Volvo Group
Volvo SuperTruck

With gratitude to the SuperTruck program

Aug. 31, 2022
Based on the improvements that SuperTruck I brought to trucks in production today, there likely will be more efficiencies brought to the market as a result of SuperTruck II and SuperTruck III.

I’ve been an official reviewer for the 10 years of the SuperTruck program. It really has been an honor to have had an up-close look at the work of the four teams from SuperTruck I and the five teams from SuperTruck II. The teams have done great work and, perhaps more importantly, they have developed many technologies that have been put into production to increase freight efficiency.

One point that I think gets lost when talking about the SuperTruck program is that it includes a lot of development of basic energy efficiency—good tires, aerodynamics, idle reduction, lightweighting, parameter settings, etc. And all those things matter regardless of whether the truck is powered by diesel, natural gas, batteries, or hydrogen fuel cells.

Think of it this way: The things I mentioned above that allow us to get more miles out of a gallon of diesel also will allow us to help extend the range of zero-emission trucks. If the battery cost $40,000 but you use the findings from the SuperTruck program, you may get a 30% improvement in efficiency. And that could translate into needing $12,000 less battery. That is huge!

See also: DOE awards $127M to SuperTruck 3, sets sights on EVs

In addition, the reality is that given fleet trade cycles and that current alternative fueled technologies are not right for every duty cycle, diesel power will be around for years to come. Things learned by the SuperTruck teams will help make diesel-powered trucks as fuel efficient as possible. And that is a good thing.

I think we are at a turning point with the SuperTruck program. The reviews we did back in June are the last ones for SuperTruck II, and each of the five teams is now testing their final tractor-trailers and will report on their findings in the next few months. This is the last SuperTruck for diesels and SuperTruck III teams are already working on battery-electric and fuel-cell vehicles.

But we need to remember that the first two SuperTruck programs weren’t just about diesel; they were about overall efficiency of the tractor and trailer, which will benefit and port over to these zero-emission trucks.

When the SuperTruck program, which is a 50/50 partnership between government and truck makers, was first announced, many people thought that what was learned through the program would never be translated to real-world, mass use. Those people sure were proven wrong.

One other interesting thing about the program is that it not only taught us what would work, but in at least one case it taught us what wouldn't work. I refer to waste-heat recovery here. All the SuperTruck I and SuperTruck II teams spent a lot of time, effort, and money working on full-scale waste-heat recovery only to find that it is really too complex and too expensive to commercialize.

Based on the success of SuperTruck I and the changes it brought that improved the overall efficiency of trucks in production today, there likely will be more things brought to the market as a result of SuperTruck II and SuperTruck III. Well done, all. Looks like I should not be the only one feeling honored that these programs exist. The whole industry owes a debt of gratitude to the teams involved in the program.

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

About the Author

Michael Roeth | Executive Director

Michael Roeth has worked in the commercial vehicle industry for nearly 30 years, most recently as executive director of the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE). He serves on the second National Academy of Sciences Committee on Technologies and Approaches for Reducing the Fuel Consumption of Medium and Heavy-Duty Vehicles and has held various positions in engineering, quality, sales, and plant management with Navistar and Behr/Cummins.

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