Focus on the Future
By Marek Krasuski
As Truck Equipment continues its rise towards feature-rich, sophisticated levels of development, opportunities open for innovative parties to support product development laden with new technologies. A recent example is the partnership of Canada Cartage and Innovation Factory which have launched the Centre for Integrated Transportation and Mobility (CITM). The CITM will target Ontario companies to help them develop integrated mobility technology solutions. Canada Cartage says, “The goal is to accelerate the development of connected, multi-modal and integrated mobility technology solutions and business models. This will be good for the province, and good for the transportation industry.” The CITM will assist in validating problems, clarifying policy, and engaging with integrated transportation solutions.
Operational efficiencies and greener technologies continue to be the driving force behind product design and manufacture, leading equipment builders to incorporate lighter materials and cost efficient engines. Carriers, operators and builders look to materials that reduce gross vehicle weight (GVW). And more lightweight materials are coming onto the market. Lower weight translates into more payload capacity, better fuel economy, and reduced risk of overloading. To be sure, lower body weight is at least one gold standard in achieving cost effectiveness. Lighter body weight produces better fuel economy and lower emissions, enabling fleets to support sustainability initiatives. Experts state that for every 10 percent of weight eliminated from a vehicle’s total weight, fuel economy improves 6-8 percent. Attention to weight reduction therefore, can yield potentially enormous fuel savings for fleets with dozens or hundreds of units.
To this end alternative fuel powered engines and powertrain options are gaining market share. The growing establishment of electrified vehicles, mainly in the medium duty market but also in long haul applications as well, testifies to their desirability by fleets eager to comply with tougher regulations and to reduce operating expenses. More electric trucks are coming on to the medium duty market. The initiative is supported by several federal US agencies and OEMs which are researching vehicle technologies which are more efficient, affordable, and sustainable.
Examples of engines seeking to achieve these objectives include two models from Daimler – one medium duty and one heavy duty truck. The Freightliner medium duty eM2 106 truck is best suited to food and beverage pick-up and delivery applications. Power output can reach 480 horsepower for a range of 300 kilometres on one charge. The eM2 has a recharge time of about 60 minutes and has a GCWR of 26,000 lbs. Daimler, Freightliner’s parent company, says the eM2 is based on its most popular in-demand medium duty models. The eM2 will join Daimler’s growing fleet of more than 100 electric vehicles, among them the Fuso eCanter Class 4 light duty truck offered by Mitsubishi Fuso Truck of America, a subsidiary of Daimler. Ideal for urban environments, the eCanter has a GVWR of 15,995 lbs. and payload capacity of 9,380 lbs. Like most medium duty vehicles, it has a range of 100 miles. Fuso says the eCanter delivers zero emissions and zero noise pollution.
Other equipment manufacturers are coming on board with their own electrified vehicles. Volvo will introduce two models – the Volvo FL Electric and Volvo FE Electric – to the European market in 2019; North American sales will begin a year later but in the meantime demonstration projects are slated for 2019 in California.
Isuzu Commercial Truck of America is undertaking the development of an all-electric work truck. The first group of trucks will be based on the Class 4 NPR-HD with a gross vehicle weight rating of 14,500 lbs. The Canadian company Nordresa will be responsible for modifying the N Series truck for electrification. The NPR-HD will be tested under a number of conditions that include weight, load capabilities, charge times, distances, and weather and temperature conditions. Isuzu affirmed its commitment to the electrified market by commenting that “there is no doubt that all electric trucks are part of the future of commercial vehicles; they are part of our future as well,” the company said. Isuzu’s faith in the electrified market is echoed by the research undertaken by the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) which in its second guidance report on electric trucks, highlights many of the opportunities in this burgeoning segment. The Report, measured by both the benefits but also the challenges in migration to electric trucks, offers a sober cost/benefit analysis, concluding with statement that electric drivetrains are best suited for urban deliveries of less than 100 miles per day.
Excitement of electric vehicles leaves hanging the inevitable question: Will electric trucks replace their diesel counterparts which have well withstood the test of time over decades? To be sure electric trucks are even finding their way into the heavy duty sector, a testament; perhaps, to the faith the industry has in the benefits of electrification.
Daimler Freightliner, mentioned above, is yet another builder standing alongside Peterbilt and Tesla by bringing to market the eCascadia heavy duty truck. Daimler describes the eCascadia as a long range vehicle capable of reaching 400 kilometres and another 320 kilometres after a 90-minute recharge to about 80 percent. The truck has a peak horsepower of 730 with batteries that provide 550 Kwh.
The attraction to electric trucks is irresistible. Their lightweight configurations translate into lower operating costs, the gold standard by which Carriers achieve profits. But their wholesale adoption implies that the industry-standard diesel engine has outlived its usefulness. That assumption is at the very least premature. Diesel engines have undergone revolutionary changes over the last 20 years and are likely to retain their dominant position, demonstrated by their ability to adapt. Diesel still represents over 90 percent of heavy duty trucks on the road today. The virtual elimination of emissions, additional controls that have reduced particulate filters, the transition to low sulphur fuels, and developments in engine combustion testify to the diesel engine’s resilience and ability to adapt to any environmental and efficiency challenges. In recent years truck builders have pushed engine and design efficiencies – read aerodynamic add-ons, low resistance tires, etc. – to the point of near doubling mpg ratios compared to previous generation engines and trucks.
While electric vehicles are gaining more attention for their indisputable benefits, the tried and true diesel engine is predicted to maintain dominant market position for the foreseeable future.☚