Building on SuperTruck Success

Good news coming out of the Work Truck Show’s Green Summit where Reuben Sarkar, deputy assistant secretary of transportation for the Department of Energy, announced funding for SuperTruck II – up to $80 million of funding to be exact.

The four teams that participated in the first SuperTruck were tasked with demonstrating that by 2015 Class 8 trucks could achieve 50% higher fuel efficiency than baseline model year 2009 vehicles.

Sarkar said the four teams used a variety of technologies to achieve the goals. We’re talking everything from more common things aerodynamic packages and low rolling resistance tires — technologies we’ve studied — to more exotic things like waste heat recovery.  In fact, those familiar with SuperTruck details can point to parts all over current production tractors and trailers, knowing that they are now available for purchase because of the program.

Some of the SuperTruck projects were able to achieve that 12-mpg mark that we at Trucking Efficiency talk about all the time.  It was an honor and a pleasure for me to be an official DOE Merit Reviewer over the course of the last four years and now we get to do it again!

SuperTruck II looks like it will build upon the success of the first program with special emphasis on making sure technologies used are affordable.  Sarkar told the audience, “Our goal is that the technologies in SuperTruck II will continue to push the boundaries and pay particularly close attention to what’s cost effective in the marketplace. So it’ll require innovation just to get the cost out of some of the technologies.” We’re all for that. The affordability of a technology is one of the factors fleets consider when determining whether to purchase a fuel-saving technology, and is one of the things we look at when giving a confidence rating to a technology that we’ve studied.

It takes a bit of time for technologies to become commercially viable, so programs like SuperTruck II are important in order to test new ways to improve freight efficiency to understand which solutions result in real gains. Once those technologies are identified, work can begin on making them commercially viable.

Glad to see the DOE is infusing the trucking industry with some cash. And I hope the truck and engine makers will rise to the challenge — as they did with the first SuperTruck — so the end result will be 12 mpgs as the norm for all Class 8 trucks.

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