Bill Wade


Heavy Truck Technology 2020:

5 Major Areas of Advancement
Major Heavy Truck Technology Development

By Bill Wade

Trying to predict progress in the large number of components and functions that make up heavy trucks would burn out any crystal ball. Regardless, here is an overall scheme that might help look at the interconnected tech advances to come in the next 7-10 years:

Vehicle Electronics

  • Drive-by-Wire to Wireless Control… basically anything that eliminates mechanical or electrical (wire) actuation. Product lines affected including brake, steering and signal lighting actuation.

  • Engine and Drive Train Control…“Unitized Performance” is the mantra for engine and driveline designers to facilitate both fuel economy and driver compatibility.

  • Glass Cockpit…More discrete reporting systems, more driver interface. Much like pilots, multi-function instruments with “heads-up display” are necessary to simplify some of the truck to driver communication.

Materials and Coatings

  • Bio Fuels (especially diesel)...Agricultural product (and especially by-product) based hydrocarbon sources are close to street ready now. Although second-generation cellulosic biofuels have proved harder to make than many had hoped five years ago, innovative start-ups focused on cellulosic and algae-based biofuels are starting to create high-margin specialty chemicals and blendstocks, generating cash now and suggesting biofuels at $2 a gallon or less by 2020.

  • Dual Fuel Engines... Similar in design to the Cummins Westport LNG/diesel solution being successfully marketed now, these hybrids could also benefit from ultra high pressure injection (45,000 psi) to dampen emissions.

  • Bio Coolants and Lubricants…Biodegradable and non-toxic (and potentially cheaper), future anti-freeze and greases will continue to turn away from petroleum based cousins.

  • Ferro Magnetic Fluid (also known as magneto rheological or MR fluids) ... These fluids, which change viscosity in the presence of electric current, will be found  replacing some hydraulic / pneumatic and friction functions in suspensions and drive train designs.

  • High Strength-to-Weight Structural Composites…Once again looking toward aircraft design for clues to future vehicle design, composites can make a huge contribution toward higher hauling capacity. Look for this especially in seamless trailer, cargo container and ‘package car’ designs.

  • Corrosion Control... Road salt corrosion is responsible for over $8 billion in vehicle costs alone... perhaps double that number to cover roads and bridges. On vehicle, color infused plastic body panels mean no dents, rust or repainting. Watch for increasing use of less corrosive acetate compounds of potassium or sodium.

Computers and Communications

  • GPS Integration…JIT freight scheduling/notification, driver performance and drivers logs pushed to universal adoption by strict hours of service (HOS) and CSA regulation enforcement.

  • Transmission of On-Board Equipment Parameters…Diagnostics and predictive maintenance data available to destination or current position service providers who are tied into fleet networks.

  • Shipping Unit-Level Integrated Logistics... On-line pallet and container tracking will facilitate bypassing of central warehouses and cross-docks.

  • Cargo and Vehicle Security... Quickly declining systems costs will increase use of ‘virtual yards’. Advanced real-time vehicle status will be quickly adopted, especially for carriers of high unit value consumer goods.

  • Real Time Anything... Routing efficiency, traffic congestion, weather, tolls, weights, fuel consumption, driver performance… and taxes. Unfortunately, this reporting availability will allow tolling based on time of day and exact GVW.

Increased Vehicle Safety

  • Driver Collision Protection... The driver shortage may actually have a positive effect as more heavy vehicles incorporate safety features that have been standard in cars and light trucks for years. More cabs will include increased passive restraints (air bags).  Soy based foam for comfort and sound deadening is an example of the ‘sustainability’ aspect in new designs.

  • Forward Lighting... The ability to really ‘light ‘em up’ increases as variable focus designs become popular. Advanced solutions such as bi-xenon designs (originally for the military) assure infinitely variable intensity and direction.

  • 360º Obstacle and Lane Departure Detection... Utilizing a number of combinations of visual and ultrasonics, forward speed control and 360º collision avoidance devices are nearly road ready. This will be advanced further by new ‘connected-vehicle’ technology.

  • Light Emitting Diode (LED)... Low energy drain, variable-intensity lighting in some form of LED... organic (OLED), polymer (PLED) or plasma... has doomed incandescent to vehicle obsolesce.

Aerodynamics and rolling resistance

  • Spoilers, Boat-tails, Fairings and Skirts... Offering fuel economy increases of over 7%, these aerodynamic devices show results only in over-the-road application. Primarily aftermarket items today, nearly all will be OEM options soon. Vehicle control in high winds and maximized spray suppression may be a major benefit of new approaches.

  • Super Singles... Minimizing tire contact with the road already has been shown to increase fuel efficiency by about .5mpg (around 6%). Coupled with the weight saving and smooth drivability, continued R&D investment by tire companies is assured.

    They Just Keep Innovating!
    Interesting New Tech Approaches
    to HD Vehicles

    Compressorless air conditioning … new compressorless air conditioners dehumidify the air with desiccants rather than the traditional “compress/decompress” refrigeration cycle. Both in-cab and refrigerated transport would be turned on their heads… compressor cores anyone?

    Electro chromic windows … technology to change the window shading, depending on the temperature difference between outside and inside. In-cab ergonomics and trailer top applications would help control thermal conditions.

    Electrofuel … Biopharmaceutical researchers are developing pathways that feed carbon dioxide, water, and energy to enzymes to create long-chain carbon molecules that function like fossil fuels at one-tenth the cost of current biofuels.

    Tire Sensor... Goes way beyond simply gauging pressure, it also measures the tire’s temperature, load and acceleration forces.  The truck’s computer can suggest a higher tire pressure to compensate for extreme cornering behavior or high loads. Sensors are approximately the size of a quarter and are easy to install because they affix to the tire, not to the valve stem.

    Wireless Force Sensing Bolts/Studs ...These fasteners utilize internal gaging to indicate bolt tension due to preload with strain gage accuracy. Fasteners provide a means for accurate, independent inspection of an assembled bolt for preload, thereby enhancing the structural integrity and reliability of both the bolt and the assembly.




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