker was unable to attend due to a snowstorm in D.C. Not to be deterred, organizers piped in Patrick Davis, director of the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Office by video and his address went off without a hitch – and with a smaller carbon footprint to boot.
Davis provided an update on the DoE’s SuperTruck program, noting each of the four projects is on pace to achieve its goal of increasing efficiency by 50%. The Peterbilt/Cummins project has received the lion’s share of the attention of late, even earning the companies a recent commendation from US President Barack Obama, because it’s the first of four projects to be completed, Davis said. The Class 8 tractor-trailer has achieved 10.7 mpg
But Davis said similar projects spearheaded by Daimler, Navistar and Volvo are also on pace to hit their objectives. The SuperTruck program looks at Class 8 trucks grossing 65,000 lbs and challenges them to improve their efficiency by 50%.
“If you were to take a Class 8 vehicle that currently gets 6.5 mpg, a SuperTruck would be approaching 10 mpg,” Davis said.
Some of the technologies being employed include: improved aerodynamics, reduced rolling resistance, waste heat recovery, hybridization of auxiliary components and engine downsizing.
Davis also said the green truck industry is benefiting from advancements in battery technology. He noted the cost of batteries has come down by more than 50% over the past five years, to a rate of about $325 per kWh (kilowatt/hour). Davis said a cost of $200-$250 is achievable in the short-term, and the DoE has set a long-term target of $125 per kWh.
The trucking industry must continue to develop green technologies, to lessen its dependence on foreign oil, Davis noted. Transportation continues to account for two-thirds of US petroleum usage, and over 80% of that is consumed by on-road vehicles. Heavy-duty trucks alone account for 18% of US oil consumption.
“This is an issue of economic security, environmental stewardship as well as national security,” he said.
The fact that fleets now have more vehicles to choose from presents both opportunities and challenges, Davis said.
“It’s a challenge because of infrastructure and the availability of those fuels, making sure we have the fuels where they need to be to service our fleets,” he said.
Davis said there are presently 25 heavy-duty tractor models available, powered by alternative fuels. “Frankly, it’s hard to keep up,” he said.
Today, more than half of all new refuse trucks being sold are fuelled by natural gas.
The fuelling infrastructure in the US is rapidly expanding as well. Davis noted there are now 1,334 CNG stations in the US and 90 LNG stations. Of the alternative fuel vehicles on the market, 61% are driven by natural gas.
Davis lauded the fleet industry for advancing the use of alternative fuels. He noted the National Clean Fleets Partnership in the US now includes 23 fleet members, representing more than a million vehicles. He singled out UPS, which has invested $50 million to build nine LNG fuelling stations to support 1,000 LNG tractors and AT&T, which is in the midst of deploying 15,000 alternative fuel-powered vehicles between 2008 and 2018.