SAV­ING GRACES

Con­sum­ing con­sum­ables is a cost trans­port com­pa­nies want to re­duce and many are keen to help them with it. Rob McKay writes

Owner Driver - - Contents -

A spe­cial re­port on fu­els and lu­bri­cants and how trans­port com­pa­nies are aim­ing to re­duce costs

SPEND­ING ON DIESEL and the lu­bri­cants that ease com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles along their paths is viewed as an un­avoid­able evil by their own­ers and one they wish to re­duce where pos­si­ble. But the task has gained a sense of in­creased ur­gency re­cently after a pe­riod of rel­a­tively low prices. Two years ago, the price of crude oil fell fur­ther than dur­ing the depths of the Global Fi­nan­cial Cri­sis. On Fe­bru­ary 9 2016, West Texas In­ter­me­di­ate reached US$27.94 a bar­rel, more than 3 cents down on De­cem­ber 10, 2008’s US$31.10.

Around GFC time, a decade ago, diesel was at a na­tional av­er­age price of A$1.41 a litre, be­fore plung­ing 14 cents the next year, and fol­lowed the oil price down two years ago to A$1.23 a litre.

Ac­cord­ing to the Aus­tralian In­sti­tute of Pe­tro­leum, it is now at about A$1.30. If the trend re­mains sim­i­lar, oil and diesel will stay on an up­ward path, mirroring an eco­nomic resur­gence that has also seen new truck de­mand bur­geon­ing and with only a dark trade-war cloud mar­ring the blue skies.

Few costs fo­cus truck­ing minds quite as strongly as fuel prices, though the highs have never seemed to last quite long enough for al­ter­na­tive fu­els to be­come en­trenched. The rise of elec­tric propul­sion looks un­stop­pable … in time.

“Re­duced con­sump­tion of diesel fuel is good busi­ness,” Lin­fox ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Peter Fox says.

But while Lin­fox has been wed­ded to the search for al­ter­na­tive propul­sion sources for a long time, like most of the Aus­tralian truck­ing in­dus­try it ex­pects be us­ing diesel en­gines in the medium-to-long term.

Turn­ing back the tap

Un­like some other out­go­ings, fuel con­sump­tion is, to a cer­tain ex­tent, a uni­ver­sally con­trol­lable cost for trans­port com­pa­nies, a com­mon pur­suit in al­most all ad­vanced in­dus­tri­alised coun­tries. It is one that ma­jor truck man­u­fac­tur­ers are keen to im­press cus­tomers with and win­ning awards al­ways helps.

So it is that Sca­nia has hailed its vic­tory of its R 500 in the March Ger­man Green Truck Award fo­cused on low fuel con­sump­tion.

The ‘new gen­er­a­tion’ R 500 prime mover was armed with an up­dated 13-litre en­gine for the test over­seen by Ger­man truck mag­a­zines. It backed up on last year’s R 450 win in the same con­test.

Sca­nia says that with an av­er­age fuel con­sump­tion of 24.92 litres/100km and an av­er­age speed of 79.91km/h on the same 350km long test track, the dif­fer­ence be­tween Sca­nia and the next best com­peti­tor was 0.4 litres/100km. It adds that the dif­fer­ence adds up to 600 litres an­nu­ally.

All to­gether now

Two main fo­cuses of fuel burn re­duc­tion are on the ve­hi­cle and the driver. In a truck, the whole ve­hi­cle can be the sum of its en­ergy ef­fi­cient parts, with the en­gine the most high-pro­file of th­ese, as that is where the fuel is des­tined, but with rest, from trans­mis­sion to tyres, also con­tribut­ing.

It seems that al­most every part and, in­deed, every en­gine part has a part to play. This view was driven home in Aus­tralia with Sca­nia’s New Gen­er­a­tion trucks mak­ing their of­fi­cial Aus­tralian launch de­but this year.

Fuel ef­fi­ciency in its up­dated en­gine range — 9-litre 5-cylin­der, 13-litre 6-cylin­der and 16-litre V8 en­gines are all avail­able in Euro 6 and Euro 5 com­pli­ance — among the big­gest head­line points. Among the changes are a re­worked com­bus­tion cham­ber and new in­jec­tors, pro­duc­ing a sav­ing of 0.2-0.5 per cent, the com­pany says.

