Truck News


Roadranger Offers Glimpse Into Future

KALAMAZOO, Mich. - "X-by-wire" technology is on its way, according to Roadranger officials, who hailed the technology as the wave of the future at a recent technology conference.Chuck Heine, president...

CLEANER: Eaton's hybrid delivery trucks dramatically reduce emissions.
CLEANER: Eaton's hybrid delivery trucks dramatically reduce emissions.

KALAMAZOO, Mich. – “X-by-wire” technology is on its way, according to Roadranger officials, who hailed the technology as the wave of the future at a recent technology conference.

Chuck Heine, president for technology development and diversified products for Dana Corporation, pointed to the headway “X-by-wire” has made in the automotive industry; Corvette for instance, has already incorporated throttle by wire, which is a form of electronic actuation that replaces or assists traditional mechanical or hydraulic systems.

The biggest challenge car manufacturers had was getting the proper feel in the pedal and providing the amount of resistance drivers have grown accustomed to, Heine said, adding as these technologies emerge in passenger vehicles, it stands to reason they will eventually find a home in heavy-duty commercial vehicles as well.

“There always seems to be a trend over time that the technologies merge (between heavy- and light-duty vehicles),” said Heine.

Other possibilities for electronic actuation include steering, braking and torque control, Heine said. When X-by-wire technology becomes the norm, the biggest advantage vehicle owners will enjoy is an improvement in fuel economy – to the tune of about 2.4 per cent – based on results achieved in passenger cars. In the automotive industry, customers are generally willing to pay between US$25 and $35 for every one per cent of improved fuel mileage.

Needless to say, manufacturers find these figures very motivating.

Some of the methods being considered to improve fuel economy involve intelligent cooling and lubrication systems, Heine explained.

Intelligent cooling benefits include faster engine warm-up, better fuel mileage, fewer emissions and package flexibility. With intelligent lubrication technology, users will enjoy benefits such as extended oil life, Heine said.

New ride management technologies are also on the way, predicted Heine.

Electronic roll control systems can improve truck safety by improving on-highway stability and off-road mobility.

As for fuel cells – Heine predicted it will still be some time before they are common on North American highways.

“I suspect that none of us will be driving a fuel cell car by 2006 or 2008,” said Heine. “Maybe 2015.”

Kevin Beaty, business unit manager for Eaton’s Hybrid Electric business unit, has been involved in exploring the possibilities of hybrid powertrains – another emerging technology that will become more prevalent in the trucking industry in the coming years. Eaton won a competition hosted by FedEx in 2002, which resulted in the company building 20 hybrid delivery trucks.

“The successful introduction of automated manual transmissions, together with our emerging leadership in automated clutch systems, provides a solid foundation for creating competitive parallel hybrid systems,” explained Beaty. “In addition, we are partnering for solutions in batteries, motor/generators and inverters.

The resulting hybrid powertrains are already capable of delivering a 50 per cent increase in fuel economy, 75 per cent decrease in NOx and 90 per cent reduction in particulate emissions. And we do it all without compromising on performance or drivability.”

Truck News had the opportunity to test drive one such hybrid truck at Eaton’s Marshall Proving Grounds. It drove much like a typical medium-duty truck and it was difficult to tell when the vehicle switched between diesel and electric power since the diesel engine continues idling when it does so. There’s no noticeable loss of power, but the truck does rub off speed quite quickly when you remove your foot from the accelerator.

It will be interesting to see how these vehicles perform over time in real-life applications such as urban deliveries.

When new technologies emerge for North America, they first go through a stage-gate development process called APQP at Dana, and ProLaunch at Eaton.

Both systems share best practices with each other and are similar in nature.

Each gate consists of a series of tests the product must pass before it is allowed to move through to the next gate. Prototypes undergo considerable rigorous testing before the product makes it to the end-user.

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