Robust Sales & Move Toward Electric Engines Dominate Market
By Marek Krasuski
So far this year the trucking industry has benefitted from a resurgent demand for new big rigs, evidenced by rising sales figures not seen for 20 years. It’s not all good news of course, as the need for new orders outstrips manufacturers’ ability to deliver within normally expected time frames. Kenworth, by way of example, has told customers they have to wait 60 weeks for delivery of their recently introduced W990 models.
Higher shipping rates and surging freight demand are bright lights for the industry, though dimmed somewhat from the driver shortage that continues unabated. Despite the overall buoyant mood, or maybe because of it, manufacturers continue to set their sights on the future – a future that includes the integration of electric heavy duty and regional haul engines.
Most major engine makers in North America are looking toward electric engines for trucks and buses, a move prompted in no small part by tougher environmental standards. And there’s also compelling business reasons for launching into the electrification market. To begin with many municipalities have bylaws restricting the movement of noisier diesels during evening and early morning hours. Longer working hours would lighten traffic congestion during peak business hours. The much quieter electric engines can move along city streets without hardly being noticed. Electrics are by far much more energy efficient than their combustion engine counterparts, are emissions free, and promote a good corporate image to clients who see their Carrier transitioning to Green alternatives.
For regional applications Volvo introduced, this year, its first all-electric truck for commercial use – the Volvo FL. Volvo has invested considerably in the technology used for propulsion and energy storage. “From experience we know how important it is that cities, energy suppliers and vehicle manufacturers cooperate in order for large-scale electrification to become a reality. With attractive incentives, agreed standards and a long-term strategy for urban planning and expansion of the charging infrastructure, the process can go much faster,” explained company spokesperson Jonas Odermalm.
Critics are likely to ask about performance. How does the electric truck measure up to its diesel counterpart? Quite well by all accounts. The FL, for example, produces up to 248 horsepower and 313 lb. ft. of torque, and has a GVW of over 35,000 pounds. It takes one and a half hours to fully charge the DC batteries. Volvo says the perception in noise reduction is about half of what diesel engines produce. The FL’s range is up to 300 kms.
Thus far electric powered engines are best suited to medium duty trucks within specific delivery areas that return to the same station each night for recharging. At this point in the evolution cycle they are ill equipped to handle the heavy cargo weights for the Class 8 market with engines that run for one million miles or more.
Navistar hopes to have an electric medium duty truck on the market by 2019. As with other truck makers Navistar will target the medium duty market based on reasons cited above – proximity to recharging stations at end of day, operating in primarily urban areas with higher concentrations of poor air quality, and shorter distances. However, that is not to say that electric engines will not be the order of the day for long haul applications in the future. Thus far Tesla has been the forerunner in this endeavour, hoping to introduce to market the Tesla Electric Semi in 2019. According to the company the new Electric Tesla can accelerate from 0 to 60 seconds in just 5 seconds, compared to an empty diesel that takes 20 seconds to reach the same speed. The truck can travel at 65 mph with a Gross Vehicle Weight of 80,000 pounds on a 5 percent grade; this compared to a diesel that can reach just 45 mph given the same parameters. The Tesla electric has four motors that independently power each of the four wheels across the rear axles. This facilitates instant traction control which helps the truck to achieve higher performance metrics. Tesla’s CEO says the truck will have a range of 500 miles before recharge, and that operators can save $200,000 in fuel costs alone over a two year period since there are fewer systems to maintain.
But before electrified trucks become mainstream for long haul applications, and even with a growing preponderance of electric medium duty trucks for regional hauls available today, diesel engines remain the staple product choice.
Earlier this year Kenworth, a PACCAR owned company, launched its new W990. A replacement to the W900, this iteration is designed with the driver in mind and comes with the proprietary Paccar powertrain and the MX-13 engine with ratings up to 510 horsepower and 1,850 lb. ft. torque. Commenting on the attention to driver comfort and need, Kenworth general manager Mike Dozier said, “Anything we can do to help them feel more comfortable, feel a sense of pride…that’s what we’re doing today,” he said, adding “We are passionate about our products, our customers that depend on them, and the drivers that operate them. We know that there are many customers and drivers out there who share our passion. The Kenworth W990 represents the pride, image and freedom of trucking, and captures the spirit of what trucking is all about.”
Special attention was given to the driver’s view over the hood and the strong visual appeal it provides from behind the wheel. The MX-13 Engine is known for greater tensile strength due to the inclusion of thicker graphite particles compared to standard gray iron. The engine also boasts a higher combustion rate due to better regulation of fuel in the central manifold.
In early 2018 Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) introduced the medium duty Detroit DD8 diesel engine. A chief feature of the DD8 is its capacity to reduce DPF (diesel particulate filter) maintenance. The engine’s variable exhaust cam phasing increases exhaust temperatures so that manual DPF regenerations are reduced. Maintenance intervals are extended to about 55,000 miles for typical short haul applications. Power ratings vary from 260 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque to 375 horsepower and 1,050 lb. ft. torque.
The smaller next-generation DD5 by Daimler also made its debut in 2018. The DD5 is ideal for short haul pickups and deliveries. Daimler says the deep ribbed block design keeps noise to a minimum. Piston and cylinder design reduce oil consumption and friction for maximum endurance. An advanced high pressure common rail fuel system allows up to 5 injection events providing optimal combustion efficiency. Top load oil and fuel filters make service and maintenance easy.
No survey would be complete without mention of Cummins Engines, found in many commercial trucks. In 2018 Cummins was recipient of the Top 20 Award for the Cummins Heavy Duty X12 Engine. Its status as the lightest heavy duty engine in North America was achieved by eliminating unnecessary mass. “Weight is critical in all applications – vocational and bulk haulers, as well as regional haul and pick-up and delivery. The Cummins X12 will provide customers with the lightest engine in the Class 8 market,” said Amy Boerger, Vice President of Sales at Cummins. The X12 is the perfect example of how customer and market needs drive the innovation of Cummins products, she continued.
As developments forge ahead expect to see lighter engines with leaner power to weight ratios, better mileage, and more electrified commercial trucks on the road.☚