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Study Concludes That Class 8 Truck Fuel Consumption Could Be Reduced By Up to 50% By 2017 Using Existing and Emerging Technologies; Current Payback Requirements Could Forestall Implementation

A new study released today by the Northeast States Center for a Clean Air Future (NESCCAF) and the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) found that fuel consumption of Class 8 trucks and the resultant greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can be reduced up to 50% with the adoption of current and developing technologies and new operational measures by 2017.

However, the study also concluded that given the current short payback period for investment demanded by the trucking industry, a number of the technologies that could enable such savings would not be adopted, absent regulation or a longer payback period.

Transportation sources accounted for approximately 40% of all GHG emissions in the US in 2006; medium- and heavy-duty vehicles (above 8,500 gross vehicle weight rating) represent about 22% of the transportation emissions, up from 15 percent in 1990, according to the EPA. Trucks therefore are an important place to look for energy savings and climate change mitigation in the transportation sector.

Among medium- and heavy-trucks, Class 8 trucks are the largest CO2 emitters and fuel users, consuming two-thirds of all truck fuel, or 1.57 million barrels per day. Current fuel economy for Class 8 trucks is estimated by the US Department of Energy at 6.0 mpg and projected to rise modestly to 6.8 mpg by 2025 (EIA, 2009). Substantial improvements could be made to truck efficiency through a variety of existing and emerging technologies, including engine improvements, transmission enhancements, better aerodynamics and changes in systems and logistics.

This study finds that fuel consumption for new tractor-trailers could be lowered by 20 percent starting in 2012 and as much as 50 percent beginning in 2017, while providing net savings for the owner based on lifetime fuel savings paying for the incremental vehicle, operation, and maintenance costs.

The project was directed by an steering committee comprising representatives from major truck and powertrain manufacturers, government agencies, trucking fleets, and fuel economy and heavy-duty experts from non-profit organizations. The core of the analysis consisted of a series of modeled simulations.

Once the baseline truck and engine was determined (Volvo D13 (2010 emissions), Kenworth T600, 10-speed manual transmission), two simulation models were used to allow the evaluation of various packages: GT-POWER for engine cycle simulation and RAPTOR to model the vehicle, including the transmission and driveline. Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) was engaged to perform the vehicle and engine simulation modeling

For the test cycle, SwRI modified the California Heavy-Duty Diesel Truck Drive Cycle by increasing the portion of high-speed driving to reflect longer average travel distances nationwide; increased speed by 8% to reflect current long-haul operating speeds; and added two segments with positive and negative grade (1% and 3%). The results are specific to long-haul trucks.

However, substantial reductions in heavy-truck greenhouse gas emissions can be achieved. The NESCCAF-ICCT study shows that by 2017 with the introduction of technologies in development or currently in production as much as 40% of fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions from heavy trucks hauling freight can be reduced. If vehicle weight and length are also increased, the savings can reach 50%.

A total of 32 technologies and operational measures were identified and considered for inclusion. The technologies examined fell into five primary categories:

  1. off-the-shelf aerodynamic improvement technologies;
  2. off-the-shelf drivetrain technologies;
  3. emerging drivetrain technologies;
  4. emerging aerodynamic improvement technologies; and
  5. operational measures.

SwRI did not consider technologies that are not currently in production or for which a design specification is not available in the literature; as a result there is likely additional potential for reduction with more advanced technologies yet to be as developed.

After initial screening, SwRI assembled a series of 14 technology packages for modeling. The net cost analysis assumed an average price of $2.50 per gallon of diesel fuel, and assumed that the annual mileage declines as the vehicle ages.

The study found that eight building block technologies considered (SmartWay 2007 (SW1); Advanced SmartWay (SW2); Parallel hybrid-electric powertrain (HEV); Mechanical turbocompound; Electric Turbocompound; Variable Valve Actuation (VVA); Bottoming cycle; and Advanced EGR) delivered a range of potential reductions ranging from the very modest to up to almost 28% for a host of aerodynamic, friction and rolling resistance technologies called Advanced Smartway. Combined, these existing and emerging technologies are capable of improving the baseline fuel consumption up to 50%.

Despite the wide range in costs, the report notes, most of these technologies pay for themselves in the first few years of ownership with the exception of the hybrid electric powertrain.

With aggressive introduction of these technologies and operational measures into the US truck fleet, this study found that by 2030 an estimated 8 billion gallons of diesel fuel and 97 million tons of the CO2 could be saved annually, with lesser reductions being achieved as soon as 2012. This would be equivalent to removing 2 million cars from the road for one year. This is also equivalent to the amount of CO2 emitted from 20 coal-fired power plants in a year.

Cumulative CO2 emissions avoided between now and 2030 would equal approximately 1.1 billion metric tons, or the equivalent of removing 20 million cars from the road for one year.

Over a three year period and with a diesel fuel price of $2.50 per gallon, this study found that five of the technology packages would result in a net cost savings to the truck owner, taking into account both incremental technology costs and fuel savings.

The analysis shows that most of the technology combinations that provide the greatest reductions would not be adopted into the fleet assuming a three-year payback requirement. This indicates that given the short payback period demanded by the trucking industry, a number of these technologies will not be adopted into the US fleet absent regulation. With a longer payback period of 15 years estimated lifetime net savings are between $30,000 and $42,000 for owners of vehicles achieving CO2 and fuel consumption reductions of up to 50 percent.




Is widespread adoption as simple as appropriately aggressive CAFE style standards for these vehicles?


