Right out of the factory

Integrating fuel efficiency technologies on the assembly line

My colleague Dave Schaller recently presented a paper (16CV-0298) that he and I co-authored called Confidence in Freight Efficiency Technologies at the SAE 2016 Commercial Vehicle Engineering Congress as part of the conference’s GHG Symposium.  The paper talked about the fact that there are now lots of fuel efficiency technologies on the market for fleets to choose from, but there are barriers that get in the way of them making those investments.

Barriers included:

  • Lack of credible information,
  • Uncertainty around the amount of time needed for technologies to pay for themselves,
  • Lack of capital to invest in new technologies,
  • Questions about the reliability of new technologies, and
  • Lack of availability of fuel-saving technologies from preferred OEMs.

One of the things we believe will allow fleets to take advantage of these technologies would be for truck and trailer builders to quickly offer a wide variety of these enhancements as factory installed options. Knowing that a fuel efficiency technology was installed at the factory during regular truck assembly and is covered under warranty not only means fleets can get what they want from their manufacturer of choice but they will have peace of mind that comes from knowing these offerings mesh seamlessly with other components on the truck, be validated and carry a full factory warranty.

Here are a couple of examples of what happens when fuel saving technology is not thought of as an integral part of truck design:

  • Early innovators began purchasing natural gas engines and fuel tanks. The thing is tank configurations for natural gas vehicles differ from those used for diesel fuel. As a result a major fleet that had been using aerodynamic devices on its diesel powered vehicles was unable to get those same devices — cab extenders, chassis skirts and roof extenders — on their natural gas powered vehicles. The situation has since been remedied but it took many years and the fleet did not get efficiency gains it had hoped for.
  • Automated transmissions are gaining popularity in the industry but unfortunately some manufacturers did not think through the full implication of this move and in one instance a fleet had to switch truck brands when it moved to AMTs because the AMT his original manufacturer used did not allow for a PTO and the fleet needed PTOs on its trucks.

I understand that manufacturers can’t possibly offer every fuel efficiency devices as a factory install on every possible chassis configuration, but it would really help adoption rates if they offered at least some of them as factory installed options to help fleets continue on their drive to 12 mpgs.

Other conclusions we made in the SAE paper include:

  • Developers need to create products that deliver fuel efficiency with the best total operating costs. They must understand the customer duty cycles and business cases to offer products that meet the fleets’ needs within their payback expectations.
  • Tractor and trailer builders should quickly offer the wide variety of needed configurations for adoption by end users.
  • Fleets should deeply understand their total cost of ownership and monetize all elements of the benefits and consequences of a given technology.
  • Regulators should continually update the models that calculate the CO2 emissions within the regulations.
  • Support organizations such as the Society of Automotive Engineers and the Technology & Maintenance Council should be quick to develop the needed standards and practices to support the industry in these efforts.
  • All stakeholders should be more transparent in sharing the data and results on the performance of various technologies and total cost of ownership so that improvements can constantly made to the value of the technologies.
TAGS: News Equipment
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