Battle of the Su­perTrucks

Freight­liner Su­perTruck claims to be 115% more freight-ef­fi­cient than a base­line 2009 truck

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - BEN COX­WORTH

BACK in 2009, the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy is­sued its Su­perTruck Chal­lenge. The pro­gramme pro­vided fund­ing for truck man­u­fac­tur­ers to de­sign and build a pro­to­type ve­hi­cle that was at least 50% more freight-ef­fi­cient than a base­line 2009 truck.

Daim­ler Trucks North Amer­ica re­cently un­veiled its re­sponse — the Freight­liner Su­perTruck. It goes be­yond the 50% fig­ure, with a claimed ef­fi­ciency in­crease of 115%.

The truck was cre­ated through a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Daim­ler-owned com­pa­nies Freight­liner, Detroit En­gines, Mercedes-Benz and Fuso.

Much of its in­creased ef­fi­ciency is due to bet­ter aero­dy­nam­ics. This was achieved partly through a very stream­lined trac­tor that in­cludes fea­tures such as ad­justable ride height, rear wheel fair­ings, ar­tic­u­lated side ex­ten­ders that bridge the gap be­tween trac­tor and trailer, and ven­ti­la­tion slats in the grille that close when the ve­hi­cle is trav­el­ling at high­way speeds.

That stream­lin­ing pro­ceeds back to the trailer, where side skirts chan­nel air past the wheels and away from the un­der­side, while rear fins keep tur­bu­lence from build­ing up in the space be­hind the trailer. As a re­sult, the Su­perTruck is a claimed 54% more aero­dy­namic than the base­line truck.

A lot of em­pha­sis was also placed on us­ing light­weight ma­te­ri­als, and re­duc­ing fric­tion. This in­cludes a trac­tor frame de­sign that re­quires fewer cross­mem­bers, a lighter rear sus­pen­sion, and cus­tom Miche­lin tyres made with a rub­ber com­pound that de­creases rolling re­sis­tance. Util­is­ing th­ese ap­proaches and oth­ers, a to­tal of 318 kg was shaved off of the trac­tor.

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, the Su­perTruck also has a hy­brid diesel/elec­tric drive sys­tem. As a means of boost­ing its bat­tery power, how­ever, it utilises a waste heat re­cov­ery sys­tem which har­vests ther­mal en­ergy from the hot ex­haust.

The cus­tom-de­signed low-fric­tion 10,7-litre en­gine, mean­while, man­ages an im­pres­sive 50% brake ther­mal ef­fi­ciency (which was an­other stated goal of the Su­perTruck Chal­lenge).

Other ef­fi­ciency-boost­ing fea­tures that were ad­di­tion­ally in­cor­po­rated in­clude rooftop so­lar pan­els on the trailer that can in­de­pen­dently power its cargo-cool­ing sys­tem; an ex­haust af­tertreat­ment sys­tem that al­lows the en­gine to run at higher tem­per­a­tures and pres­sures; and a GPS-based pre­dic­tive sys­tem that shifts gears and ad­justs speed, based on the up­com­ing ter­rain.

The 115% fig­ure was ar­rived at based on a five-day, 500 km round trip route on Texas In­ter­state 35 be­tween San An­to­nio and Dal­las, at a weight of 29 484kg GVWR (gross ve­hi­cle weight rat­ing) and a speed of 104 km/h. Its ac­tual fuel ef­fi­ciency on that trip was 19,3 litres per 100km, which is re­port­edly about twice what most trucks are able to at­tain un­der sim­i­lar con­di­tions.

— Giz­


Freight­liner’s new Su­perTruck, de­signed to meet the U.S. Depart­ment of En­ergy-is­sued Su­perTruck Chal­lenge for bet­ter ef­fi­cien­cies.

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