Trucking budgets for commercial carriers and private fleets alike are dominated by fuel costs, so the fuel-sipping SuperTruck, a prototype tractor-trailer designed for heavy hauling, is bound to generate some buzz.
The prototype was developed as part of the SuperTruck challenge, a five-year $115 million partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and four truck makers. The goal was to improve 18-wheelers' freight efficiency by at least 50 percent, and the price of admission was to match the government funding.
Daimler Trucks North America succeeded on both counts by using extensive computer modeling and wind tunnel testing to craft a machine that boasts a 115-percent improvement in freight efficiency (freight-ton-miles per gallon) over a 2009 baseline truck.
Unveiled at the 2015 Mid-America Trucking Show under Daimler's Freightliner brand, the SuperTruck has cruised at 12.2 mpg—about twice the typical mileage for big rigs—thanks to features such as low-rolling-resistance single tires, aerodynamic surfaces, and an Intelligent Powertrain Management (IPM) system that controls shifting and coasting according to pre-loaded 3D digital maps.
Combined with solar panels on the trailer's roof and a hybrid drivetrain with a 10.7-liter diesel engine linked to an electric motor, the design slashes fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. This concept truck design won't be in showrooms any time soon, but Daimler plans to use several of the new technologies in future models.