Optifuel: the aero apparent
AMERICAN and European trucks are going to be transformed over the next decade as regulators move to drive down emissions as well as fuel consumption.
Given the dependence on the two markets, Australia will likely be affected by the rules that will change the way trucks are designed and how they work.
The European cab-over truck will not look anything like it does today, with new legislation in place to move away from the flat-nosed front end that is space-efficient but creates terrible drag.
In the US, the federal government has announced two rounds of ambitious targets to slash heavy truck emissions and fuel use. The US has the strictest truck emission standards in the world, but the new targets also focus on the amount of fuel consumed.
Logic suggests reducing emissions and cutting fuel use are one and the same, but that’s not actually the case and doing both at the same time will need investment and innovation.
Much of the technology will go into engines and transmissions, but additional elements, such as aerodynamic skirts and drag reducing trailer attachments are also going to be part of the mix.
The US introduced new fuel economy and emission standards last year, but the introduction is drawn out through to 2017 to enable makers to manage their product lifecycles.
By the end of that window, the regulations stipulate heavy truck carbon dioxide emissions and fuel economy will be cut by 23 per cent compared to a regular 2010 model. US environmental and transport agencies have announced preliminary regulations to push down CO2 levels and fuel consumption by an additional 24 per cent over the 2017 levels in a program that would run through to 2027. The regulations, to apply to both the prime mover and the trailer, are expected to be locked in by 2016.
The government agencies behind the regulations, which are being championed by President Barack Obama, say manufacturers will need to focus on engine and transmission technology as well as aerodynamic cab design, aerodynamic trailer accessories, lower rolling resistance tyres and reducing the amount of time trucks idle.
Those involved in coming up with the new regulations are under no illusion the regulations will drive up initial costs, estimating a new truck would be almost $20,000 dearer and a trailer about $2000 more.
However, the government agencies claim these costs could be recovered in just two years given the fuel savings.
The transport manager at the non-profit Environmental Defence Fund, Jason Mathers, explained on the Supply and Demand Chain website that the regulations will drive down the cost of the technology because the production numbers will be so large. “The purpose of regulations is to enable manufacturers to bring costeffective fuel-saving technologies to market at scale,” he says.
In Europe, a strict new Euro 6 emissions standard is now in place but there are no plans on the horizon to enforce fuel economy standards for trucks.
However, a significant change in dimension regulations announced earlier this year could allow makers to lower consumption free of any economy standard.
Currently, length restrictions mean flat-nosed cab-overs are necessary to maximise load space.
European regulators plan to free up this restriction from 2022, allowing truck makers to fit vehicles with sloping aerodynamic nose cones. European truck designers have experimented with such shapes before and one example, a Renault Optifuel Lab concept truck of 2010, reportedly made fuel savings of 13.5 per cent.
European truck weight limit restrictions will also be relaxed by 1000kg for hybrid component installation.