Drive Time

The Mid-America Truck Show once again highlights the future development for the North American market. Chris Mullett reports

Heading for Louisville, Kentucky, this year for the annual PowerTorque pilgrimage, there were times that I reflected on just how much would be revealed by way of new developments.

Despite the 30-hour travel schedule, Louisville always provides sufficient food for thought to make the trip worthwhile. But it is interesting to note how each year there seems to be a change in focus on just what is classed as news, originating from the 1,064 exhibitors from 43 states in North America plus 14 international countries. This year’s show attracted 81,768 visitors to the event, plus a further 224 members of the international media.

Whereas in past years we’ve had manufacturers express their concerns that business was far from positive, for 2015 the tone from all the truckmakers was very much upbeat.Mid-america-truck-show_5

After recent years of recession, the truck and trailer business in the US is expecting a record year ahead. Sales of Class 8 heavy trucks are estimated to rise by at least ten percent, resulting in a total sales lift from 220,000 last year to see an uptick to a potential of 280,000 units.

You can thank the reduction in fuel pricing for that positive outlook, and, with distillate very much back on the agenda as the preferred fuel source, there was an obvious lack of any suggestion of alternative fuels such as LNG or CNG-fuelled engines, plus Dimethyl ether (DME) as a further alternative to produce clean-burning, non-toxic, potentially renewable fuel.

As fuel prices have tumbled, all those options appear to have been dismissed, casualties of the relentless pursuit of fracking on the part of North American and Canadian oil companies.

So, for 2015 it’s back to the conventional world of diesel engines. And to make them more efficient the truckmakers have been concentrating on downspeeding and optimising the vertical integration of their own in-house engines, transmissions and drive axles.

But, before Australian operators reach for their order books, it needs to be understood that what works for the average US operator doesn’t necessarily transfer to the Hume or Pacific Highways. Everything we do is different, from overall weights, to higher average speeds and higher ambient temperatures.

For Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) it’s an expansive task to showcase the latest technology relating to all its products, but it achieved its goals at this year’s MATS event by presenting new products of the Freightliner and Western Star US-brands as well as the SuperTruck study.

In terms of ready-to-ride products the standout exhibit was the new Western Star 5700 XE, which started production in Cleveland, North Carolina, in May of this year. With its smoother aerodynamic appeal, the 5700 XE is available with the Detroit DD13, DD15 or DD16 engines with power ranging from 350 to 600 hp and up to 2050 lb-ft torque.

Mid-america-truck-show_3For maximum efficiency, the 5700XE can be spec’d for the US market with the integrated Detroit™ Powertrain, which features the new downsped DD15 engine rated at 400 hp and 1750 lb-ft torque, a direct-drive Detroit™ DT12™ automated manual transmission with Intelligent Powertrain Management, and matched Detroit™ front and rear axles.

Although not something that will interest the Australian market, the downsped DD15 engine gains its advantage by shifting the usable torque range to lower engine speeds to reduce friction losses and enhance fuel efficiency with gearing for lower rpm. A new six-blade fan also reduces parasitic power loss. As a result, the truck consumes almost 15 percent less fuel than with previous spec vehicles.

The new Freightliner SuperTruck study previewed at the show highlights the sheer volume of work going on behind the scenes at Freightliner as the company targets aerodynamics, energy management, the use of an intelligent powertrain and other options that can further reduce fuel consumption.

The SuperTruck is equipped with the DT12 automated transmission and predictive technology that controls the vehicle speed using GPS and digital 3D maps. In test drives, the SuperTruck at a weight of 29.5 metric tons consumed an average of about 19 l/100 km at a speed of around 100 km/h. In addition, the SuperTruck achieved a 115 percent freight efficiency improvement (measured in ton-miles per gallon) over a 2009 baseline truck.

The emphasis for fuel economy is all based on downspeeding, with engine rpms dropping down to the 950-rpm mark in some drivetrain examples.

