Rolf Lockwood

July 5 Vol. 2, No. 14

Last time out I promised news from Kalamazoo, Michigan where I attended a joint Eaton and Dana press gathering last week. And boy, there was news aplenty. Including a very interesting but unannounced surprise that I discovered out on the test track. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The biggest news from western Michigan was another surprise — Eaton is working on a new diesel exhaust aftertreatment technology to meet 2010 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) emissions requirements. With a prototype now installed in a heavy-duty truck, it’s claimed to be “more efficient and cost-effective than many competing systems.”

A very well kept secret developed over the last three years at the company’s Innovation Center in Southfield, Mi., it uses the selective catalytic reduction (SCR) solution that many engine makers will employ in 2010 to control nitrous oxides (NOx). But the Eaton system is unique because it doesn’t need urea as a source of ammonia to deal with NOx – it makes its own ammonia, so there would be no need for trucks to carry liquid urea on board. Nor would there be a need for the costly, continental infrastructure required to keep those trucks supplied with urea.

Some truck and engine makers, notably Volvo and Mack, have already announced that they’ll be using SCR with a urea tank on board as the Swedish outfit and others are already doing in Europe. Freightliner seems likely to follow suit, given its parent company’s similar commitment to urea in Europe. Others have not announced firm plans. Cummins, for example, says its 2010 technology decision won’t be made before year’s end. Eaton has been talking with engine and truck manufacturers globally, but at this point the company’s first foray into the diesel aftertreatment business has no takers. Yet.

The system uses a combination of fuel reformer catalyst with doser, lean NOx trap (LNT), and SCR catalyst in series. The LNT is the key here because, like all such devices, it makes ammonia. More extensive vehicle testing will begin in the third quarter of this year. And many of us will be watching closely.

In other Eaton news, there’s the joint venture to produce a hydraulic/diesel hybrid urban delivery truck for UPS in concert with the EPA, International Truck & Engine, and the U.S. Army. In lab tests the technology has achieved a 60 to 70% improvement in fuel economy and more than a 40% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions, compared to a conventional UPS vehicle. It’s being tested on the streets of Detroit now.

A high-efficiency diesel engine is combined with a unique hydraulic propulsion system, replacing the conventional drivetrain and transmission. The vehicle uses hydraulic pumps and hydraulic storage tanks to store energy, similar to what is done with electric motors and batteries in hybrid electric vehicles. Fuel economy is increased in three ways: vehicle braking energy is recovered that normally is wasted; the engine is operated more
efficiently; and the engine can be shut off when stopped or decelerating.

Similar technology, which will be available as early as 2007, will find its way into some class 8 vehicles too, like garbage packers. It’s been installed in a Peterbilt LCF, among others, and is presently being tested on the road. Called Hydraulic Launch Assist, it’s a parallel system in which a diesel with conventional transmission and drivetrain is boosted by stored hydraulic power through a reversible hydraulic pump/motor that sends serious additional torque – like 1000 lb ft at 0 rpm — directly to the driveshaft.

And we’re not done yet. Eaton also announced that it’s developing a hybrid electric power system for the heavy-duty market. Similar in design and componentry to its medium-duty hybrid electric, this will be adapted for
class 8 vehicles in on-highway applications. It promises fuel savings both while driving and when parked. The system’s idle-reduction mode depends on batteries to power the heating, air conditioning, and vehicle electrical
systems while the engine is off. Engine operation is then limited to battery charging, an automatically controlled process that will take about five minutes per hour. It’s in the testing and development phases, with field tests coming soon, and Eaton says it should be available “well before 2010.”

Other Kalamazoo news includes the new, efficiency-oriented Eaton UltraShift LEP transmission (see below) and from Dana three new ratios for Spicer drive axles. The DST40 tandem drive axle gets 2.64:1 and 2.93:1 ratios, and the S170 single drive axle now offers a 2.53:1 ratio. There’s also
a new Spicer LMS hub system for drive and trailer axles, specifically for wide-base single tire applications.

And the surprise? From Dana, a prototype independent front suspension that I found installed in a Peterbilt 387 that was being used to demonstrate the new UltraShift LEP at Eaton’s proving grounds. Dana’s Steve Slesinski, director of product planning, told me about it and after lifting the hood to have a look, we took the rig out onto the track’s nightmare pavement section where I was told to do no more than 10 mph. The ride was phenomenally good, I can tell you, better by far than I’ve ever experienced. What I can’t tell you is when or even if it will see the light of commercial day.

Two more notes before I go: below you’ll see details about Western Star’s newest addition to the Stratosphere sleeper line, including a nifty stand-up 40-inch bunk that should please a lot of folks on the vocational side of the
trucking fence.

And a tip of my hat to the parent company, Freightliner LLC, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary as part of the DaimlerChrysler family. Seems like yesterday, of course, but it was in 1981 that Daimler-Benz bought the Oregon-based company. Freightliner at that point had produced 200,000 trucks in its entire history, but in 2005 alone it sold almost as many — 182,400 if you count school buses. Its 21,000 employees and nine manufacturing plants stretching from Canada to Mexico make it a key pillar
– and sales leader — of the DaimlerChrysler Truck Group. Congrats, I say.

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Rolf Lockwood

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

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