EPA Gets up Close and Personal with Cummins ‘SuperTruck’

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EPA gets up close and personal with Cummins SuperTruck
An employee of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency at Ann Arbor, Michigan, takes a close look at the underside of the Cummins-Peterbilt SuperTruck.


Posted: Dec. 19

Non-engineers enjoyed seeing what is meant by “boat tails” and “trailer skirts,” while engineers appreciated technologies such as waste heat recovery (WHR).

More than 100 employees of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) office in Ann Arbor, Mich., came out to see the Cummins/Peterbilt Motors Company “SuperTruck” during a visit last month, asking questions and seeing firsthand the future technologies they could be responsible for regulating.

Cummins is leading one of four teams participating in the Department of Energy’s SuperTruck project. It is one of several initiatives under the 21st Century Truck Partnership, which is a public-private collaboration founded to further stimulate innovation in the trucking industry.

The SuperTruck program looks to improve freight hauling fuel efficiency for class 8 tractor-trailers by at least 50 percent. This has pushed Cummins and its partners to re-evaluate and improve upon all aspects of the truck, from weight reduction to aerodynamics and innovative engine technologies.

Cummins and Peterbilt say the demonstration tractor-trailer achieved a 54 percent increase in fuel economy during testing in the fall of 2012, averaging nearly 10 miles per gallon (mpg) under real world driving conditions.

The truck includes a number of features like the boat tails and trailer skirts designed to improve the vehicle’s aerodynamics. The SuperTruck also includes an engine designed to capture waste heat and convert it into useable energy.

Cummins employees Jon Dickson, Vehicle Applications Leader – Advanced Engineering, and Jackie Yeager, Global Energy Policy Director, were on hand at the EPA visit to answer a wide variety of questions. They ranged from how much weight was reduced in the vehicle to the practicality of the aerodynamic elements and the amount of power produced by the WHR turbine.

They also pointed out how the system can provide benefits to applications where aero-treatments are not as big of a factor or in duty cycles where vehicle speeds are lower, Dickson said.

Testing will continue in 2013 on a new Peterbilt 579 that Cummins and Peterbilt are confident will take what has been achieved so far to even higher levels. The testing will address use of the tractor-trailer over a 24-hour period, including times when drivers are at rest but still need power for such things as air conditioning and small appliances.

“The turnout by EPA employees to review the SuperTruck vehicle was quite encouraging and a big success,” Dickson said. “There was considerable interest in learning about the technologies included in the vehicle and understanding how they could be commercialized.”

Cummins, Peterbilt and their program partners will have invested $38.8 million in private funds over the four-year life of their SuperTruck program, which started in 2010. The effort received critical support through awarded matching grants from the Department of Energy’s Vehicle Technologies Program.


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