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DOE to Fund Up to $240M for Class 8 Supertruck and Advanced Technology Light-Duty Powertrains

The US Department of Energy will provide up to $240 million in funding for research projects in two specific areas of interest: (1) developing systems for and demonstrating a 50% total increase in vehicle freight efficiency measured in ton-miles per gallon in Class 8 trucks (Supertruck); and (2) accelerating the development of cost-competitive engine and powertrain systems for light-duty vehicles capable of attaining at least a 25% fuel economy improvement for gasoline-fueled vehicles and at least 40% fuel economy improvement for diesel-fueled vehicles while meeting future emissions standards (ATP-LD). Measured fuel economy improvements cannot factor in a hybrid system.

Projects under this funding opportunity (DE-FOA-0000079) will be financed, in whole or in part, with funds appropriated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Applications are due by 9 September 2009.

Area 1: Systems Level Technology Development, Integration and Demonstration for Efficient Class 8 Trucks

Achieving the overall goal of the 50% increase in vehicle freight efficiency is to be achieved through efficiency improvement in advanced vehicle systems technologies and advanced engine technologies. At least 20% of this improvement is be through the development of a heavy-duty diesel engine capable of achieving 50% Brake Thermal Efficiency (BTE) on a dynamometer under a load representative of a level road at 65 mph.

Supertruck demonstration requirements. Click to enlarge.

The vehicle freight efficiency improvement must be achieved while meeting prevailing emission standards and Class 8 tractor-trailers vehicle safety and regulatory requirements. The systems developed shall be validated as cost effective via a business case analysis and will be reviewed for commercialization potential in later project phases as part of the phase gate review process.

Achieving significant increases in vehicle efficiency for Class 8 trucks will require an integrated systems approach to ensure that the various components of the vehicle work synergistically to provide maximum benefit, according to the DOE. For these reasons, DOE is seeking proposals from integrated teams that include an engine manufacturer, a truck OEM and a trailer manufacturer, suppliers, national labs, universities, fleet operators and other stakeholders. These integrated teams are encouraged to examine efficiency opportunities throughout the tractor and trailer combination unit as well as the engine.

As a separate and parallel effort, proposers shall identify, through modeling and analysis, key pathways to achieving our long-term goal of developing a 55% efficient (brake thermal efficiency) heavy-duty diesel engine. Critical components and/or systems needing specific development to achieve this goal should also be identified. This engine must be capable of meeting 2010 emission standards, and be commercially viable.

DOE expects approximately $90,000,000-$160,000,000 of funding to be available for new awards under this Area of Interest.

Area 2: Advanced Technology Powertrains for Light-Duty Vehicles

The goal of this effort is to accelerate the development of cost-competitive engine and powertrain systems for light-duty vehicles capable of attaining at least a 25% fuel economy improvement for gasoline fueled vehicles and at least 40% fuel economy improvement for diesel fueled vehicles while meeting future emissions standards. The improvement is based on comparison to a baseline state-of-the-art port fuel-injected gasoline vehicle maintaining comparable vehicle performance.

Demonstration requirements for light-duty vehicles. Click to enlarge.

Targeted emissions levels are EPA Tier II Bin 2 or lower.

DOE-supported research can include improvements to in-cylinder combustion, waste heat recovery, friction reduction, emission control, fuels, materials, electrification and reducing ancillary load requirements.

The engine system can be designed to accommodate a hybrid system, CVT or other advanced transmission, however, the development of these technologies is not being cooperatively funded by the DOE as part of this opportunity. For an engine used in a hybrid vehicle application, the stated fuel economy improvements shall result from improvements only to the engine system efficiency when compared to the base-line hybrid vehicle. Funding for the hybrid system will not be considered for this area of interest.

DOE expects approximately $25,000,000 to $80,000,000 of funding to be available for new awards under this Area of Interest.


fred schumacher

Since the shipping container has become a world wide standard for moving non-bulk cargo, it is the shipping container that should be the starting point for redesigning truck transport. A shipping container is a beam, able to take loads off its four corners. It does not absolutely need a separate trailer for transport.

If the container were grappled at the front to the fifth wheel and at the back by a trailing dolly, the whole system could be dropped to reduce frontal area by about 25 square feet, resulting in significant wind resistance reduction and also lowering center of gravity. Hydraulics could be used to lift the container to dock height.

Such a system would also result in major cost savings, since trailers would not need their own running gear, the trailing grapple assembly, with it axles, wheels and brakes, remaining with the tractor.

Drive train morphology could borrow from rail and ship practices: going to diesel-electric propulsion and adopting marine type long stroke, slow turning engines. Wartsilla marine engines already achieve over 50% thermal to mechanical efficiency. By placing hub motors in every axle, all wheels become drivers and mechanical drive trains are eliminated. A slow turning engine can not respond rapidly to power demands, so short term power peaks need to be buffered through an electrical power storage medium, batteries or flywheels, sizing of which would be for short-term needs, not long-term storage. This storage would also allow for dynamic braking.

These marine-style engines should be horizontal, to reduce frontal area and allow room for a long stroke. They can be in-line engines placed on their sides, horizontally opposed, or opposed-piston opposed-cylinder two-strokes.

fred schumacher

As renowned professor of energetics Vaclav Smil likes to point out, diesel is the most important fuel in the world. It is the primary mover of cargo. Without the ability to move cargo, quality of life drops dramatically (Afghanistan being a good case in point).

Reducing fuel consumption in moving cargo absolutely requires a systems approach, evaluating modes of transport and morphology of transport vehicles.

First, as much cargo as possible should be moved by rail, since rail, as linear transport, is easily electrified. Rail is already electric, diesel locomotives being simply portable generators. Electricity is the easiest form of energy to produce sustainably and much less problematic than biodiesel.

Rail transport is presently used primarily for bulk transport. Truck transport is used for time-critical cargo. For rail to replace trucks, a new system of high speed intermodal rail would need to be instituted. I see a three-mode system: 1) slow speed (60 mph) long-train bulk cargo; 2) high speed (120 mph) short-train (20 units or less) time-critical cargo and rural passenger transport; 3) high speed (240 mph) metro-to-metro passenger service.

The federal government would own and maintain right of way and trackage, with users leasing access rights. Railroads would operate system 1, trucking companies system 2, and airlines system 3. Systems 2 and 3 would have unidirectional trackage with zero grade crossings. Traffic would be controlled by a system similar to air traffic control with all trains running at the same speed to maintain spacing.

In an intermodal system, rail becomes the primary mode for long-distance linear transport, with trucking primarily playing an isotropic distributive function.


"Heavy-duty vehicles are an important target for reducing U.S. dependence on foreign oil because, while they make up less than 10 percent of all the vehicles on the roads, they consume about half the fuel."


If we can make long haul large trucks that go 100,000 miles per year get 5 mpg instead of 4 mpg, we will have made an important step towards reducing oil consumption and reducing imported oil.


We have made some minor changes to our Class 8 trucks and are acheiving 8.5 to 10.5 mpg over our 45 daycab trucks. Our average load is 45,000. 62 mph fixed set point, dual electric fans set to come on 5 degrees below the clutch fan. Progressive shift, super single tires, full synthetic lubes/oil, Ecoflaps, airtabs, transtex trailer skirts. Driver training and awareness.
Currently testing (2) hydrogen generators. Economy engine tune. High flow mufflers. High flow air inlet. Investigating (2) waste heat generators, energy generating shock absorbers. Turbo generators, fuel reformers, Electric hybrids and alternative fuels.

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