As trucking’s drivers work the roads this winter, things can get a bit chilly in the cab. But as everyone knows, nothing warms trucker’s and fleet owner’s souls better this time of year than a little tech-talk about trucks. What’s hot in truck technology these days? A lot of cool stuff. As usual it’s the sexy stuff we all enjoy in this business: efficiency, safety and comfort.
Electric light and power
Analysts at ResearchandMarkets find falling battery prices, broader incentive policies, and charging infrastructure developments will boost electrification of fleet trucking.
They project battery pack prices are expected to fall below $100 per kWh by 2023, with high battery production capacities of 250+ GWh globally. The trend’s wave is just beginning to break but the tsunami of electro-motive power is coming: “With growing battery availability and technology-readiness, fully electric vehicles will gain prominence and will be largely used across all regions by 2025,” Explains ResearchandMarkets. “OEMs, they note, “have also announced plans to manufacture electric trucks and range-extended powertrain.” Meanwhile, perennial favorite, fuel cell technology, will gain prominence after 2022 explains ResearchandMarkets “due to the advantages of reduced component weight and packaging size.”
I Roll goes electric
For those unfamiliar, the brand name Volvo was originally registered 1911 and intended to be used for a new series of SKF ball bearings. It means "I roll" in Latin, conjugated from "volvere." You’re welcome.
Last Fall Volvo held a press conference to telegraph its technology roadmap and introduce how it wants to roll in 2020. Truckinginfo.com reported the surprise of the day was the unveiling of Volvo’s brand-new electric truck. This, the reporter opined “was not the medium-duty FE Electric model Volvo showcased last year.”
Nope, he explained, it was way more than that, pointing out the company has brought out a totally new, electric version of its Class 8 VNR regional haul tractor set to go into production some time in 2020.
Diesel and fossil not dead yet
Although pure battery-electric drivetrains are being perfected, other concepts featuring hybrid combustion/electric powertrains and other efficiency “plans” are being perfected as well. These and other combustion-based technologies (capable of producing energy from fuels of all kinds and subject worth its own column) are coming to commercial reality with increasing reliability.
European OEMs, says ResearchandMarkets for example, are shifting to vertically-integrated engines and transmissions with proprietary turbochargers to gain more precise control over the drivetrain, noting that as part of powertrain diversification, these manufacturers are focusing on proprietary natural gas engines and EV platforms.
Greenhouse gas/fuel efficiency regulations in TRIAD countries (Triad refers to the three regions dominating the world economy until the late 1990's: North America, Western Europe and Japan) and increasingly stringent tailpipe emission standards in developing economies will shape OEM powertrain strategies for the next decade.
Regardless these regulations will enhance the penetration (we told you this could get sexy) of efficiency leading diesel engine technologies such as advanced turbochargers, auto/manual transmissions, advanced after treatment systems, and electrification.
Pressure’s on for efficiency
Volvo, led off its new Class 8 technology introductions, announcing the second generation of a turbo compound diesel engine system it claims can provide an additional 3 percent improvement in fuel efficiency over its current 13L turbo compound engine. Volvo’s engineers say the new engine delivers up to 11 percent better overall fuel economy compared to its 2015 trucks.
In addition, the analysts seem to think novel engine architectures such as opposed-piston engines, split-cycle engines, double compression expansion engines, and the good-‘ol Miller cycle will be explored to improve the chemical and thermal efficiency of fuel in compression ignited or spark ignited engines. We’ll see, if any that sees general commercial use anytime soon, but technical integrations and refinements will continue to “get busy” increasing fuel economy and killing harmful emissions of reciprocating engines before they’re even made.
Driver’s little helpers
With trucking facing increasingly punitive liability claims and financial and operational challenges associated with the corresponding rise in commercial truck insurance rates, driver safety and similar collision-avoidance technologies are becoming even more attractive as trucking’s top technocrats advance the state-of-the-art.
Volvo for example announced that its Volvo Active Driver Assist (VADA) 2.0 comprehensive collision mitigation system will be made standard on new Volvo VNR and VNL models. The technology, says the company’s engineers, helps drivers maintain a safe following distance through alerts and improved traffic awareness, as well as emergency braking to reduce collision risks.
Volvo Active Driver Assist technology was also featured the company’s comprehensive collision mitigation system uses camera and radar sensors to detect motorized vehicles in the vehicle’s proximity. Volvo also announced a host of enhancements to technologies across an all-to-familiar list of safety systems in trucks:
- Automatic Emergency Braking
- Lane Departure Warning
- Highway Departure Warning and Braking
- Adaptive Cruise Control with Cruise Auto Resume
- Driver Awareness Support
By the seat of your comfy pants
Regardless of the driver and safety-assist technologies coming online driving a class-8 rig will always be, to a certain extent, a seat of your pants affair. Speaking of where drivers’ put their professional rears, recent developments in driver seat technology are set to make the driver more comfortable, less fatigued and therefore alert to do their jobs safely.
Worktruckonline.com reports Comfort Motion Global, (CMG) is working with several suppliers and fleet owners to bring its Motion Seating technology to market.
CMG’s Richard Ferguson finds the company’s “scientifically proven” motion seat technology is a “powerful, proactive solution to back fatigue, discomfort and other negative impacts of prolonged sitting.” Ferguson explains it fits perfectly with the trucking industry’s increased emphasis on driver safety.
The seat’s algorithm can also control the seats temperature optimally. Think about it, a seat that serves to both protect and warm your rear. Now that is a technology trend we can all get behind.