ADVENTURES IN ENGINEERING

April 22, 2009 Vol. 5, No. 8

Montreal in April isn’t quite the same as springtime in Paris, and not just because they speak two different brands of French. You’ll never hear a Parisian say ‘hot dog’ in the middle of an otherwise French sentence, for instance, but even francophone Montrealers do. On the other hand, no self-respecting resident of Quebec’s biggest city would dare call his mutt ‘Fifi’, but every dog in Paris gets that moniker. Even the Rottweilers are called Fifi over there. Honest.

The other key difference is that Paris doesn’t have the ExpoCam Truck Show, which Montreal hosted last week.

There were no major introductions at the show, though several products were seen publicly for the first time in Canada — including all the 2010 engines, to name a prominent example, and Manac’s new Darkwing flatdeck trailer line. Love that name. But there were actually quite a few products that I hadn’t seen before.

The line of NBB auxiliary lamps from NBB Canada, representing ABL Lights Group, for instance. Made in Sweden, these lights come in several styles and sizes, with pencil and broad beams, halogen and xenon bulbs, on- and off-road specs. They appear to be very well made, and they’re not outrageously expensive. But the thing that impressed me most is that the Canadian distributor, based in Trois-Rivieres, seems to care as much as about mounting them properly as about getting the business. And that’s rare. I’ll write more about NBB next time out.

I also came across a neat alternative to tire chains, the patented Snowtraction Belt. Tough to describe them without a picture (coming soon), but suffice to say that they weigh 40 lb the pair for a set of dual tires, compared to 120 lb for chains. They’ll go 800 miles, not 80, assuming snowy and/or icy roads. And best of all, they’re installed in 3 minutes instead of 30. Again, more on these things later.

I’ll mention one more personal discovery at ExpoCam here, the extensive line of power inverters, many of them truck-specific, from Tundra International based in Ste-Julie, Quebec. All of them seemed to be very well made and clearly intended for the rigors of life attached to a truck. The least expensive E-Series modified-sine-wave inverters come in 1000, 1500, and 2000-watt configurations for trucks, while the high-end HD Series Professional units are offered with 1200, 1800, and 2500-watt capacity. They’re now represented by Pana-Pacific, I believe.

Look for more on Tundra and others in the May 6th edition of Product Watch.

IS THERE A THIRD OPTION FOR 2010 EMISSIONS? As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the answer seems to be ‘yes’.

I’m talking about the Syngas Generator from NxtGen Emission Controls Inc. (www.nxtgen.com) based in Burnaby, B.C. Privately held, and run by a group of mostly ex-Ballard Power Systems engineers, the company also has a manufacturing and application-engineering center in Wixom, Michigan.

I spoke at some length a couple of weeks ago with Jeremy Holt, president and CEO. An engineer with a long history in the powertrain business, latterly with Ricardo North America, he was brought on board a couple of years back to steer the commercialization process. He was joined at the same time by VP sales and application engineering Chris Benner. You’ll get another clue about where NxtGen is heading when you see that Benner’s 27-year powertrain career includes time spent at Volvo, ArvinMeritor, John Deere, International Truck and Engine, and Caterpillar.

Getting to the detail, syngas is a hydrogen-rich gas that has a lot of uses in the powertrain industry, from diesel aftertreatment systems to combustion optimization and auxiliary power units using fuel cells.

NxtGen’s syngas technology makes existing and new internal combustion engines cleaner and more efficient to meet emission regulations, especially CO2 reduction targets. Syngas creation has been successfully “miniaturized” for use in light- to heavy-duty vehicles, the company says.

Upcoming product applications include an active syngas DPF (diesel particulate filter) system for urban trucks that solves filter regeneration problems caused by low temperature, stop/start city driving. It will eliminate those annoying regens entirely, and it should be ready for market by the end of this year, Holt said. Among the advantages is the complete lack of consumables, essentially no service adjustments, no maintenance, and a “more competitive” cost than other retrofit alternatives.

There’s a big retrofit market here, and NxtGen has its eye on that prize in both California and Texas first. California, for example, offers the retrofit option – as opposed to buying new trucks – for updating the huge herd of old trucks servicing the state’s ports. Texas is keen to limit nitrogen oxides by retrofitting older diesels.

It’s a given that retrofitting will become more and more common, often by legislative decree, given that the vast majority of trucks on North American roads are without emissions controls at all.

Rolf Lockwood is editor emeritus of Today's Trucking and a regular contributor to Trucknews.com.


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