LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Daimler Trucks North America’s $80-million SuperTruck project yielded a freight efficiency gain of 115%, more than twice the original goal.
The project was co-funded by Daimler and the US Department of Energy. The truck, displayed at the Mid-America Trucking Show, includes current and future technologies, some of which have already been deployed on the Freightliner Cascadia Evolution.
Derek Rotz, principal engineer on the project, said the experience was invaluable, as it allowed engineers to explore new technologies that otherwise would not have been feasible to test. The truck achieved 12 mpg. The 115% freight efficiency gain exceeded the original 50% target and a 50.2% brake thermal efficiency was also achieved.
“The SuperTruck was a playground for our engineers to explore ideas and come up with things we wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” said Diane Hames, general manager of marketing and strategy with DTNA.
One of the greatest challenges, according to Rotz, was generating sufficient cooling while also maximizing aerodynamics.
“Cooling the engine and improving aerodynamic performance are typically at odds with each other,” he said. “For aerodynamics you want to keep the air external to the vehicle and cooling requires air to go within the engine compartment.”
Daimler overcame this by using an articulating grille, with vents that open up at slow speeds and when pulling a grade, when maximum cooling is required. At highway speeds, the grille levers close to provide a smooth front end.
Other technologies include camera-based mirrors, waste heat recovery, predictive shifting, an integrated powertrain and the use of lightweight materials. Some of those, such as predictive shifting and the integrated Detroit powertrain, have already been commercialized and are available with the Cascadia Evolution.
Others, like waste heat recovery and the hybrid-electric powertrain, are not yet economically feasible, Rotz noted.
Fuel economy tests were performed on actual Texas highways, grossing 65,000 lbs.
“We are thrilled with the positive results, and are honored to have been part of the program,” said Rotz. “It is our expectation that we will continue to review and refine what we’ve learned and achieved over the course of the SuperTruck initiative, and use that knowledge to bolster our leadership in fuel efficiency.”
James Menzies is editor of Truck News magazine. He has been covering the Canadian trucking industry for more than 15 years and holds a CDL. Reach him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @JamesMenzies. All posts by James Menzies