Running with the Bull is Meritor’s way of showing itself as a modern innovator – Words by Chris Mullett.
Being noticed in today’s crowded marketing environment results in some companies adding an emblem or adopting an animal as its public face to stand out from the competition. For Meritor, the symbol is the Big Bull, and it heads up the company’s intention to demonstrate its leadership in a market where it wants to run as a leader and not just as part of the herd.
It may come as a surprise to the Meritor people, but when it comes to marketing their products, they’ve not been particularly proactive, hence many of their latest developments have remained relatively unnoticed in the industry. But when you delve into the company’s history and look at how it’s performing in 2020 there’s an interesting scenario that unfolds to show innovation and ability way beyond expectation.
Headquartered in the United States at Troy, Michigan, Meritor Inc. is a leading global supplier of drivetrain, mobility, braking and aftermarket solutions for commercial vehicle and industrial markets.
Meritor owes its origins to the Timken Detroit Axle company and, with more than a 110-year legacy of producing innovative products, the latest developments in its axle technology could catapult the company from its somewhat staid appearance straight into the spotlight.
The latest innovations to hit the market from Meritor have been developed under the Blue Horizon brand to introduce electrification into the truck, trailer, off-highway, defence, specialty and aftermarket customers around the world.
At the recent NACV Show in Atlanta PowerTorque caught up with the announcement by Meritor of the expansion of its electric drivetrain solutions by launching the 12Xe powertrain for Class 4, 5, 6 and 7 applications and introducing the 17Xe powertrain for heavy-duty 4×2 and 6×2 trucks.
“These powertrain solutions from our Blue Horizon product portfolio are engineered to fit multiple vehicle applications to meet customer needs now and in the future,” said John Bennett, vice president and chief technology officer for Meritor.
“Meritor’s expanding range of next-generation technologies that include comprehensive solutions for standard axles, remote-mount configurations or fully-electric powertrain systems furthers our goal of becoming the electric drivetrain supplier of choice.”
The 12Xe powertrain’s modular design uses many of the same components as Meritor’s 14Xe full-electric powertrain now undergoing testing with fleets. Testing of the 12Xe powertrain starts this year and production launch begins in 2021. The 12Xe powertrain expands Meritor’s electric solutions coverage into Class 4 and 5 applications and into Class 6 and 7 applications with wheels as small as 17.5 inches, without sacrificing ground clearance.
Vehicle manufacturers can choose from a range of wheel-ends, brakes, transmissions and differential gearing packs, all tailored to meet the vehicle’s duty-cycle. The electric motor can be scaled to specific vehicle requirements and delivers 150 kW, 180 kW or 200 kW of continuous power and 250 kW of peak power. The 12Xe powertrain is available with several differential options including differential lock and a limited-slip differential.
Meritor also developed the 17Xe powertrain that will deliver 420 kW of continuous power and 450 kW of peak power, packaging it to fit easily into the chassis rails of 4×2 trucks. In Europe, applications include 44 tonne heavy-duty long-haul trucks, medium-duty 27 onne refuse vehicles, 19.5 tonne and 26.5 tonne intercity buses and 26.5 tonne coaches. It will also fit 40 foot and 60 foot (12 metre and 18 metre) city buses in North America.
Meritor’s new two-speed or three-speed dual-countershaft transmission is optional on the 12Xe and 14Xe powertrains. The transmission, coupled with the right-sized motor, delivers improved vehicle performance compared to a single-speed or direct-drive system.
Each variant of the transmission is built with compact gear-range splits to deliver efficient and high-performing operation. The three-speed version extends the performance envelope over the two-speed version to deliver higher startability and top speed.
The Blue Horizon programme is particularly clever, taking a modular design and adding a universal interface that introduces a selection of wheel ends, brakes and suspension options to the drive-axle assembly. It then adds an electric motor to the front of the crown wheel and pinion off the differential housing that interfaces with the transmission module that bolts straight onto the front of the electric motor.
With the advantage of an electric motor providing continuous power, there’s a choice of four output options with 130 kW/760 Nm, 150 kW/1000 Nm, 180 kW/1000 Nm and 200 kW/1100 Nm. For the 14Xe and 12Xe transmission there’s a choice of one or two speeds in standard performance spec’, increasing the options to two-speed and three-speed for the premium performance spec’. All that is required is to add an additional different gear-set module onto the front of the e-motor and differential module.
The choice for the operator or OEM also extends to single reduction 2.0:1 and 3.46:1 wheel-end reduction modules, plus there’s further choice in being able to select drum or disc brakes in addition to eOptimised brakes. There’s also an available choice of suspension alternatives, with the option of selecting a stamped housing, a cast housing or independent suspension.
The modular design maximises space for fitment between chassis rails, with the 17Xe modular assembly being designed to work within the confines of a short wheelbase and narrow chassis installation.
In its format of a GCW rating of 44 tonne, the Meritor Blue Horizon 17Xe drive module produces a continuous power output of 420 kW, a peak power of up to 450 kW and a peak torque rating of up to 2000 Nm, backed by the efficiency of a multi-speed automatic transmission for heavy-duty applications.
