Thinking outside the GEM box: Q&A with Eaton on Phase 2 powertrain efficiency

Hand-in-hand with the GHG Phase 2 final rule is the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Model — GEM for short — which defines and assigns values to fuel efficiency-increasing technologies for testing compliance with goals the rule sets. Global power management company Eaton Corp. says it helped get a word in edgewise for trucking that improved compliance testing by allowing for more flexible powertrain consideration.

Eaton contends the adjusted testing is "significantly improved" in that considers powertrain enhancements that can save fuel and help reach efficiency goals without simply having to add more technologies and cost to trucks.

That's a key point, since the rule addresses fuel economy of medium- and heavy-duty trucks from a vehicle perspective as well as for heavy-duty engines themselves, and fleets and trucking companies may choose to spec non-OEM powertrain options like the SmartAdvantage joint product offered by Cummins Inc. and Eaton. Fleet Owner heard from Mihai Dorobantu, engineering manager for Eaton's Truck Group technology team, about the adjusted compliance testing.

Q: Were there any changes from the GHG Phase 2 proposed rule to the final rule that you believe will help the trucking industry achieve the fuel economy goals set forth?

A: "Since the proposed rule, the EPA has improved two key testing alternatives that offer flexibility in achieving the standards. Transmission efficiency tests allow OEMs to take advantage of advanced technologies such as precision lubrication and gears designed for fuel efficiency.

"The powertrain test method also was significantly improved to allow the industry to quantify and take advantage of the efficiency driven by intelligent controls. Such technologies are not 'seen' by the default certification methodology, but do provide real fuel savings without adding cost, weight or complexity.

"The EPA has worked with the major industry stakeholders to ensure the testing methodologies are sound. Our advanced transmissions and controls help cover anywhere from one-tenth to two-thirds of the compliance gap, above and beyond the original estimates in the proposed rule."

Q: With the final rule, do you expect that all-new technologies will need to emerge and be added to improve efficiency?

A: "The proposed rule showed one path to compliance that was a mix of incremental improvements — for example, better lubrication or engine downspeeding — and totally new technologies such as waste heat recovery and electrification, which makes compliance very hard, adding cost, weight and complexity.

"As the industry started to think through the challenges of achieving compliance, other, better paths emerged. For example, our advanced automation and deep engine-transmission integration technologies also offer compliance value to our OEM customers between one-quarter and two-thirds of the compliance gap.

"These are examples of advanced technologies that do not add weight, complexity or cost, yet have dramatic results in terms of reducing fuel burn, and thus help achieve compliance. In many cases, by advancing the controls and intelligence of our transmissions, we enable OEMs to simplify and actually take weight out of the system.

"For example, improving transmission efficiency leads to cooler elimination, or using new dual-clutch technology allows the elimination of the notoriously inefficient torque converter while maintaining performance and drivability.

"So although the rule will likely force some new technologies in engines and aerodynamics, the ingenuity of the industry is already finding cost-effective means to use intelligence and controls to help compliance without adding new systems or hardware."

 

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