February Theme: Make Way for Streamlined Drive Trains as 2025 GHG Regs Approach
By Marek Krasuski
Over the past decade improvements in transmissions have improved product durability and reduced frequency of replacement. This includes drive trains and related parts, the various components which together deliver power from the engine to the wheels. In recent years both the long haul and off road markets have been a driving force behind the conversion from traditional manual transmissions to automatic and automated manual transmissions (AMT). Complaints have ran amok from drivers in the Vocational sector of sore knees and shoulders from the continuous clutching and shifting through the course of a work cycle. It’s a lot quieter these days in the medium duty market for companies which have adopted the latest generation transmissions. Drivers, even the older and more experienced ones, benefit from a driving experience that no longer deteriorates body parts. For some OTR applications driving is only part of the job. Emergency vehicles operators, for example, are faced with multiple, high pressured tasks, so not having to shift and clutch is one less thing to worry about in the execution of their duties. Automated and automatic transmissions also help in alleviating the longstanding problem of the driver shortage and retention. Less experienced drivers spend less time learning the trade when driving trucks with AMTs, leaving more time to get behind the wheel and make money sooner. Older drivers, as well, are less stressed, not only from body part fatigue, but by reduced distractions thanks to the absence of clutching and shifting.
One concern about automatic transmissions is the economies of scale. How can off road companies afford to pay an up-charge of about $10,000 per truck for these installations? Proponents counter that they can actually save about $30,000 per unit over the service life of the truck when taking into account the costs of clutch replacements, clutch adjustments, clutch brake replacements and other work related to manual transmissions. Market penetration into the heavy duty vocational sector came as a surprise to many. AMTs and automatic transmissions were initially derided for their perceived inability to endure the punishing conditions found on construction sites and other environments with tough terrain and limited maneuverability. But their versatility on job sites as well as on long haul applications have shown them to be tough builds with little or no reported maintenance problems.
The evolution of drive lines and drive trains continues unabated, with the manufacture of drive trains for trucks with electrification capabilities. One telling sign is the acquisition by Cummins of Efficient Drivetrains, Inc. (EDI), the California based company which designs and produces electrified power solutions for commercial markets. EDI will broaden Cummins’ electrification expertise and products. Noted EDI’s CEO, Joerg Ferchau, “As the industry continues to evolve and OEMs move to include hybrid and electric technologies in their vehicle offerings, the collaboration between Cummins and EDI represents a tremendous opportunity for growth. EDI’s advanced portfolio of plug-in-hybrid and full electric technologies paired with Cummins’ industry leadership and focus on innovation allows us to deliver best-in-class products, service and support worldwide,” Ferchau said. The EDIPowerDrive replaces the stock transmission and performs as an All-In-One drive train that can function in Two Hybrid or Two Pure Electric Modes providing and optimized powertrain for any driving situation.
A strong case can be made for the adoption of electric trucks and the installation of drive trains that keep them moving. Truck builders have been experimenting with electrics trucks for some time, ready to respond when the market matures and conditions are right. As early as 2011 Navistar had an electric truck available, but the company decided to wait for a more optimal time to bring it to market, namely when the vehicles would be in full compliance with a new round of greenhouse gas emissions coming in 2025. More recently, Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) has been testing the electric-powered eCascadia and an eM2. The eCascadia is designed for local distribution and has a range of 250 miles with a charge of 80 percent in about 90 minutes. The eM2, also for local distribution, comes with a range of 230 miles and a 60 minute charge up cycle. Daimler’s Class 4 Fuso eCanter is already available and has a range of 100 miles with a quick charge of an hour. Volvo is also on board with the testing of its own electric models.
To be sure electric trucks have to overcome certain limitations. There is nothing approaching a national charging infrastructure to ensure that electric trucks can be recharged when away from home base, and batteries which power these vehicles are heavy and take a lot of room on chassis. They still have range limitations, and they will require new ways of operation and maintenance.
But the arguments in favour of their widespread use are compelling. Electric trucks emit zero emissions, and so will fit well within the parameters of yet another round of heavy duty fuel economy standards slated for 2025. OEMs producing Electric trucks will receive emissions credits which can then be applied against diesel burning conventional trucks. Electric trucks are also quiet, making them a perfect fit for municipal use during non business hours while most are still sleeping. Because of their environmental features governments are stepping up to the plate with hundreds of millions of dollars for the continuing development of emissions-free vehicles. Such financial incentives provide the impetus for builders to increase production capacity and ultimately reduce production costs.
With the influx of electric trucks, and the anticipated reduction in emissions of diesel engines in accordance with the 2025 GHG regulations, it is likely that these will use mild hybrid electric drive systems to boost torque at lower speeds and reduce emissions. In addition, some truck builders will use hydrogen-electric drive trains in order to increase ranges of electric vehicles more in line with their diesel powered counterparts.
There is no shortage of drive train providers for both conventional and electric drivelines. Meritor has long since been a leader in aftermarket drivelines and components. They were the first in North America in the heavy duty commercial market to produce drivelines permanently lubricated and sealed for life. To this end the slip shaft maximizes lubrication coverage so that lubricant moves across the entire slip shaft thanks to the pressurized design. These Permalube RPL Series Drivelines are e-coated so as to withstand environmental assaults with features such as harsh road ice preventative chemicals. Optimal performance is underscored, too, by their full functioning operability in demanding applications such as heavy service, down speeding, and higher torque applications. Meritor drivelines have captured more than half of the Class 8 market share.
Dana has been a long time provider of customized drive trains tailored to the unique demands of each vehicle. Its Spicer line of transmissions, axles, drive shafts and hydraulic-hybrid solutions has well served the needs of the heavy duty truck market in construction, logging, mining, and material handling applications. Construction drive train systems offer advanced technologies for multiple vehicles ranging from 3 to 50 tonnes. These include wheel loaders, tele-handlers, wheeled excavators, single drum rollers and motor graders. Drive train systems for tele-handlers allow for tighter turning radius in confined environments and are equipped with hydrostatic power shift transmissions that deliver power necessary to move more material per hour. Dana’s Spicer drive train systems for wheeled excavators include hydrostatic transmissions which provide enhanced fuel efficiency, smoother shifting and improved operator comfort for maximized productivity. Ranging from complete systems to individual components, Dana develops systems from parallel hybrid configurations up to full battery-electric vehicles. The company says its electrified product offerings are able to meet diverse platform requirements in the light vehicle, commercial-vehicle, and off-highway markets.
PACCAR drive trains, including transmissions, are designed for their Kenworth, DAF, and Peterbilt brands. PACCAR has introduced what the company says is the lightest heavy duty transmission for on highway trucks designed to enhance the performance of PACCAR engines and axles. Features include a maintenance-free clutch and an internally routed electrical system to maximize durability. PACCAR’s new column-mounted shifter puts gear selection and engine brake controls at the driver’s fingertips for better ergonomics and improved performance.
Whether designed for conventional diesel powered trucks or for their electric counterparts, drive trains, power trains and transmissions will continue to be streamlined for better performance measures as new greenhouse gas emissions in 2025 draw closer.☚