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Eaton predicts electrified future

NASHVILLE, TN – Eaton’s Technology Innovation Center has looked into the future and believes it’s electrifying.  “I think the next 10 years are going to be very dynamic, probably more dynamic than they have ever been,” says Larry Bennett, who leads the supplier’s advanced research and development arm. He sees the transmission becoming the heart of vehicle hybrid and electrical systems, which will have their own roles increase because of factors such as jurisdictions that want to ban internal combustion engines. The predicted changes are not all about power sources, either. Future vehicles will be increasingly “connected and adaptable”, he said, referring to real-time changes and calibrations in the name of fuel economy, sometimes just a few seconds before they’re needed. Further Vehicle-to-Infrastructure and Vehicle-to-Vehicle communications will make it possible to shift to things like a more fuel-efficient route. Then there is the emergence of autonomous vehicles. “The use of the vehicle and who owns it is going to change rapidly, especially in the cities,” Bennet added, referring to ride-sharing systems. In the next five years, Original Equipment Manufacturers will be searching for the “low-hanging fruit” of available technologies that will help to earn Greenhouse Gas credits, he predicted. In the five years that follow, engine companies will increasingly look at options such as downsizing and also need to find ways to augment power in certain situations, perhaps with hybrids. Advances in the next five years could include electromechanical valvetrain actuators, dual-clutch transmissions, smart-charging batteries, intelligent vehicle control, and over-the air programming. “We can change the calibration on a transmission once it’s pulled in and parked for the night,” he said, offering one example. Look a decade out and the predicted technologies begin to include electric valvetrain actuators, Exhaust Gas Recirculation improvements, electric powertrains, efficient power management, predictive controls, and the systems that enable autonomous vehicles. Picture a purpose-build transmission for electric vehicles. That can offer better gradeability and acceleration with a smaller electric motor, he said. A non-propulsion form of hybrid would be able to allow things like engine-off coasting and hotel modes, he added, predicting the quick adoption of 48-volt systems because of it. “They (manufacturers) want to take it off the engine and not have it spinning and creating parasitic losses.” Looking further to the future, there are questions about which vocations will not be allowed to use internal combustion engines in different cities, he added. “There’s going to be a lot of electrification.” That will ensure machines are only used when needed and eliminate parasitic losses. While vehicles will still rely on 12- and 24-volt power, Eaton expects growing interest in 48-volt systems for non-propulsion needs. Electric propulsion systems, meanwhile, could require north of 300 volts. For the company itself, Eaton sees the transmission as the center of this universe. “We see the transmission as being ideally located on the vehicle to manage the electric power,” Bennett explained. A generator on the transmission, for example, could be used to run air conditioning compressors, offering the cooling without the need for an $8,000 Auxiliary Power Unit, he said. “Now you have hotel mode with the existing system that’s on the vehicle.” New auto docking technologies will shut the system down and apply the brake before a trailer backs into a dock, and then creep into place. Emerging self-coupling features will also make the coupling of tractors and trailers less of a violent, damaging event. The company already has the components to develop power management systems and power distribution modules. Lessons have already been learned that make it possible to better manage batteries, extending their lifespans, minimizing sizes and reducing costs, he added. “Managing the electrical power. That’s where we believe our core competencies are.”

Fuel-saving engine accessories tough to justify: NACFE

NASHVILLE, TN – Variable engine-driven accessories offer “relatively modest” fuel economy gains and can be complex, making it difficult for fleets to justify the related investments, the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) and Carbon War Room have found. The findings are included in the research teams’ latest Confidence Report, one in a series of documents that explore existing and emerging fuel-saving technologies. Engine-driven accessories use about 3-5% of the fuel consumed by a Class 8 tractor-trailer, NACFE says. About 40% of the fuel’s energy is delivered to the powertrain, with the remainder lost in the form of heat through the radiator, exhaust and charge air cooler. “We’re not talking a ton of fuel here, but it is fuel,” says Michael Roeth, operation lead – trucking efficiency. That said, the group didn’t find enough payback to support the broad adoption of several advanced engine-driven accessories. Not yet. That could change if the manufacturers begin to shift to 48-volt systems or waste heat recovery. The higher voltages, for example, can also lead to smaller wires and smaller motors, and introduce new approaches for everything from air conditioning to steering. Studied options for the latest report included: Variable-speed water pumps that don’t operate at full power all the time Cooling fans that run at multiple or variable speeds Clutched air compressors that don’t draw on engine power when air tanks are at required levels Dual-displacement power steering pumps that account for the fact that linehaul tractors spend most of their time traveling in a straight line High-efficiency alternators used to recharge batteries and power electrical loads when the engine is running Electrically driven air conditioning compressors Smart air dryers Electrically driven accessories Most of these components are still seen as emerging technologies, tested through programs such as the SuperTruck initiative. Fleets should continue to review the accessories and manufacturers should continue to develop the solutions, he said. And since some will help to reduce Greenhouse Gas emissions, they may be added as standard features and help to improve the payback periods. “However, the savings enabled by improved accessories are unlikely to be a big driving force behind increasing vehicle system voltages,” the report says. “Uptime is mandatory for fleets, and they have reliability concerns with variable engine-driven accessories,” Roeth added. NACFE has released 15 confidence reports overall. Fleets that use 30-40 of the 70 technologies that have been studied so far are achieving around 9-9.5 miles per gallon (24 liters per 100 kilometers), he said. The group is scheduled to update its research into downspeeding on March 22, and will revisit 6x2 liftable axles on May 4. Its annual fleet fuel study will come in August.

Plan defers inflation system costs

NASHVILLE, TN – Velociti, a company that specializes in deploying and maintaining a wide array of vehicle technology, has unveiled a payment plan to help convince fleets to retrofit existing trailers with Meritor’s Tire Inflation System by PSI. The deferred billing and extended payment plan – known as Instant ROI for ATIS (Automatic Tire Inflation System) -- has even been structured so fleets begin to realize financial returns from the equipment before the first cheques are cut. Payments do not begin until all the trailers are retrofitted, and also include an allowance for replacement parts, telematics, and the underlying data plan. While more than 50% of fleets now spec’ new trailers with Automatic Tire Inflation Systems, only a fraction of existing trailers are retrofitted, said Deryk Powell, Velociti’s president and Chief Operating Officer. Automatic Tire Inflation Systems have been show to extend tread life, increase fuel economy, and reduce the need for roadside service calls linked to blown tires. A company survey suggests that fleet managers are often unaware that retrofitting is an option, think they won’t own the trailers long enough to realize the returns, or can’t secure the required capital. While the systems represent a significant expense up front, the savings are “absolutely” defined, Powell said.  “It’s a huge opportunity in the market for fleets to recognize additional Return on Investment.” A fleet of 1,000 trailers, for example, could be billed $100 per system per month for the first year, and then $12 per month for 36 months. The net savings realized from the systems, however, could reach about $3,000 per trailer in that timeframe. The service relationship with Velociti can be ended at the end of the 36-month term. The Meritor by PSI system also holds 70% of the market, he said, referring to why Velociti focused on this equipment. More than 1 million trailers have been equipped overall. “There’s not a Number 2 that’s close.”