The U.S. Dept. of Energy (DOE) is spreading $187 million in grants around the truck manufacturing industry to significantly improve fuel efficiency for heavy- and light-duty trucks, all while maintaining current exhaust emissions targets.
“Improving the fuel efficiency of heavy trucks can make significant contributions to reducing America's oil consumption within a short timeframe,” DOE spokesperson Jen Stutsman told Fleet Owner. “While heavy-duty vehicles make up only 4% of the vehicles on the road, they account for nearly 20% of the fuel consumed in the U.S.”
DOE Secretary Steven Chu announced the funding of nine projects to improve fuel efficiency for heavy-duty trucks and passenger vehicles at the headquarters of Cummins Inc. in Columbus, IN. More than $100 million of the $187 million grant comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
Three of the nine projects, accounting for $115 million, will focus on increasing Class 8 long-haul tractor fuel efficiency by at least 50% by 2015. Lumped together under what's being called the “SuperTruck” program, four OEMs will experiment with advanced aerodynamics, engine idling reduction technologies, a waste heat recovery system to increase engine efficiency, advanced combustion techniques, and powertrain hybridization.
As part of those “SuperTruck” grants, Cummins Inc. will receive over $38.8 million to work with Peterbilt Motors Co. to combine a more efficient diesel engine, advanced waste heat recovery system, and fuel cell auxiliary power unit to reduce engine idling with an aerodynamic tractor and trailer combination.
“These particular funds … would further expand the kind of work and research that has been done in the 21st Century Truck Program, which looked at the total vehicle — beyond just the engine and powertrain — to improve fuel efficiency,” Allen Schaeffer, executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum, told Fleet Owner.
“These funds come at an important time, given that the National Academy of Sciences is set to release a report in March that will highlight the path toward establishing a heavy-duty truck fuel economy standard,” he added. “This pursuit of higher engine efficiency and lower carbon dioxide levels — without slipping on any of the environmental accomplishments — will create unprecedented challenges in the industry. It has the potential to make the emissions standards milestones look comparatively easy.”
Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) will get $39.5 million and Navistar Inc. will receive $37.3 million. “The improvements we strive to achieve will not come in leaps for the most part, but will be the sum of many smaller but important measures,” Elmar Boeckenhoff, DTNA senior vp-engineering & technology, told Fleet Owner. “Don't expect a silver bullet, but expect us to hit the target.”
The remaining six projects, totaling more than $71 million in grants, are focused on developing engine technologies that will improve the fuel economy of passenger vehicles by 25 to 40% by 2015 using an engine-only approach.
Chrysler Group will receive over $14.4 million; Ford will receive $15 million; Delphi Automotive Systems receives $7.4 million; and Cummins will receive an additional $15 million for diesel engine technologies.