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Wow! In front of me are documents and articles regarding the new federal mandates that require fuel economy improvements for medium-and heavy-duty trucks. The rules were issued in mid-August jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and immediately generated responses and analyses from all sides.

Besides the two agencies themselves, we heard instantly from the American Trucking Association, and various equipment builders such as Cummins, Freightliner and Kenworth Trucking. In addition to newspaper reports, articles streamed forth immediately from the likes of Trucking and Freight Transportation News, as well as Produce News Daily and even Mother Jones.

Few of you could have missed it. EPA and NHTSA are each finalizing rules to establish a comprehensive national program that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fuel consumption for on-road heavy-duty vehicles. NHTSAs final fuel consumption standards and EPAs final carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions standards are tailored to each of three regulatory categories of heavy-duty vehicles: (1) Combination Tractors; (2) Heavy-duty Pickup Trucks and Vans; and (3) Vocational Vehicles. The rules include separate standards for the engines that power combination tractors and vocational vehicles.

The EPA rules include hydrofluorocarbon standards to control leakage from air conditioning systems, as well as final nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane (CH4) emissions standards that apply to all heavy-duty engines, pickup trucks and vans. These standards begin with model year 2014.

NHTSAs final fuel consumption standards will be voluntary in model years 2014 and 2015, and become mandatory with model year 2016 for most regulated categories. Under these rules, by 2018 big rigs must consume about 20 percent less fuel than they do today. Thats a savings of 4 gallons of fuel for every 100 miles traveled. (Details at www.nhtsa.gov/fuel-economy.)

The goals for these sweeping new limits are reductions in CO2 emissions by approximately 270 million metric tons and a savings of 530 million barrels of oil over the life of vehicles sold during the 2014 through 2018 model years. The result is over $7 billion in net societal benefits. After the initial up-front costs, which should be recouped in under a year, an operator will see net savings of $73,000 in fuel costs over a semis useful life, says NHTSA.

Affected companies are those that manufacture, sell or import into the United States new heavy-duty engines and new Class 2b through Class 8 trucks. That includes combination tractors, school and transit buses, vocational vehicles such as utility service trucks, as well as half-ton and 1-ton pickup trucks and vans. (Medium-duty passenger vehicles are already covered by the greenhouse gas emissions standards and corporate average fuel economy standards issued for light-duty model year 2012-2016 vehicles.) These new regulations cover motor vehicle manufacturers, engine and truck manufacturers, commercial importers of vehicles and vehicle components, alternative-fuel vehicle converters, and manufacturers, remanufacturers and importers of locomotives and locomotive engines.

In other words, just about everybody in the heavy-duty market except off-road vehicles.

This seems to be the rare government regulation that is meeting with approval from the industry affected. On its website, for example, The American Trucking Association was quick to praise the Obama Administration for working to set, for the first time, fuel efficiency standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks.

Todays announcement by President Obama is welcome news to us in the trucking industry, ATA President and CEO Bill Graves said. Our members have been pushing for the setting of fuel efficiency standards for some time and today marks the culmination of those efforts.

ATA is pleased that President Obama, [Transportation] Secretary LaHood and [EPA] Administrator Jackson have taken this historic step, but we believe these new standards are just one tool we should be using to cut fuel use by the trucking industry.

Original equipment manufacturers are also supportive. Shawn Whitacre, director, Materials Engineering, at Cummins in Columbus, Ind., told me, These rulemakings were met with broad industry approval, Cummins Inc. included. They represent very challenging, but achievable targets that are in step with our customers desires to increase fuel economy and lower their cost of operation.

Similar to the challenge associated with reduction of pollutant emissions, there is no silver bullet technology that will allow the standards to be met, he pointed out. Cummins expects to adopt a systems approach and employ whatever combination of technologies will best meet regulatory standards and customer expectations – and do it in the most cost-effective manner, Whitacre added.

In 2007, ATA endorsed a six-point sustainability program that included a proposal to set technologically feasible efficiency standards. These include:

1) Setting speed limits and speed governing at 65 mph.

2) Reducing idling to save on fuel and emissions.

3) Improving fuel efficiency.

4) Improving highways to reduce congestion.

5) Choosing more productive truck combinations.

6) Setting fuel economy standards.

Just one year ago, I wrote on this very subject and addressed some of the above proposals. But its useful to review them with an emphasis on these new developments.

Setting speed limits has been cussed and discussed for nearly 40 years. I dont know how many of you remember the national 55 mph speed limit set during the Nixon administration in the wake of the first oil shock. From my point of view, that was the most abused and ignored speed limit in the history of such things! Not because it didnt save fuel – it really does – but because no one wants to go that slow. Believe me, driving from Phoenix to California beaches, you do not want to spend any more time in the desert then needed.

