From a large Class 8 tractor to a small light-duty pickup, advance technology programs are demonstrating the potential to significantly cut fuel economy and improve emissions. No, these achievements are not attributable to a new emerging alternative fuel or to the introduction of new hybrid systems. Rather, these advancements come to the tried and true diesel platform. Just this week, the Daimler Trucks North America team announced a fuel-sipping Class 8 SuperTruck while Cummins, one of the largest engine manufacturers, released its clean and efficient engine deployed in a small pickup truck.
Let’s start with the SuperTruck program. Back in 2010, the Department of Energy initiated a program that provided, in total, $270 million in grants to several projects that demonstrated technologies capable of doubling the fuel economy from a Class 8 tractor trailer. Just last week, the second of those demonstration projects announced the results of their efforts.
According to Daimler Trucks North America, their SuperTruck achieved 115 percent overall increase in efficiency with about 50 percent attributable to the engine alone. Technologies deployed on the vehicle were all demonstrated using a diesel engine that increased fuel economy from about 6.5 miles per gallon to 12.2 miles per gallon.
Diesel proved its potential in the passenger vehicle segment last week as well. Back in 2010, the Department of Energy funded a similar project for passenger vehicles through the Advanced Technology Light Automotive Systems (ATLAS) program. Just last week, Cummins announced that, through its ATLAS project, it was able to improve the fuel economy of a ½ ton pickup by 53 percent while substantially reducing tailpipe emissions to that of a small compact vehicle. The Cummins team was able to achieve the similar power and performance of an eight cylinder gasoline engine with a four liter diesel engine while improving fuel economy by over seven miles per gallon and cutting emission by more than half.
While the diesel engine has been around for a century, announcements such as these last week show that diesel is a versatile platform than can be relied upon to deliver needed power and performance with improved fuel economy and emission cutting technology.