DOE-funded ‘SuperTrucks’ to be 50% more fuel efficient

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DOE-funded ‘SuperTrucks’ to be 50% more fuel efficient

Argonne National Laboratory will work with Navistar to improve combustion efficiency and waste heat recovery. Pictured is the liquid breakup of a high-density stream from a fuel injector as imaged with ultrafast synchrotron x-ray full-field phase contrast imaging at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) at Argonne.

The winners of recently awarded federal grants totaling $187 million to improve vehicle efficiency will help create more than 500 engineering, research, and management jobs, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. More than 6000 jobs overall, including those in manufacturing, are expected to be created by 2015 as part of the nine grant projects announced Jan. 11 by the DOE.

Most of the grant money, $115 million, is targeted at advances that will increase the fuel efficiency of Class 8 long-haul freight trucks 50% by 2015. Among the technologies to be investigated are engine combustion, engine waste heat recovery, powertrain hybridization, idle reduction, and aerodynamics.

The remainder of the grant money is targeted at advances that will increase the fuel efficiency of passenger vehicle engine and powertrain systems. The improvement target is 25-40% by 2015.

In the truck category, winning roughly equal amounts of close to $40 million, are Cummins Inc., Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA), and Navistar Inc.

Cummins will partner with Peterbilt Motors Co. for its SuperTruck project, which aims to develop and demonstrate a highly efficient and clean diesel engine, an advanced waste heat recovery system, an aerodynamic Peterbilt tractor-trailer, and a fuel-cell auxiliary power unit to reduce engine idling.

Cummins is also a grant winner in the passenger-vehicle category. It will receive $15 million for work on diesel engine technology.

Engine downsizing, electrification of auxiliary systems such as oil and water pumps, waste heat recovery, improved aerodynamics, and hybridization will be focus areas of DTNA’s development and demonstration work.

Navistar, through the DOE project, will develop and demonstrate technologies to improve truck and trailer aerodynamics, combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, hybridization, idle reduction, and reduced rolling resistance tires. The company notes that with more than 80% of the nation’s diesel fuel consumed by Class 8 trucks, the development of a SuperTruck has “enormous energy-saving potential as well as significant environmental benefits.”

Argonne National Laboratory will work with Navistar specifically on technologies that improve combustion efficiency and waste heat recovery. The lab will also conduct combustion spray research for Chrysler Group LLC on an advanced engine. Argonne expects to receive more than $5 million for both projects over four years.

Among automakers, Chrysler Group ($14.5 million) will develop a flexible combustion system for its minivan platform based on a downsized, turbocharged engine that uses direct gasoline injection, exhaust gas recirculation, and flexible air intake control to reduce emissions.

General Motors Co. ($7.7 million) will develop an engine that uses lean combustion and active heat management, as well as a novel emissions-control system, to improve the fuel economy of a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu demonstration vehicle by 25%.

Ford Motor Co. ($15 million) aims to achieve a 25% fuel-economy improvement with a gasoline engine in a 2010 mid- to large-size sedan using technologies including engine downsizing, turbocharging, direct injection, and a novel exhaust aftertreatment system.

Among winning suppliers in the passenger-vehicle category is Delphi ($7.5 million) for, among other things, “a novel, low-temperature combustion system” and engine downspeeding. Robert Bosch ($12 million) will study homogeneous-charge compression-ignition technology with turbocharging.