While some two million registered tractor-trailers on the road today average just 6mpg, Peterbilt’s SuperTruck program is developing more efficient trucks for the future.
Cargo rail and shipping has revolutionized the way we distribute manufactured goods within the country, but heavy trucks still have most of the final leg from rail stations or seaports to their final destination. Fuel economy for these trucks is dependent most especially on weight, averaging just 6mpg for a 65,000lb gross vehicle weight.
Aerodynamics is another big contributor to fuel economy, and then there are parasitic drains on engine power that greatly increase fuel consumption. In order to develop more efficient trucks, Peterbilt and its partners are taking a more well-rounded approach to fuel efficiency.
Peterbilt, a major truck manufacturer, is nearing the end of their four-year SuperTruck program. Peterbilt has spent nearly $40 million on the program, which was matched by the US Department of Energy. Peterbilt’s approach to more efficient trucks includes the use of more lightweight materials in the and the addition of aerodynamic panels to reduce drag, especially between the truck and trailer.
Transmission supplier Eaton is developing better gearing in their heavy-duty truck transmissions, to reduce internal friction and lower engine speeds at cruise. Diesel engine supplier Cummins is also working to decrease internal friction and improve the combustion system, as well as reduce parasitic drains like accessory compressors, pumps, and generators.
Peterbilt recently demonstrated the results of the SuperTruck program using a truck and trailer in real-world conditions. With a 65,000lb gross weight, the Peterbilt 579 truck and trailer combination was driven over a 312mi route between Fort Worth and Vernon on US Route 287 in Texas. Over eleven runs, the truck averaged 9.9mpg while the average long-haul truck averages just 6mpg.
With a 54% increase in fuel economy, the average long-haul truck traveling 120,000mi annually could save some $25,000 in fuel costs alone. Development will continue through 2013 and more efficient trucks in the future are sure to take some cues from the Peterbilt 579.