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Border skirmish

BLAINVILLE, Que. -- Cats and dogs soaked the track at the Transport Canada Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville, Que. as Performance Innovation Transport (PIT) launched its Energotest trials Sept. 11. The research yielded to strict SAE fuel...


BLAINVILLE, Que. — Cats and dogs soaked the track at the Transport Canada Motor Vehicle Test Centre in Blainville, Que. as Performance Innovation Transport (PIT) launched its Energotest trials Sept. 11. The research yielded to strict SAE fuel consumption test rules, which do not permit testing in the rain.

When it rains it pours. Instead of circling the track, as planned, a star PIT attraction, a European Volvo FH 480 Globetrotter, was mired in paperwork at the US-Canada border. As of press time for Truck News and with only four days of PIT’s reserved track time left, Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) had still refused to release the Euro-machine.

The Globetrotter had come across the pond to Greensboro, N.C., where Volvo Trucks North America laboured over the summer to adapt it to North American standards. The work included rewiring its 24-volt system to 12 volts and adding another differential to give it a tandem drive.

“Some modifications on the truck have not been transferred to us yet so we may have a few surprises, but none that would make the truck any less efficient,” answered PIT director Yves Provencher when I inquired about the full extent of the modifications.

The plan was to pit the Globetrotter against a North American Volvo VNL 630 XE under controlled track conditions and compare their fuel consumption and emissions. But would CBSA release the truck in time for the PIT crew to run the scheduled trials? “If I knew when it would be released I would be a rich man,” Provencher said.

As usual though, PIT had plenty else planned for the nine-day Energotest. For example, Shell was there to test some fuel and PIT was testing lighter trucks for any beneficial effects of their lower weight on fuel consumption. And of course, because this has been the main raison d’etre for PIT since FPInnovations ran its first Energotest fuel consumption trails in 2007 and then created PIT in 2008, there were the vendor trials.

PIT acts as a neutral, unbiased testing agency to help manufacturers evaluate the effectiveness of their products – most commonly products designed to reduce fuel consumption. This fall they included the following companies and products:

Bleu Torque: This Quebec company has a black box (in other words, I shan’t try to guess at how “the emission of a precise frequency transmitted by the antennas” works to reduce fuel burn) device that simply connects to a vehicle’s battery and sits on top of the engine. It claims to reduce fuel consumption by 15% or more, as well as reduce hydrocarbon emissions.

Vida Holdings: Out of Mississauga, Ont., has a new kind of catalytic converter that, according to the company Web site, can reduce fuel consumption by up to 15%.

ZEC Lubrication: This Ottawa-based company makes oil additives designed to reduce friction, reduce dry start-up wear and otherwise improve energy consumption.

Aperia: Located in South San Francisco, Calif., Aperia manufacturers the Halo tire inflator. Mounted on the wheel hub, with air lines running to the tire valves, this system uses centrifugal force to maintain tires at a preset pressure. Properly maintained tire pressure translates into lower fuel consumption. “We are going to see whether the technology works – see how long it takes to get the tires to 100 psi and whether it keeps them there,” Provencher says.

Ridge Corporation: Hailing from Pataskala, Ohio, Ridge has a combination side skirt and boat tail product for PIT to test.

Escalate International: Headquartered in Toronto, Escalate has a device called Start that discharges an electric current into diesel. Changes to the fuel molecules result in a more complete fuel burn and an average 7% reduction in fuel burn, according to the company Web site.

Maxquip: This Calgary-based company has a propane system installed in police cars. “Propane technology seems mature, and it is half the cost of gas. We don’t know what the fuel consumption of a propane car is at 100 km/h. We want to know what that is, and do an economic analysis,” Provencher says.

PIT normally only releases the results of its track trials to its members, which number 26 fleets, 16 municipalities and four federal and provincial government agencies. This fall, however, PIT made public the results of five years of evaluations of trailer side skirts and aerodynamic devices that fit underneath trailers.

On average, side skirts reduce fuel consumption by 6.69%. (The range for side skirts from Freight Wing, Laydon Composites, Ridge Corporation and Transtex Composite is from 5.2% to 7.45% in fuel savings).

The average fuel saving for trailers sporting undercarriage devices is 1.43%. (The range for trailer undercarriage air deflectors that AirFlow Deflector, Airman and SmartTruck supplied to PIT was from 0% to 2.2% in fuel savings).

This fall also marks the beginning of a new effort by PIT, as a young, but already highly respected technology testing organization, to penetrate more deeply into the psyche of US fleets. In Canada, fleets have begun to demand that the fuel-saving vendor classes seek validation of their technologies from PIT before beating on their doors. Environment Canada has selected PIT as the benchmark facility for testing green transportation technologies and PIT works with Natural Resources Canada. South of the border, PIT works in cooperation with the US SmartWay Transport Partnership, but wants to go much further.

To this end, PIT has hired San Diego, Calif.-based LaunchIt Public Relations. “My assignment is to get PIT the needed exposure and recognition in the US commercial vehicle market, create a solid reputation for PIT and clearly define and convey the unique services and benefits PIT provides the commercial trucking industry,” explains LaunchIt founder and principal Susan Fall.

“About 60% of our Energotest customers (ie., vendors) are from outside Canada, with most of them from the US,” Provencher says. “We are at the top edge of the expertise and we are way cheaper than the (US test agencies), test track versus test track. We want to learn what US trade shows to visit. What committees should we be on? We are not after US fleets yet, but that will come. What are the best approaches to dealing with US fleets? People may not want a membership approach, but they may be interested in working on a contract basis. It is an exploration of how we can be useful to fleets.”


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