Kenworth’s hy­brid vigour

Hy­brid en­gines main­tain pres­ence in elec­tric fu­ture

Big Rigs - - NEWS - Bruce Honey­will

THE Aus­tralian Kenworth T610, in its two ver­sions with new roomy cabs and plethora of rev­o­lu­tion­ary tech­ni­cal in­no­va­tions (for Yan­kee iron), has gob­s­macked both in­dus­try and tyre kick­ers since its launch in 2017.

But in the States, the T680 is al­ready march­ing down the high­ways and the new aero­dy­namic day cab is run­ning in tri­als in Cal­i­for­nia as Pac­car pushes its con­ser­va­tive en­ve­lope into what the com­pany sees as a changing fu­ture.

Sup­ported by fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment from state and fed­eral gov­ern­ments, pro­to­type ver­sions of the T680s are pow­ered by a range of trial power sources us­ing hy­brid com­bi­na­tions of fuel cells and nat­u­ral gas, putting trac­tion to the rub­ber through elec­tric power.

Th­ese Kenworth hy­brid so­lu­tions are be­ing tri­alled in the most emis­sion-crit­i­cal state in the US, pre­dom­i­nantly on short-haul work.

The devel­op­ment of the 2017/18 pro­to­types was helped along with mul­ti­mil­lion dol­lar sup­port of the US De­part­ment of En­ergy (DOE) and the of­fice of En­ergy Ef­fi­ciency and Re­new­able En­ergy (EERE), the fund­ing chan­nelled through south­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s South Coast Air Qual­ity Man­age­ment District (SCAQMD).

Hy­bridi­s­a­tion seems to be the pre­ferred path for Pac­car’s at­tempt to meet fu­ture emis­sion standards.

“Within the next decade, hy­brid elec­tric power trains are ex­pected to be re­quired to sat­isfy emis­sions reg­u­la­tions in most US metropoli­tan ar­eas,” says Kenworth’s chief en­gi­neer, Patrick Dean.

The devel­op­ment of the Cal­i­for­nian pro­to­types is pro­ceed­ing in three stages. In 2017 a fuel cell pow­ered elec­tric truck and a hy­brid us­ing the Cum­mins Westport ISL G com­pressed nat­u­ral gas (CNG) en­gine were built for ini­tial test­ing.

This year the first of four Westport CNG / elec­tro hy­brids will be built for real world test­ing out of Cal­i­for­nian ports.

The first zero emis­sions T680 built sources its en­ergy from fuel cells, us­ing com­pressed hy­dro­gen as the fuel.

Part of the govern­ment grants awarded in 2016 went to­wards this pro­to­type Class 8 hy­dro­gen fuel cell prime mover pro­vid­ing true zero emis­sions op­er­a­tion.

The fuel cell tech­nol­ogy was pro­vided by Bal­lard Power Sys­tems to recharge the lithium-ion on-board bat­ter­ies.

A true zero emis­sion so­lu­tion, the only to come from the truck is wa­ter out of the ex­haust pipe.

The fuel cell T680 is pow­ered by a dual ro­tor elec­tric mo­tor driv­ing the rear tan­dem axle through a four-speed au­to­mated trans­mis­sion.

Fuel cell tech­nol­ogy has ad­vanced over the decades and re­lies on hy­dro­gen as fuel com­bin­ing with oxy­gen from the at­mo­sphere be­ing fed into a lay­ered stack of Poly­mer Elec­trolyte Mem­branes (PEM) where a chem­i­cal process takes place through the mem­branes to pro­duce elec­tri­cal en­ergy and wa­ter.

The process is not dis­sim­i­lar to com­bus­tion but rather than heat, elec­tric en­ergy is out­put through con­duc­tive mem­branes.

One fuel cell pro­duces 1.16 volts so to obtain the en­ergy to power heavy ma­chin­ery, the cells are stacked in large bat­ter­ies.

While the emis­sions of fuel cell tech­nol­ogy at the truck are zero, the down­side of this method is that the man­u­fac­ture of hy­dro­gen comes from nat­u­ral gas at a pro­cess­ing plant and the ma­jor by prod­ucts of car­bon monox­ide and car­bon diox­ide are not green­house friendly.

But Pac­car is not the only one to ex­per­i­ment with hy­dro­gen fuel cells.

Toy­ota has de­vel­oped a con­cept hy­dro­gen fuel cell truck that is cur­rently do­ing short-haul port work in Cal­i­for­nia with av­er­age daily run­ning of about 300 km.

The Toy­ota en­gi­neers have been re­ported as say­ing as the truck proves it­self on the shorter hauls, they will be ex­tended to medium haulage.

Toy­ota claims the 80,000 lb GVM con­cept truck gen­er­ates more than 670 hp from two Mi­rai fuel cell stacks.

The fu­tur­is­tic trucks from Nikola Mo­tors are pow­ered by fuel cells but the im­prove­ment of all-elec­tric trucks and bat­tery tech­nol­ogy has seen the ma­chines be over­shad­owed by high pro­file all-electrics such as the Tesla Semi.

Per­haps emis­sions com­ing from hy­dro­gen pro­duc­tion was part of the rea­son why Pac­car moved the tech­nol­ogy of the sec­ond T680 pro­to­type to what is es­sen­tially a con­ven­tional in­ter­nal com­bus­tion en­gine driv­ing a gen­er­a­tor to recharge the on-board bat­tery and sup­ply elec­tri­cal en­ergy to the elec­tric mo­tor for trac­tive power.

The sec­ond pro­to­type uses the Cum­mins Westport ISL G Near Zero NOx en­gine fu­elled by com­pressed nat­u­ral gas (CNG) to gen­er­ate the elec­tri­cal en­ergy.

All the Kenworth pro­to­types carry lithium-ion bat­ter­ies and the elec­tric-only range of th­ese trucks is just un­der 50 km, but as a hy­brid they are ca­pa­ble of op­er­at­ing a full day’s work with the hy­brid source of power.

With data col­lected tri­alling will en­ter the real world this year with the project re­ceiv­ing an ad­di­tional $4.8 mil­lion in fund­ing from the Cal­i­for­nian Air Re­sources Board.

The two orig­i­nal pro­to­types are iden­ti­cal other than their re­spec­tive power generation sys­tems (fuel cell vs in­ter­nal com­bus­tion with CNG fuel).

Kenworth is build­ing an ad­di­tional four hy­brid elec­tric T680 Day Cabs equipped with the Cum­mins Westport ISL G Near Zero NOx en­gine op­er­at­ing on com­pressed nat­u­ral gas to go into cus­tomer vo­ca­tions for field test­ing in south­ern Cal­i­for­nia.

This year’s real world tri­alling will give Kenworth en­gi­neers the data and ef­fi­ciency pro­files to make de­sign and sys­tem re­fine­ments to the T680 and per­haps lift the cur­tain on Kenworth’s fu­ture.

❝trial The T680s tak­ing part in the are Kenworth’s new ul­tra aero­dy­namic day cabs, the prod­uct of so­phis­ti­cated air tun­nel mod­el­ling.

PHOTO: SUPPLIED BY KENWORTH

FU­ELLING THE FU­TURE: The Kenworth T680 Zero Emis­sions Cargo Trans­port (ZECT) hy­dro­gen-elec­tric.

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