A gen­er­ally higher work­ing tem­per­a­ture and ther­mo­static oil cool­ing con­trib­ute to ad­di­tional sav­ings, to­gether with cool­ing fans, which in some cases have a larger di­am­e­ter, be­ing now di­rectly driven with­out en­ergy-in­ten­sive gear­ing, Sca­nia says. This can con­trib­ute a fuel sav­ing of up to

1 per cent, due to the oil be­ing kept at op­ti­mum tem­per­a­ture, even at lower power out­puts and at low out­door tem­per­a­tures.

“In ad­di­tion to the en­gine changes, cus­tomers can ex­pect sav­ings of another cou­ple of per cent,” Sca­nia Trucks prod­uct man­age­ment vice pres­i­dent Björn Fahlström said at the event. “A great deal of care has gone into el­e­ments such as aero­dy­nam­ics and smart en­gine man­age­ment. Com­pared to the just

su­per­seded Sca­nia Stream­line – our ex­tremely ef­fi­cient long­haul trucks with Euro 6 en­gines – the (com­pa­ra­ble) re­duc­tion is in the re­gion of 5 per cent.

“For a typ­i­cal long-haul truck that cov­ers 150,000km a year, this means a re­duc­tion of just over 2000 litres of diesel and con­sid­er­ably lower fuel costs.”

Three of the en­gines, the 730 ver­sion be­ing the ex­cep­tion, use se­lec­tive cat­alytic re­duc­tion (SCR) only for the after-treat­ment of ex­haust gases means that the V8 en­gines now have a fixed ge­om­e­try turbo unit.

“The max­i­mum pres­sure for the fuel dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem is now lower at 1800 bar, due to the use of SCR tech­nol­ogy for after-treat­ment,” Sca­nia says. “Once the fuel ar­rives in the cylin­ders via the newly de­vel­oped in­jec­tion sys­tem, helped by an XPI high-pres­sure pump that has just two pis­tons, in­creased com­pres­sion and a max­i­mum cylin­der pres­sure as high as 210 bar are ap­plied – im­por­tant fea­tures for re­duced fuel con­sump­tion.”

Sca­nia says its V8 en­gine’s 7-10 per cent fuel con­sump­tion im­prove­ments are achieved via:

• In­ter­nal changes in­volv­ing in­creased com­pres­sion, higher cylin­der pres­sure, re­duced fric­tion, etc. (1.5-2.0 per cent)

• Shift from EGR/SCR to SCR only and a fixed ge­om­e­try turbo pro­vides higher ef­fi­ciency and main­tains ex­haust tem­per­a­tures so that re­quire­ments for rais­ing the tem­per­a­ture are re­duced (1.5 per cent)

• New after-treat­ment sys­tem pro­vides im­proved AdBlue va­por­i­sa­tion per­for­mance, op­ti­mised after-treat­ment of sub­strates, and less pres­sure loss (about 1.5 per cent)

• New dis­en­gage­able aux­il­iary sys­tems (1.5 to 2 per cent for cus­tomers with “nor­mal, rep­re­sen­ta­tive driv­ing pat­terns”)

• Aero­dy­namic changes that ini­tially came with Sca­nia’s New Truck Gen­er­a­tion (roughly 2 per cent for typ­i­cal longdis­tance cus­tomers. “Even with Aus­tralian spec­i­fi­ca­tion bull­bars fit­ted, as proven by in-coun­try test­ing”).

Miller camshaft

In­ter­est­ingly, Sca­nia has gone back to the fu­ture in its search for sav­ings. Like the other 6-cylin­der en­gines, the new 370hp en­gine has un­der­gone a com­plete up­grade, with a new en­gine man­age­ment sys­tem and re­worked cylin­der heads. It also now re­lies on a fixed ge­om­e­try tur­bocharger and SCR only.

In ad­di­tion to th­ese im­prove­ments, which them­selves lower fuel con­sump­tion by about 4 per cent un­der typ­i­cal driv­ing con­di­tions, the new con­fig­u­ra­tion of the en­gine has been equipped with a Miller camshaft.

Sca­nia ar­gues that Euro 6 en­gines with a large dis­place­ment and rel­a­tively low power out­put run a cer­tain risk of hav­ing prob­lems with after-treat­ment be­cause the en­gine doesn’t nat­u­rally gen­er­ate enough of the ex­cess heat that is re­quired to main­tain a suf­fi­ciently high tem­per­a­ture in the af­tertreat­ment sys­tem.

