To stay competitive on the world truck trailer market, American companies need to take advantage of advancements

Feb. 1, 2013
Companies in the industry need to understand the balance of innovation versus regulation, according to Derek Kaufman, president of the C3 Network

Companies in the industry need to understand the balance of innovation versus regulation, according to Derek Kaufman, president of the C3 Network, which works with clients to increase their top-line sales and launch new technical products.

Kaufman sits on three different corporate boards. At board meetings in the fourth quarter of last year, he noted that there was a tendency to place more emphasis on products inspired by regulations as opposed to innovation.

“We talked about the innovation required to keep ahead of the Chinese, and the Chinese trying to develop something at two-thirds of the cost of what we're selling,” he said. “Well, how do we do that? We do it by technological gaps, by maintaining that the ROI coming off the technology that we have and they don't is the reason to buy our products. Here's what the regulations have done: In one company, 60% of R&D was spent for regulations and 40% was for innovation. All our companies need to understand this. We need to have conversation to understand what it takes to stay competitive in world markets.”

In “Powertrain Trends and the Aftermarket Opportunities They Represent,” Kaufman analyzed how new products can meet the challenges faced by industry companies.

He said new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) regulations require 20%-23% fuel-consumption and emissions reductions in a phase-in approach from 2014 through 2018.

“The consumption is calculated on gallons or grams of CO2 per ton-mile,” he said. “That did not used to be the case. It gives the trucking industry credit for the amount of freight hauled in this country and suggests a percentage-type of number based on miles traveled is better way to look at our industry.

“The technology to achieve it includes idle shutdown, top-speed limiting, enhanced EGR oxygen sensor, variable-speed fans, electrically driven turbochargers, clutched-air compressors, air-injection boost, peak-shaving, down-speeding, new oils, high-performance diesel particulate filters (DPF), waste-heat collection, and electrification.”

Driven be regulations

With the 2014 Super Truck Department of Energy (DOE) approach defining the changes in drivetrain components, the challenge is to gain a boost of 50% in brake thermal efficiency and 50% in freight efficiency (freight ton miles per gallon), with a demonstration of 55% engine BTE by mid-2014.

“They're studying losses from each section of the vehicle,” he said. “That includes engine losses of 58-60% urban and 58-59% interstate, aero losses of 4-10% urban and 15-22% interstate, inertia braking of 15-20% urban and 0-2% interstate, auxiliary loads of 7-8% urban and 1-4% interstate, drivetrain of 5-6% urban and 2-4% interstate, and rolling resistance of 8-12% urban and 13-16% interstate. This is aimed at the middle of 2014 to try to get some of these things out of the lab and onto the road. I believe it will change the kind of powertrains we're working with.”

With start/stop technology, the challenge is to reduce zero MPG engine operation (idling) and add regenerative braking. He said over 40% of vehicles in Europe and Japan have stop/start, but that's not the case in North America “because we're beholden to EPA regulations, and the EPA drive cycle has not had idle as a big feature. As a result, we haven't had it. The powertrain you see in next three years will probably have Belt Alternator Starter (BAS), Integrated Starter Generator (ISG).”

Kaufman said electrically driven turbochargers eliminate turbo lag and reduce parasitic loads when compared with a conventional supercharger. This results in more constant power and a 10% boost in efficiency. A motor of over 100,000 RPM is required. Switched resistance motors handle centrifugal forces, and there are no permanent magnets.

“A major Japanese OEM is working hard to introduce electric drive turbos for the medium- and heavy-duty truck market,” he said. “We're about to see an E Drive upgrade of the turbo as an aftermarket opportunity.”

With downsizing/down-speeding, the challenge is to get fuel economy from smaller, slower turning engines. When engine speed is reduced by 100 RPM, fuel economy improves 1.5%.

“Friction reduces by the square of RPM, so for each 100 RPM, you can pick up 1.5% in efficiency in the engine,” he said. “So this might not be a horsepower play on engines as it will be a change of software and transmission and engine matching. The objective is to get the same amount of power and speed at lower RPMs on the highway. The technology includes Integral Powertrain's SuperGen EMT, an exhaust-driven alternator for the vehicle. A 15% efficiency gain is claimed.

