The transmission as a power manager

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Eaton envisions a future that will see increased electrification of commercial vehicle components and it sees its products as being key in managing those power requirements.

Larry Bennett, head of Eaton’s vehicle technical innovation center, says “we see the transmission as being ideally located on the vehicle to help manage electrical power on the vehicle.”

For example, Bennett said the starter maybe moved from the engine to the transmission. Electrical power will be generated as the vehicle travels down the road, even with the transmission potentially disengaged to save fuel.

“The transmission stops spinning but the rear wheels can continue to drive the alternator to provide the electrical power that’s needed,” Bennett explained during a press briefing at the Technology & Maintenance Council’s spring meeting.

Bennett also sees an eventual shift towards 48-volt power. It would be sufficient enough to provide cab heating and cooling without an auxiliary power unit using the batteries on-board the vehicle. To provide propulsion, 300 or more volts would be required.

Within the next six to 10 years, predicted Bennett, vehicle manufacturers will be looking to take load off the diesel engine through electrification of certain components.

“There is going to be a lot of electrification, with engine accessories taken off the engine,” he said.

A broad range of voltages, from 12 to 48, will be required. Anything beyond 48 volts brings safety concerns to the forefront.

Looking further out, Bennett said in 10 or more years, trucks will “have to be managed within an ecosystem.” This will require constant vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication.

“The next 10 years are going to be probably more dynamic than ever before,” Bennett said.

James Menzies is editor of Today's Trucking. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 20 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies.

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