Most of the efforts on improving fuel efficiency have so far focused on the moving vehicle. Cat Electronics says it's now time to look under the hood for the next generation of fuel economy improvemen...
Most of the efforts on improving fuel efficiency have so far focused on the moving vehicle. Cat Electronics says it’s now time to look under the hood for the next generation of fuel economy improvements and it believes the technology it’s currently testing can deliver up to 18 per cent annual fuel savings.
The technology, called MorElectric, delivers fuel savings by converting the air conditioner, air compressor, water pump, and other engine belt or gear driven accessories to be powered electrically eliminating the parasitic loss generally discussed in the same breath as any emissions reduction initiatives. The MorElectric technology, which Cat Electronics hopes to have ready by late 2004, will provide heating, cooling and accessory power, including battery charging, without idling the engine. Trucks equipped with the technology will be able to use “shore” power to reduce idling at truck stops, loading docks or fleet terminals where electrical power is available.
“In the highly competitive and low margin trucking industry, even a two per cent fuel savings has a respectable impact on profitability,” says David Orr, the Caterpillar technical manager for the MorElectric technology.
Driving truck accessories through electric power rather than belts and gears should also reduce maintenance costs associated with belt and gear wear as well as wear on the accessories themselves, which must often run at speeds much higher than required. There are also advantages to be realized from parts reduction. The electronically driven HVAC system on its own eliminates 65 parts, says Mark Pflederer, managing director, Cat Electronics. Finally, making accessories electrically driven removes the need to have them positioned near the engine; they can be mounted in more easily accessible and less punishing positions. The company believes doing so can reduce the heat load on radiators by up to 23 per cent.
What happens in places where there isn’t ready access to electric power? Another option is an onboard auxiliary power unit, which the company says will weigh under 300 lb.
Mike Render, technical manager, says the MorElectric technology will be made available to all truck OEMs and the aim is to price it so that there is an 18-month payback at today’s fuel prices.
Cat Electronics, which was set up as a division of Cat Inc. just three years ago, has partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy, Kenworth, Engineered Machine Products, a water pump supplier, and Emerson, an electric products manufacturer, to work on the technology. The 42-month, $4.4 million research development program was initiated in May of 2000 with a mandate to develop heavy-duty truck technology that can deliver fuel savings and emissions reductions through electrically driven engine accessories.
According to research published by the respected Center for Transportation Research at Argonne National Laboratory, long-haul trucks idling overnight consume more than 838 million gallons (20 million barrels) of fuel annually in the U.S. In fact, a large part of the reason the U.S. is importing up to 55 per cent of its fuel today, compared to about 35 per cent in the early 70s, is the major increase in trucking as a mode of freight transport and trucking’s heavy fuel use.
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