Aftermarket opportunity

Kaufman is convinced that the technological changes will present opportunities for parts and service departments.

“In terms of the aftermarket picture, conversion of existing trucks is absolutely possible. Down-speeding focuses on an engine/transmission combination and software packages.”

He said Delphi is working on a gasoline direct injection compression ignition.

“Some medium-duty truck buyers are switching to gasoline,” he said. “This has applications in natural gas. It could really change the type of engines we see. I think it's three to five years out, but it is interesting technology.”

The “Holy Grail,” he said, is waste-heat collection.

“That's because two-thirds of the energy consumed in power generation is lost as heat,” he said. “The second law of thermodynamics applies: Energy spreads out. We're looking for a way to handle any belt-driven component without driving it with a belt. If we could use the drive steering and water pumps, air compressor, and alternator electrically, that would be tremendous. It we could create electricity with heat coming off the engine, even better.

“Thermoelectric devices can change the game by converting heat to electricity. ZT Rating is the measure of conversion. Northwestern University is working to greatly increase ZT. I think the ultimate answer is going to be in material science — understanding thermoelectric conversion materials like tellurium and strontium that will allow us to get much more efficient transfer or voltage output because of heat transfer.”

He said natural gas is viable because diesel fuel is increasing in cost and emission regulations are adding thousands to the cost. And compared with petroleum, far more natural gas is produced here in the United States.

“Oil money feeds people who hate us,” he said. “Natural gas is $1.50 per gallon below the cost of diesel. That delta drives this whole issue because a Class 8 truck consumes 20,000 gallons per year. At $30,000 a truck, this is a big deal for a fleet of 1,000 vehicles. It can drive us past the infrastructure discussions we're looking at.

“Every engine producer has a natural gas program. Cummins Westport ISX 12 G has the lead. Exxon Mobil is now advertising itself as an energy company, with XTO's natural gas being their flag for 2013. So there's something going on here. I'd suggest to you that the $1.50 gap means a lot and the infrastructure is coming.

“Infrastructure is the key. GE has introduced MicroLNG Centers for LNG production. Clean Energy Fuels USA is purchasing two GE plants. GE Finance is providing $200 million in funding. Pilot/Flying J Truck Stops are participating. Clean Energy Fuels already has 70 fueling stations on line in 2013. Plan on natural gas covering 20% or more of the Class 6-8 market by 2015.

“Going forward, the infrastructure will depend on Ryder and Penske Truck Leasing. They own 40% of the trucks in the United States. If they come in and work with Clean Energy Fuel or Pilot or TA, they could make a difference in this infrastructure being built out faster.”

Kaufman said electrification will happen.

“Your future is going to change from gas and mechanical to some type of mix of gas, mechanical, and electrical,” he said. “Historically, the engine has always been the prime mover. With the emerging electrification of drives, the engine is taking a secondary role. The industry going much further than that — and that is the complete dislocation of the engine and drivetrain as we know it, coupling the engine and downsizing the engine so it can reside in a completely different form factor on the vehicle. So now the engine's back here, but much smaller. With that will come a highly efficient battery and some kind of drive motor.

The key is growth of battery technology, Kaufman said.

“We've gone from 40 watt hours per kilogram to 400,” he said. “This is great if you're an electrical person. But keep it in perspective to understand why diesel fuel and gasoline are so popular. Batteries are at 400 watts per kilogram. Diesel is 14,000 and gasoline is 12,000.

“But with battery costs coming down in 2014, and fuel in the $4.50 range, all of a sudden plug-in hybrids are in the competitive zone.”

He said the industry's ongoing battle to improve aerodynamics will continue.

“Trailers represent 75% of aerodynamic drag,” he said. “I think whole idea of strakes … people are beginning to look at Formula One racing and IndyCar and NASCAR — the ability of a little fin to direct air and reduce drag. So frontal strakes on a trailer, side strakes and top strakes channeling air on a trailer … I think we'll see more of that.

“There's advanced research into microlattice structures. They're 99.99% air, but form a rigid wall. Now the question is, can you get a 53-foot section to be completely rigid?”