Adjacent to the Western Star stand, the Detroit integrated drivetrain display showed a taste of what lies ahead for the Australian market.

As mentioned in the last issue of PowerTorque, the Detroit DD15 will be gaining a change of turbocharger for the Australian market towards the end of this year, moving away from the Cummins Turbo Technologies/Holset option. In its place will be a Detroit-branded turbine with wastegate that already features on DD15 engines supplied into the US market and now used in Europe.

The Detroit engine plant at Redford has been restructured to create space for the turbine manufacturing line that was being installed together with additional drivetrain assemblies such as Detroit steer axles and drive axles.

The US market is taking as many DT12 AMT transmissions as the company can produce backed up to the DD15. With free supply somewhat restricted, due to the booming production levels currently experienced in the US, the Australian-spec vehicles will continue using Eaton UltraShift Plus or manual Roadrangers for some years to come.

Mid-america-truck-show_6Over at the PACAR emporium all the interest centred on the Kenworth ICON 900 and the Peterbilt 579 EPIQ.

Usually each of these brands introduces a relatively similar product, differentiated only by the badging. But this time around these two models are poles apart.

The ICON 900 is all about the traditional classic-style heritage look as a limited edition version of the W900L. The Peterbilt 579 EPIQ is all about aerodynamic efficiency, showing that with an optimised powertrain and design elements from Peterbilt’s SuperTruck programme this model can boast fuel economy gains of 14 percent.

Those ordering up an ICON 900 can choose a 72-inch or 86-inch sleepper and up to 600 hp under the bonnet. The fuel conscious amongst the buyers that go for the Peterbilt 579 EPIQ get to take home a PACCAR MX 13-litre matched to a the Eaton Advantage transmission.

Despite protestations that continuing development of engines and transmissions to implement lower exhaust emissions clash with frame space and fuel tank capacity, Cummins this year proved that with the right emphasis on research and development it’s possible to overcome these obstacles.

Cummins showcased its innovative future technologies by unveiling the 2017 ISX15 and Single Module aftertreatment system.

The 2017 ISX15, with a horsepower range from 400 hp to 605 hp (298-451 kW), will feature two distinct optimised designs for customers, with one targeted for customers seeking maximum fuel economy and the other for premium- and high-performance-oriented fleets.

Design updates to the ISX15 for 2017 include a more responsive and efficient turbocharger, further optimisation for downspeeding, integrated ADEPT technology and continued reduction in parasitic loss.

Cummins ADEPT technology is a new suite of electronic features that will deliver fuel-economy gains of up to 3.0 percent initially for ISX15 customers operating with automated manual transmissions.

ADEPT utilises load-, speed- and grade-sensing technology to initiate adjustments to speed, power and transmission gear to take advantage of vehicle momentum for better fuel economy.

The first package of ADEPT includes two features: SmartCoast and SmartTorque2 (ST2).Mid-america-truck-show_1

SmartCoast operates when the vehicle is coasting downhill by disengaging the driveline and returning the engine to idle to reduce drag, conserve vehicle momentum and, ultimately, improve fuel economy. ST2 utilises the same torque management intelligence first introduced on the SmartAdvantage Powertrain to help eliminate unnecessary downshifts and keep the engine operating in the most fuel-efficient “sweet spot.” The first ADEPT package will be available in summer 2015, and customers will be able to upgrade as future packages are released.

Cummins will continue to push the envelope on extending maintenance intervals on the 2017 ISX15 and validate the technology with nearly nine million miles of real-world experience – the most testing of any product launch to date. This is the equivalent of making 4,000 trips coast-to-coast.

Another key feature of the 2017 ISX15 engine system is the introduction of the innovative Single Module aftertreatment system from Cummins Emission Solutions.

This new aftertreatment system for 2017 is the result of customer-driven design, as the system will provide customers up to a 60 percent reduction in size and space claim, up to a 40 percent reduction in weight, and enhanced efficiencies thanks to advancements in catalyst technologies and urea dosing solutions.

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