It is almost unbelievable that fuel consumption could be reduced by up to 50% with the application of currently kwnown technologies.

Since the world is not going to stand still during the next 7 to 8 years, one could assume that with more aggressive use of new forthcoming technologies, fuel consumption could be further reduced by 2018.

However, unless fuel price goes up substantially, truck makers and operators will not change the way they have been doing things for the last few decades. The main driver is still the net $$$ over the life of a truck. The application of costly changes can only be sold with higher fuel cost. A progressive increase in fuel taxes seem to be a something that governments will have to do.

PS: Another way to achieve much lower operating cost would be with single (instead of twin) wheel train type trucks/trailers capable of moving 3 times the cargo with only one (expensive) driver.


Unless NAFTA is repealed, changing CAFE will have very little effect. The trucking industry is operating on razor thin margins.

We have the technology to build resorts on the moon. Transportation costs are the reason they are not a reality.


If there are 3 million big rigs that use 40% of the vehicle fuel, then it would be a good target to go for better mileage. Even IF the tax payers have to help the truckers upgrade, it would be good for our nation to do so.

Stan Peterson

Drivel and nonsense.

There is a significant savings to be made by battery powered APUs for HVAC, for long haul truckers. This would enable the diesel to be shut down overnight, while drivers are resting. These are coming, rapidly.

To think that trucking companies are purposely doubling their fuel costs is genuine stupidity. It is an overwhelming conceit on the part of arm chair, know little, Monday morning quarterbacks.


Well, Stan, ya gotta wonder...expecially when you see most trucks with absolutely no aerodynamic mitigation.
Same with private autos. Very simple improvements would improve people's milage (tire pressure check, tune ups...) yet people neglect them.


The broken link was annoying so nhere are two others

or from google this similar article;

[PDF] Reducing Heavy-Duty Fuel Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
production heavy-duty, long-haul trucks can reduce CO2 emissions up to 17.8%. ... Heavy-duty, long-haul GHG and fuel consumption reduction results for combinations of technologies. ... combination, and bottoming cycle. While the costs ... - Similar


Except Stan Peterson post I don't see any stupidity here, there is nothing new in the fact that truck consumption can be slashed by 50%, proof : go to Rocky Mountain Institute and read their already old study on the topic, you will realize that you are the stupid and ignorant person who should shut up and try to learn something on his sad and meaningless existence.


I distrust theories that label the payback times "requirements" implying we need to change a regulation.
(Current Payback Requirements Could Forestall Implementation).

There semms to be an effort to imply that payback for the 50% improvement is very short;
"The analysis shows that most of the technology combinations that provide the greatest reductions would not be adopted into the fleet assuming a three-year payback requirement."

Which "most" ?


WalMart has a program to reduce their transportation fuel use by 50% from 2008 levels, and they are on their way. It can be done and will be. However, for individual truck owner operators, it is more difficult to pony up the up-front costs.


This is kind of like insulating and weatherizing homes saves energy. People know that if they spend a little on insulation and sealing leaks they can save, but few do it. Truckers know that if they do a few things they save, but few do it.

If we want to save energy as a nation, we will help those that can help themselves, but don't. It is a group effort that says if they can do it I can do it. It is for the benefit of all AND the individual. We have thought mostly about the individual the last 30 years, it is time to change that for the better of all.


SJC there is one solution to this : gas tax, believe me people will become motivated to do their homework about insulation and other energy saving solution


The long payback still gets there, one would expect the advantages will become more obvious as manufacturing costs are amortised, fuel and emission regulations continue to become more demanding. (This will focus manufactures r & d or be left behind.

It sounds as if the standards need accelerating Tax relief in respect to nationally mandated goals should not be a problem if indeed they aren't already greater than the study suggests.

When the benefits are so obvious and the technology already mature, it makes sense to enable fast tracking.


It is all OUR fuel. To say that some are wealthy enough to be wasteful or that if people do not want to help out then that is the way it goes is wrong. Fossil fuels are finite and for us to waste them is beyond shameful. If the country and its tax payers need to help the truckers make the investments that will result in lower fuel consumption, then that is money well spent for the benefit of us all.


The sooner these studies drop any reference to "GHG" the sooner they avoid links to the discredit and corruption of the global warming scam.

If you do not want to be linked to corrupt activity involved in this scam - remove the GHG nomenclature.

Roger Pham

The issue not addressed here is that acquisition cost aside, new and more complex fuel-efficiency systems introduce reliability issue as well as increase the maintenance cost. The percentage of fleet availability may be reduced if there will be more moving parts that can go wrong, hence reduce profitability and increase operational cost. For example, combined-cycle electrical power plants are known to be over 50% more efficient than simple gas turbine, but have significantly increase in maintenance cost and reliability issues that kept these high-efficiency system from widespread deployment.

We can't blame the commercial operators for the wait-and-see attitude until the new innovations are completely proven in reliability and cost-effectiveness. It's not that they don't like to spend less money on fuel bills, but rather, they don't like to take big risks that than run them out of business.


Also, I would not assume that organizations that have little stake in the businesses involved, know more about profitability than the owners, and I think it arrogant to think so.


Even it big rigs can go from 4 mpg to 5 mpg, they use SO much of the liquid vehicle fuel, that is worth doing. It is ALL our issue. The fact that we import 2/3 of our oil makes it ALL our issue. We need to do what needs to be done for ALL our sakes.


I have started seeing aerodynamic skirts retrofit to semi-trailers, so some of this is coming without a whole lot of prompting.  However, achieving the full 50% reduction is going to require coordinated and perhaps capital-intensive effort.

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