“One so­lu­tion to that prob­lem can be to burn ex­tra fuel when re­quired, which of course in­creases fuel con­sump­tion,” it says.

“Sca­nia’s so­lu­tion is more el­e­gant. The en­gine in­stead op­er­ates ac­cord­ing to the Miller cy­cle, a tech­nol­ogy patented in the United States in the 1950s.

“Us­ing a spe­cial pro­file on the camshaft for the in­take valves keeps them open a lit­tle longer than nor­mal dur­ing the com­pres­sion phase.

“That means less air is pumped through the en­gine, which con­trib­utes to keep­ing the tem­per­a­ture up and the SCR sys­tem run­ning – all with­out the need to add diesel for the sake of heat alone.”

Air­Flow Star­ship

This is not so say OEMs are do­ing it all by them­selves. In the US, one of the more fas­ci­nat­ing col­lab­o­ra­tions is be­tween Shell Lu­bri­cants and the Air­Flow Truck Com­pany and here again, the var­i­ous com­po­nents’ abil­ity to be part of the fuel-re­duc­tion process comes to the fore.

The Air­Flow Star­ship, com­plete with so­lar pan­els on the trailer roof and ul­tra-aero­dy­namic car­bon-fi­bre prime mover de­sign, has been tested to see how ad­vances in en­gine and drive train tech­nol­ogy, the use of low vis­cos­ity syn­thetic lu­bri­cants, aero­dy­namic de­signs, ef­fi­cient driv­ing meth­ods and more can come to­gether.

It uses last year’s Cum­mins X15 Ef­fi­ciency six-pot to put 298kW (400hp) and 2508Nm (1850ft-lb) to the task. Shell has aimed its Rotella line of en­gine oils and lu­bri­cants at the project, in­clud­ing its fully syn­thetic heavy duty en­gine oil, its diesel ex­haust fluid and ex­tended life coolant. Also in that mix are the Spi­rax range in­clud­ing the, S6 GXME 75W-80 trans­mis­sion oil, S5 ADE 75W-85 dif­fer­en­tial oil and S6 GME 40 wheel hub oil. Beyond the ac­tive grill shut­ters, use of which is based on tem­per­a­ture to max­imise aero­dy­nam­ics, and the trailer’s boat tail end for stream­lined air flow around truck and drag re­duc­tion, other ef­fi­ciency items in­clude:

• Hy­brid elec­tric axle sys­tem for a power boost while climb­ing grades

• Cus­tom au­to­matic tire in­fla­tion sys­tem for con­sis­tent tire pres­sure and op­ti­mal fuel econ­omy

• Down­speed axle con­fig­u­ra­tion pro­vides im­proved ef­fi­ciency and pulling power

• 5000W so­lar ar­ray charges and stores power for nor­mal elec­tri­cal com­po­nents.

“The en­ergy tran­si­tion will play out over many years and it seems un­likely that any ‘sil­ver bul­let’ so­lu­tion will emerge,” Shell Lu­bri­cants tech­nol­ogy man­ager for in­no­va­tion Bob Main­war­ing says. “In that sense, it’s use­ful to work out just how good we can be to­day if we draw to­gether the most promis­ing ef­fi­ciency con­cepts into a sin­gle place … in ef­fect be­ing the best we can be every day.”

Driver train­ing

It is a some­times over­looked truth that the im­por­tance of driver be­hav­iour to ef­fi­cient driv­ing was recog­nised decades be­fore OEMs made driver train­ing a cen­tral part of their aux­il­iary ser­vice of­fer­ings. Of course, among the OEMs tak­ing driver train­ing most se­ri­ously is Volvo and the Volvo Fuel Chal­lenge is fol­lowed in Owner//Driver as much as any­where.

Ef­fi­cient driv­ing first came into vogue in the early 1970s with the first oil price shock. In 1989, John Saun­ders and Peter Thomp­son pro­duced the Truck Driv­ers Man­ual for the Fed­eral Of­fice of Road Safety, say­ing: “Aus­tralian and over­seas ex­pe­ri­ence has shown that proper train­ing of truck driv­ers sig­nif­i­cantly re­duces ve­hi­cle main­te­nance costs (by al­most half in some in­stances) and im­proves fuel econ­omy.”

