Photo: Aaron Marsh/Fleet Owner
Volvo FL Electric waste truck

Smart people are working on cool things in trucking

July 13, 2018
For five of the last six years I have been an official reviewer for the Department Of Energy’s Annual Merit Review for Vehicle Technologies projects.

For five of the last six years I have been an official reviewer for the Department Of Energy’s Annual Merit Review for Vehicle Technologies projects. I have had the chance, along with other industry participants, to review lots of very interesting projects. If you are interested in seeing the types of projects that have been explored over the last 10 years check out these presentations.

You may be familiar with this program because of SuperTrucks, but as you can see it encompasses much more. Presentations cover a wide rang of subjects includes: advanced combustion systems, batteries, electric drive systems, electrification, energy-efficient mobility systems, fuels and lubricants, hydrogen and fuel cells, lightweighting, technology integration, vehicle systems and more.

Here are my key takeaways from the event:

  • There are a lot of very smart people working on our biggest problems. One track reviewed about 100 battery projects. All I can say to that is, “Wow.”
  • DOE is serious about research and commercialization. In fact, budgets are actually up a bit for transportation.
  • Now more than ever collaboration seems stronger than before. The collaboration is across a wide range of entities — DOE labs to component manufactures to truck builders to end users and includes NGOs.
  • Major improvements in efficiency are still achievable, but now require significantly different designs than we have today. Think things like BEVs, hybrids, major changes to diesel powertrains, and even drones, lockers, etc.

A couple other things that struck me:

  • It is nice to see projects that are building, testing and comparing multiple solutions on similar routes. This helps everyone in the industry think and communicate the best technology for differing duty cycles. And that is always a key to successful deployment of technical solutions.
  • If we can’t explain a technology in a way that users can understand it, they will not buy it. In short, we need to avoid engineer- and tech-speak.

Being an official reviewer for the Department Of Energy’s Annual Merit Review for Vehicle Technologies projects makes me feel like I have a front seat to the future.

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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