However, there is value in controlling speed. In an excellent white paper, Kenworth noted that a general rule of thumb is that every mph increase above 50 mph reduces fuel mileage by 0.1 mpg. Do the math and you can see that 65 mph equates to a 1.5 mpg reduction in fuel economy vs. 50 mph. If a truck is getting 8 mpg at 50, it will only be able to do 6.5 mpg at 65. Big difference!

Reducing idling has been a target for fuel reduction for some time. Kenworth calculates that simply adding a diesel Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) can save over $3,000/year in fuel costs, assuming fuel prices of $4.50/gallon. That equals nearly 700 gallons of fuel saved annually.

Improving fuel efficiency has become one of the major challenges facing the lubricants industry, and the new fuel economy rules are sure to come to the forefront as work begins in earnest on Proposed Category 11 (PC-11), the next diesel engine oil upgrade. Representatives of API, EMA and the American Chemistry Council met in Baltimore in August to review the options for PC-11 oils, which EMA wants to have in the marketplace by Jan. 1, 2016.

Heavy-duty OEMs so far have been reluctant to adopt lower viscosity engine oils, the main technique used for engine oils by the light-duty OEMs. The viscosity limit most often cited by the Engine Manufacturers Association has been a high-temperature, high-shear rate viscosity minimum of 3.5 mPa.sec.

In last Octobers column, I described an SAE paper, The Lubricant Contribution to Improved Fuel Economy in Heavy Duty Diesel Engines (2009-01-2856). The papers authors (van Dam, Kleijwegt, Torreman, and Parsons) discussed the D12D FE test, a dynamo-meter test procedure which measures the fuel economy of a D12D Volvo engine under 13 varying torque and speed regimes. Some of the results were quite interesting. For instance, the effects of viscosity grade were measured. The table below outlines the results as measured in both on-highway and so-called hilly conditions.

Clearly, fuel economy, at least in this test, is significantly affected by HTHS viscosity. That shouldnt be much of a surprise to anyone since HTHS viscosity is what is going on in the engine under operating conditions.

Industry sources tell me the OEMs are now approaching consensus on reductions in HTHS viscosity. For PC-11, the EMA apparently has decided to focus on low-viscosity, low HTHS oils as the principal route for gaining fuel economy from lubricants.

Cummins Shawn Whitacre described his companys thinking: Clearly, one area of potential improvement is via friction reduction. It is well documented that reducing oil viscosity can affect frictional drag and improve fuel economy. Weve seen a progression in the light-duty market towards lighter viscosity grades to help meet CAFE standards, and were certainly exploring this option for heavy-duty engines.

Although fleets in the United States have traditionally used SAE 15W-40 oils, he went on, were seeing an increasing number of them switching to 10W-30s, 5W-40s, and even 5W-30s to get at fuel economy improvement. These products meet prevailing industry specifications and Cummins-specific requirements.

Freightliner also is suggesting that lubes might be yoked to improve fuel economy. In an Aug. 18 press release, it said, Further enhancements – including everything from a switch to 5W-30 engine oils, predictive technologies, improved drivetrain integration and further aerodynamic improvements – will pave the way to another 15 percent fuel consumption reduction by 2015.

Following the experience of developing the Sequence VID fuel economy test for light-duty engine oils, youll be glad to know that nobody wants to develop a similar engine test for heavy-duty oils. Instead, the diesel OEMs are taking a leap of faith and assuming that low-viscosity/low HTHS will provide fuel economy benefits. To measure the engine oils contribution to fuel economy, some have proposed using the SET Ramp Modal Cycle (RMC) test being used for Class 7/8 trucks, and the FTP 75 federal test procedure for truck Classes 6 and lower.

Turning again to ATAs wish-list, improving road conditions is an obvious choice to help with fuel savings. Good roads and roads that minimize excess mileage allow trucks to run at set speeds, which is the most efficient way to operate. Using cruise control is an effective means of reducing fuel consumption.

A more productive truck combination is longhand for increased load sizes. Some experiments with 97,000-lb. maximum cargos have been tried, resulting in about 20 percent more product tonnage moved. That would mean fewer trucks on the road, and the potential fuel economy benefits, although not 20 percent, are still substantial. In addition, intermodal or piggy back is another combination that reduces truck fuel consumption. Containers could be shipped for long distances and then moved to final destinations much more economically than with long-haul truck delivery.

Almost a no-brainer is the ATAs final point of setting fuel economy standards. Thats the point of the NHTSA/EPA regulations. Of course this places a bigger load on the vehicle and engine manufacturers. It will require new designs and powerplants. It will also affect the vehicle from the hood ornament to the mud flaps.

The challenge is there for all to see. Now lets see who steps to the plate and hits the home run.

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