Much of the ad­vice over the years have been com­mon-sense

items. In 2009, the Aus­tralian Truck­ing As­so­ci­a­tion noted in its Truck­ing In­dus­try En­vi­ron­men­tal Best Prac­tice Guide that tri­als un­der­taken in Syd­ney by two large trans­port com­pa­nies showed ‘smooth’ driv­ers used 27 per cent less fuel than ‘lead foot­ers’ in an empty Ken­worth, with only three min­utes added to a 70 km run. US re­search found that driv­ing ag­gres­sively in­creased fuel con­sump­tion by nearly 30 per cent, with only a 10 per cent in­crease in av­er­age speed.

The re­searchers of­fered the fol­low­ing ad­vice:

• An­tic­i­pate con­di­tions ahead so that brak­ing is min­imised

• Do not ac­cel­er­ate to a higher speed than re­quired if you must later slow or stop – every time brakes are ap­plied, en­ergy ex­tracted from the fuel is dis­si­pated

• Avoid stopped de­lays – fuel used idling is un­pro­duc­tive and, when ac­cel­er­at­ing after stop­ping, in­creased en­ergy must be ex­tracted from the fuel.

Other re­search shows that per­for­mance im­prove­ments can come from:

• Start­ing up/warm­ing up – start with no throt­tle, idle un­til full oil pres­sure is in­di­cated, main­tain low en­gine speed un­til water tem­per­a­ture be­gins to rise

• Eas­ing up to full speed – use only enough revs to keep the truck mov­ing and to reach the next gear smoothly

“A great deal of care has gone into el­e­ments such as aero­dy­nam­ics and smart en­gine man­age­ment.”

• Watch­ing the tachome­ter – fuel ef­fi­ciency is greater when en­gine speed (rpm) is slightly above where max­i­mum torque is pro­duced • Down­shift­ing – let the en­gine pull down to torque speed be­fore se­lect­ing lower gear, be­cause lower rpm means lower fuel con­sump­tion • Avoid­ing jerky pat­terns of ac­cel­er­a­tion and de­cel­er­a­tion – sudden ac­cel­er­a­tion re­sults in in­com­plete fuel com­bus­tion and heavy ex­haust smoke.

More re­cently, fleet soft­ware firm Ver­i­zon Con­nect vouched for this sort of ad­vice but ad­vo­cates driver ed­u­ca­tion be­cause driv­ers:

• Re­alise they can make a big dif­fer­ence

• Can learn that us­ing less fuel im­proves both job se­cu­rity, by mak­ing the firm more prof­itable, and the en­vi­ron­ment through re­duced emis­sions

• Are more con­scious of how they drive and how it af­fects fuel con­sump­tion

• Un­der­stand the safety ben­e­fits of driv­ing more re­spon­si­bly.

As said, this is an in­ter­na­tional pur­suit, so here are a few tips from our Kiwi cousins that may be worth a look for those whose fleets are pre­pon­der­antly man­ual. They come from driver out­fit DT Driver Train­ing, which counts Toll, Freight Lines and Al­lied Pick­fords among its clients.

• Keep the wheels turn­ing: use an­tic­i­pa­tion at traf­fic lights, round­abouts, cor­ner­ing and in stop­start traf­fic

• Take it easy while the en­gine is cold as cold en­gines burn more fuel

• Keep revs in the eco­nom­i­cal power band

• Don’t sit with the en­gine idling

• Keep the revs down

• Use block shift­ing (skip­ping gears)

• Keep the en­gine well-ser­viced

• Obey the speed limit or shoot lower

• Re­duce the re­sis­tance from the air and the road

• Make your truck as aero­dy­namic as pos­si­ble

• Open­ing the win­dows is bet­ter for fuel econ­omy than air con­di­tion­ing

• Use 6×2 axles rather than 6×4 axles

• Keep your wheels aligned and tyres prop­erly in­flated

• Use cruise con­trol

• Use your mo­men­tum

• Don’t over­fill your tank

• Check that the tank seals cor­rectly.

Top: The Air­Flow Star­ship shows the lengths Shell Lu­bri­cants will go to prove a point

Above: Sca­nia’s new gen­er­a­tion en­gines use tech­nolo­gies new and old to in­crease ef­fi­ciency

Be­low: There are even fuel sav­ings to be made at the bowser

Top: Sca­nia’s Sca­nia New Truck Gen­er­a­tion G 500 and R 620 on road

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