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March 19, 2024
SuperTruck 2: Empowering Future Trucking

SuperTruck 2: Empowering Future Trucking

From Executive Director Mike Roeth

In case you weren’t at TMC, you might not know that we released a thought leadership report on SuperTruck 2. We called the report SuperTruck2: Empowering Future Trucking.

To me the biggest takeaway from the SuperTruck program is that it is a testing ground for technologies that can then be integrated into production trucks to make them more efficient.

If you are not familiar with the SuperTruck program, it was started in 2009 by the Department of Energy as a project whose purpose was to demonstrate a system of new technologies with the goal of greatly improving freight energy efficiency, reducing vehicle operating costs and improving environmental sustainability. Truck makers that wanted to be in the program had to apply and if accepted had to help fund the program.

SuperTruck 1 was so successful that SuperTruck 2 was launched with even more aggressive goals than the first SuperTruck.

From 2016 through 2024, each of these five teams succeeded in innovating complete tractor-trailer systems capable of exceeding freight efficiency performance improvements of more than 100% versus each team’s Model Year 2009 baseline diesel tractors with standard 53’ dry van box trailers.

The multiple paths to the target demonstrate that there are many ways to improve the net performance of tractor-trailers including aerodynamic improvement, rolling resistance improvement, weight reduction, and parasitic loss reduction.

Here’s the best past: these four common improvement factors are very pertinent to evolving technologies including battery electric vehicles, fuel cell electric vehicles, alternative fuel vehicles such as renewable natural gas, compressed natural gas, hydrogen internal combustion engine, propane, and all the hybrid permutations of these zero- and near-zero emission technologies. This is critical as a 33% improvement of MPG on a diesel truck relates to extending a 300-mile battery electric truck to 400 miles.

Many of the technologies from SuperTruck 1 are already in today’s trucks and often are added without a lot of fanfare. The OEMs found that they worked and had a good ROI, so they designed them into their production vehicles.

I expect the same thing to happen based on what the five SuperTruck 2 teams learned. SuperTruck 3 is already underway and five heavy-vehicle manufacturers have funds for projects to electrify medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight-system concepts to achieve higher efficiency and zero emissions.

I can’t wait to see what we learn from that program.

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