The New Kenworth SuperTruck 2 Can Cut Fuel Bills By 50%

Kenworth has unveiled the highly anticipated SuperTruck 2 at the Advanced Clean Transport Expo in Las Vegas, marking a significant leap in diesel powertrain efficiency.

The US Department of Energy (DoE) and the company worked together for six years to develop the SuperTruck 2, resulting from their joint efforts to increase freight efficiency while keeping diesel as the major energy source.

“The goal was a 100% freight efficiency improvement over our 2009 Kenworth T660, which at the time was arguably the most fuel-efficient truck in the industry,” stated Kenworth GM Jim Walenczak in a press release. “We surpassed the performance of that model to improve efficiency by up to 136%. This was realized by improving fuel efficiency up to 12.8 mpg (18.4 L/100km) while reducing our combination weight by more than 7,000 pounds (3,175 kg). The result was the ability to haul more payload with an ultra-fuel-efficient tractor-trailer combination.”

Significant aerodynamic improvements are one of the key reasons influencing this efficiency. With a central cockpit providing panoramic vision, a narrowed nose, and a sloped forehead, the SuperTruck 2 has a sleek appearance reminiscent of a bullet train. Completely enclosed wheels and low skirts also help to minimize drag. The truck’s variable-height suspension enables it to lower itself on calm highways, resulting in an astounding 48% reduction in drag. Slim, aerodynamic camera stalks replace conventional side mirrors, providing night vision for increased safety.

The design team also concentrated on reducing weight using lightweight materials and tires with low rolling resistance. Combining the tractor and trailer, which weighs just 26,100 lb (11,839 kg), achieves weight savings of 7,100 lb (3,221 kg).

Another noteworthy component is the powertrain, which combines a 48-volt electric generator with a TX-12 auto gearbox and a diesel engine based on the PACCAR MX-11 to create a mild hybrid system. This system uses regenerative braking to charge its lithium batteries. It also provides power to auxiliary systems, which typically get the power directly from the engine. According to Kenworth, the electric system can save the engine fans up to 80 horsepower.

Bench testing demonstrated the effectiveness of the powertrain, as seen by its record-breaking 55.7% engine efficiency rating. “Today’s modern diesel engine demonstrates around 47% efficiency,” explained PACCAR senior engineering manager for advanced technology, Maarten Meijer. “Reaching 55.7% was a major step forward and could only be done by applying new technologies that had not been explored until today.”

Even with these remarkable advancements, the SuperTruck 2 is not expected to go into production. “Our goal was to make this more than just a demonstrator truck,” said Jonathan Duncan, design director. “We wanted to show something dynamic and what the future of Kenworth might look like.”

Chief engineer Keith Adams of Kenworth emphasizes the company’s commitment to improving vehicle performance and working towards a carbon-neutral society by 2050: “This will require tremendous technological changes in the trucking industry, and partnering with the DOE on the SuperTruck 2 program was a tremendous opportunity to consider what will be possible as we look towards the future.”

The SuperTruck 2 is engineered to be detached from powertrains, meaning it may run on either battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell drive systems—two options that Kenworth is currently exploring. Currently, Kenworth’s fuel cell truck is part of a 10-unit Toyota testing program, and the T680E, their largest electric vehicle, has a 396 kWh battery that can go 150 miles (241 km).

Thanks to the DoE project, Kenworth has had the opportunity to investigate extremely efficient vehicle concepts from the ground up, and the commercial designs that result from this endeavor have definite market potential. Innovations that lower petrol prices will surely draw a lot of attention since fuel is a significant expense in transportation and logistics.

Source: Kenworth

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