Truly “green” 18 wheeler transport trucks (aka Class 8 or semis) must have a little or no environmental impact. A sustainable transport truck must be emissions-free if it is to make a positive contribution to the environmental, social, and economic sustainability of the communities they serve. There is also a strong business case that can be made for reducing emissions in truck transport. Here are some examples of truck configurations that offer varying degrees of ecological benefit.
The combination of advanced diesel engines in tractor-trailers and better aerodynamics could lower the fuel consumption of semi-trucks. Advanced diesel alone could increased efficiency by 20 percent and improved aerodynamics could deliver an 11 percent reduction in fuel use. However, even the most advanced diesel truck will still emit pollutants ranging from carbon to fine particulate matter.
Hybrid trucks use at least two forms of energy, which include diesel and electric or natural gas turbines and electric. Hybrid trucks are being widely used by local municipalities, refuse haulers, and parcel delivery companies. Regenerative braking systems are ideal for hybrid trucks, particularly in urban settings where there is a lot of starting and stopping. Such systems generate power from the kinetic energy associated with breaking.
The four teams involved in the Department of Energy (DOE) “SuperTruck” initiative have succeeded in increasing efficiency by 50 percent. According to DOE if these trucks were to replace current trucks in the US it would result in cost savings of $30 billion each year using 300 million fewer barrels of oil. SuperTruck I program has also spawned twenty fuel-saving technologies that have reached the commercial market.
According to tests done by the National Vehicle and Fuel Emissions Laboratory of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) refuse vehicles average 43 percent savings in fuel consumption annually and improved engine efficiency compared to traditional variants. A typical Class 8 hybrid refuse vehicle reduces carbon emissions by 48 tons a year with a 50 percent fuel savings.
Given the state of our current technology, there is no greener form of trucking than fully electric trucks. As reviewed in a 2015 ThinkProgress article by Ari Phillips BMW has a 100 percent electric 40-ton eighteen-wheeler that is already on the road in Munich, Germany. However, the range is only about 62 miles per charge, which takes three or four hours. However, this electric truck will save 11.8 tons of carbon dioxide per year compared to comparable diesel trucks.
There are many research efforts currently underway that address some of the shortcomings of electric trucks. One of these concerns has to do with the downtime associated with charging. To overcome this problem researchers at Korea’s Advanced Institute of Science and Technology have built an electric bus that charges its batteries while driving. This design draws its power from cables buried in the asphalt of the road.
The most recent US initiative is called the SuperTruck II. It includes four projects to develop and demonstrate cost-effective technologies that more than double the freight efficiency. The engine and drivetrain will be developed and built by Cummins, Inc. (Columbus, IN). The tractor-trailer will be designed and developed by Daimler Trucks North America LLC (Portland, OR). Navistar, Inc. (Lisle, IL) will oversee electrified engine components and aerodynamic cab and Volvo Technology of America LLC (Greensboro, NC) will develop and demonstrate a tractor-trailer.
Although not exclusively for trucks, another US initiative will see the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Vehicle Technologies, invest $57 million in 35 new projects that will help to develop and deploy a wide array of cutting-edge vehicle technologies, including advanced batteries and electric drive systems, to reduce carbon emissions.
Here are 8 examples of some trucks of the future from Mercedes self-driving vehicles to Walmart’s lightweight aerodynamic hybrid semi.
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