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Saving fuel in the city

BLAINVILLE, Que. - Testing fuel-saving technologies at 100 km/h is great, but the results of such high-speed trials cannot be applied to urban duty cycles, such as those garbage trucks and municipal r...

City work: Marc Caouette does some precision driving in low-speed fuel savings trials.
City work: Marc Caouette does some precision driving in low-speed fuel savings trials.

BLAINVILLE, Que. –Testing fuel-saving technologies at 100 km/h is great, but the results of such high-speed trials cannot be applied to urban duty cycles, such as those garbage trucks and municipal rigs experience.

To remedy this, PIT (that brainchild of FPInnovations that now consists of 24 carriers and two government partners, and which has been conducting the Energotest fuel-saving trials the partners desire) created a procedure, or protocol for testing potential fuel-saving technologies in an urban duty cycle.

At the Transport Canada test track in Blainville, Quebec this July, PIT demonstrated that drivers could follow the relatively complicated protocol it developed, and then proceeded to spend the rest of its allotted track time between July 7-13 testing tires, oil and a device that controls engine power.

“We are probably among the first to evaluate an urban duty cycle fuel consumption test procedure on a test track,” says Marius Surcel, the engineer at FPInnovations in charge of developing the protocol.

PIT developed the stop-and-go protocol with reference to the SAE J1321 Joint TMC/SAE Fuel Consumption Test Procedure -Type II, Recommended Practice, which PIT uses in its high-speed Energotest trials; PIT now calls the high-speed trials Energotest Classic. It also brought in other cycle patterns; ie., from element and composite cycles other research organizations developed.

“The only difference between our high-speed tests, which follow EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) addendum to SAE Type II procedure, and our stop-and-go tests, is the cycles: how you run the vehicles on the track,” Surcel explains.

PIT’s accomplishment opens up a whole new territory in how fuel-saving technologies can be tested. Jan Michaelsen, program leader, energy and emissions, FPInnovations says, “We want to show that you can use the tests in a way that has an application to urban transport. FPInnovations is seeking the acceptance of the urban duty cycle protocol.”

I arrive at the test track at 7 a.m. on July 9 and catch a ride to the home base for the tents and trucks. A 2009 Volvo is literally one minute away from firing up for several hours of stop-and-go driving and I commandeer the bunk behind Robert Transport driver/mechanic Marc Caouette and Michael Schink, a technician with FPInnovations. His job is to read out driving instructions to Caouette.

Unlike the high-speed trials, the driving part of which consists mostly of zooming round and round at 100 km/h, the urban duty cycle is complex enough to require a driver coach. Trucks do the herky jerky on the 6.9-kilometre low-speed test track that, like a ring around a ring, circles the high-speed track.

This first trial of the day will compare the rolling resistance of wide-base tires and duals for fuel savings. The Volvo ahead of us, outfitted with Michelin XDN2 275/80 R22.5 duals on the tractor’s two drive axles and 46,000 lbs in the trailer, leaves first. Our tractor, kitted out with Michelin X1XDN2 445/50R 22.5 wide-base tires and 46,000 lbs in its trailer, goes a few seconds later.

“Five, four, three, two, one, key on. Five, four, three, two, one, start engine. Five, four, three, two, one, go,” Schink says, with one eye on his stopwatch and the other on his clipboard of instructions. We start to roll and Schinck tells Caouette, “20 kilometres per hour.” Caouette accelerates to 20 km/h, holds the red needle dead on 20, then comes to a full stop at the first orange cone. Schink says, “30 km/h,” and Caouette accelerates to 30 km/h and then comes to a full stop at the next orange cone.

In the next hour and 10 minutes, the two trucks do four circuits around the low-speed track. Each circuit is broken into nine speed/stop-start segments: two driven at 20, 30, 40 and 50 km/h, in mixed up order, and one at 60 km/h. Caouette’s job is to accelerate and brake rather smartly and glue the needle to the speeds that Schink calls out. This is how PIT simulates stop-and-go driving. After each set of four circuits, the drivers and co-pilots take a timed break (and I bail out). In all the two trucks will do three sets of four circuits this morning.

As with the other Energotests, fuel is carefully weighed before and after the trial and the difference in fuel consumption between the wide-base and dual-configured trucks will be measured. PIT members, who pay good money for the right to be here, will receive the results first. Next year some time a summary of the test results will be made public.

PIT also ran stop-and-go trials with a garbage truck to replicate that brutal duty cycle.

The July Energotest also looked for fuel savings with Swepco synthetic oil, a device by RM2J called Fuel MaximiZer, which, roughly speaking, adjusts engine power to suit the weight being hauled, and a lightweight straight-body truck box by Efficient Transport Solution. From Aug. 4-12 PIT will run another Energotest, with 25 items on a jam-packed agenda.

FPInnovations is satisfied that it has demonstrated that drivers can accurately and reliably follow its complex duty cycles. It will be preparing a report for Transport Canada, which provided financial assistance for the project. It will also submit the protocol to EPA for consideration for acceptance and write a paper for the SAE Congress next year. “We want to be able to say that for urban duty cycles our procedure is recognized,” Michaelsen says.

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