New Trucks Clean Up Their Act

With EPA regulations now in force that tighten the amount of particulate truck engines may emit, manufacturers have not been content to just put more environmentally friendly motors in their new tractors. They have redesigned their vehicle offerings to enhance the overall driving experience. The new ProStar from International Truck and Engine Corp. (Warrenville, Ill., www.internationaldelivers.com) is the result of five years and $300 million in development. By combining sculpted fenders with a sloped hood that improves visibility and a streamlined cab and roof shape, the aerodynamic tractor offers improved fuel economy. Because the major causes of downtime are tires, electrical harnesses, connectors, batteries, air leak, air brakes and fuel systems, the ProStar incorporates monitoring, prognostic and diagnostic systems aimed at keeping the tractor running longer.

To improve driver comfort ProStar offers integrated ride and handling to reduce fatigue and improve responsiveness. The quiet, climate-controlled cab even offers optional massaging seats. Sleeper space includes more storage options, improved heating and ventilation, and more natural light than previous truck models.

Built at the renovated International Truck plant in Chatham, Ontario, the company is ramping up production, currently at about 10 trucks per day. It delivered the first units to customers at the beginning of February.

Driver comfort is a special focus of the 2008 model year N-Series, low cab forward trucks from General Motors Isuzu Commercial Truck (Cerritos, Calif., www.isuzucv.com). Headroom, shoulder room and legroom have been increased. A more modern dashboard features more visible gauges and warning lamps plus an opening for optional equipment such as radios, GPS systems or rearview cameras. Safety improvements include a new seat belt design, low-cut side windows, and larger 17- by 8-inch side mirrors with integrated convex section. The N-Series offers long wheelbases—from 16.6 to 17.6 ft—in its 2008 models.

An overhead cam 5.2-liter turbocharged, intercooled diesel engine offers increased horsepower and torque. Isuzu claims a B10 durability rating of 310,000 miles, which means that 90% of its engines should reach that mileage before a major component fails. The engine is also equipped with a standard fuel/water separator, heated by returned fuel with a warning lamp mounted on the dashboard.

Gasoline-powered versions of the Isuzu N-Series are assembled in Janesville, Wis., while diesel-powered models are manufactured in Fujisawa, Japan.

While alternate fuel and hybrid powertrain technology makes headlines for consumer automobiles, Volvo (www.volvo.com) is incorporating the technology in heavy vehicles. At a press event in mid-January the manufacturer discussed its technology and displayed a hybrid Mac dump truck—manufactured under the Volvo Group umbrella—developed inconjunction with and presently being used by the U.S. Air Force. The powertrain technology is called I-SAM, for Integrated Starter Alternator Motor.

There are three basic configurations in hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) powertrains: series, parallel and split power. Volvo's I-SAM is a parallel-hybrid system, which Volvo engineers feel offers the best balance between costs and benefits. ISAM is made up of a permanent magnet unit that includes a power converter, an energy storage system and a powertrain management unit. At present, the I-SAM unit can cut fuel use by 35%. Volvo managers expect to begin manufacturing ISAM-powered trucks in 2009. Meanwhile, the company continues to examine other alternative fuels.

For example, Volvo engineers point to DME (dimethyl-ether) as an efficient renewable fuel with extremely low exhaust emissions. It can be extracted from biomass, such as the black liquor produced in the pulp industry. With modest changes, a diesel engine can reportedly run on DME.

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