As an example of current vehicle electrification programmes Meritor joined VWCO’s (Volkswagen Caminhões e Ônibus) e-Consortium to collaborate in the development of electric commercial vehicles in Brazil, beginning this year with the launch of the OEM’s 11-tonne e-Delivery truck, equipped with Meritor’s 12X drive axle with eOptimized gearing.
Through the e-Consortium, VWCO plans to deliver 1600 e-Delivery trucks with the Meritor axle to Brazilian beverage company Cervejaria Ambev. The deal, which represents one-third of the beverage company’s fleet, will be rolled out through to 2023.
Initially, the vehicles will be equipped with the 12X drive axle, but will adopt the 12Xe electric powertrain as it becomes commercially available. VWCO said the electrification project is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Meritor’s 12Xe powertrain – also available in North America – expands the company’s electrical solutions coverage into Class 4 and 5 applications such as the VWCO e-Delivery truck. The vehicle, which has delivered beverages in São Paulo during a year of testing, has a range of almost 200 km between charges.
At the same time of the NACV announcement of the Blue Horizon project, Meritor also announced the launch of its MFS+ 14K front non-drive steer axle, the lightest 6660 kg front non-drive steer axle in North America for medium duty, line haul and vocational applications.
“With this new axle, we’re expanding our proven MFS+ series axle architecture for the North America line haul market to include vocational customers,” said T.J. Reed, vice president of Front Drivetrain and Electrification. “This evolutionary front axle offers universal compatibility with braking systems.”
The MFS+ 14K axle offers weight savings up to 30 kg compared with the existing MFS 14K axle. Its low-profile design improves overall packaging to simplify integration into the chassis. The integrated torque plate and tie rod arm is built with fewer bolted joints, reducing maintenance costs.
Brakes are mounted at 12 o’clock for easy removal. The axle also offers high angle turning capacity up to 55 degrees and universal compatibility with braking systems through featuring a universal knuckle design. The design of integrated tie rod arms also reduces weight and increases payload potential. There’s a weight saving of up to 48 kg when matched with Meritor EX+ air disc brakes.
The good news kept on coming for Meritor, launching a lightweight, single-piston EX+ LS air disc brake which the company has developed as a next-generation braking solution designed and engineered for line haul and trailer applications.
“After years of development, more than 300 lab tests and over one million miles of validation on the road, our EX+ LS air disc brake is designed to offer the reliability and performance that customers expect from Meritor,” said T.J. Reed.
Meritor designed the EX+ LS air disc brake to meet growing line haul fleet expectations for efficiency, safety and weight reduction. Built with exceptional taper wear control, the new air disc brake is designed and validated to the same taper wear criteria as a twin-piston brake. Its large-diameter, integrated piston and pusher plate reduce taper wear by increasing stability to deliver evenly distributed braking forces across the brake surface. The adjuster mechanism is based on proven EX+ air disc brake architecture to offer reliable and consistent brake performance.
The EX+ LS air disc brake comes standard with MA9300 N-level proprietary friction. Optional positive pad retraction is designed with the goal of maintaining friction, couple running clearance to extend pad life and reduce brake drag. An optional pad wear warning indicator aids in service predictability.
Fleets with EX+ LS air disc brakes on their trucks and trailers benefit from commonality of parts within Meritor’s existing EX+ L air disc brake design.
Finally, Meritor has announced enhancements to the 14X HE line haul tandem-drive axle and added two more drive axles to its high-efficiency family of products, helping OEMs meet upcoming fuel-efficiency regulations.
“We’ve made the 14X HE axle even more efficient than it was when we launched it less than two years ago,” said James Taylor, vice president of Rear Drivetrain, NAFTA.
“We’re also adding two new axle products, reinforcing our commitment to enhancing the portfolio with technologies focused on efficiency.”
The 14X HE axle, as well as the new RT160 HE axle for heavy-haul and vocational applications and the 17X HE axle for heavy-duty applications, are built with high-efficiency bearings, specialised gearing, fast ratios for down speeding and the Meritor Lube Management System.
When the axle launched in 2017, only the carrier of the rear axle was equipped with the system. Meritor enhanced the 14X HE tandem axle by adding a second Meritor Lube Management System to the carrier of the forward axle, enabling it to deliver more efficiency than the initial design.
The Meritor Lube Management system is now standard on both axles, offering reduced lubrication volume. The use of laser welding to join the ring gear and differential housing eliminates the need for bolts, which contribute to churning losses.
In line with the current programme in the United States of down speeding in order to gain fuel economy advantages, the 1.95:1 fast gear ratio equips applications for down speeding and the axle offers a gross axle weight rating (GAWR) of up 18,000 kg.
The new RT160 HE tandem axle targets a one percent efficiency improvement over Meritor’s previous product due to the Meritor Lube Management System and fuel-efficient bearings. Offering a GAWR of 20,800 kg, the tandem axle is equipped with axle ratios of 2.67:1 and 2.80:1 for down speeding.