Fuel efficiency is a perk that has been primarily associated with small vehicles built to get 40 plus miles per gallon without a need for excessive power under the hood. While it’s not nearly as simple to achieve, as technology evolves, manufacturing as an industry (whether it’s automotive, heavy duty trucking, agriculture or construction) now puts fuel efficiency at the top of the list when it comes to design and development. The truth is, this shift has been happening slowly in these industries for the last 25 years. Now, with government regulations expected to be reformed in 2018 for heavy duty trucks, manufacturers are already pumping out huge changes.
The regulations will require the largest trucks on the road to achieve up to a 25 percent reduction in fuel economy and greenhouse-gas emissions by 2021. Subsequently, designers and manufacturers are tasked with packing all the necessary power into their systems while realizing significant fuel efficiency gains. In order to meet the new, more environmentally conscious demands of both the customer and the government, manufacturers need to be looking at every system and component within their machines to meet the standards required by the government and demanded by the market.
What we’re able to do today with available technology is pretty amazing. Companies are looking at everything from shortening the wheel base, using LED lighting to save power, implementing ‘Predictive Cruise Technology’ and redesigning tires to optimize fuel efficiency (studies show if you’re able to have less friction between the surface of the tire and the road, that means less horsepower is needed to get past that friction and that translates into fuel economy).
At T/CCI, we’ve made a number of modifications to our air conditioning compressors to deliver greater efficiency without sacrificing power. Our full-vehicle climatic wind tunnel can run vehicles at highway speeds with projected wind and solar variables to really understand what the difference in technology does for fuel economy. We are able to track data and volumetric efficiency on vehicles to see how the smaller compressors perform and what adjustments can be made on the refrigerants. We found we can cool a truck with a compressor that has 60 percent less capacity—that means less horse power, and as a result, better fuel economy.
While government regulations are pending—the demands today are customer driven. Fuel is the single largest expense for a fleet of freighters. When you’re talking about 100-dollar oil, especially in Europe, operations are costly. If a small adjustment in the design of just one system can save an operator .25 miles per every 10 miles driven, it adds up quickly. For a large fleet, it could mean millions of dollars per year in fuel savings.
As suppliers take a hard look at their operations and their business plans for the future, they need to better position themselves in this space. Every component in big rigs and agriculture vehicles—especially parts that are touching the engine or the road—needs to be analyzed for efficiency now and for the future.