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Kenworth unveiled its latest innovation, the SuperTruck 2, at the Advanced Clean Transport Expo in Las Vegas. This sleek and aerodynamic truck is the result of a six-year collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) aimed at improving freight efficiency without abandoning diesel as the primary energy source.

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Pushing the boundaries of efficiency

The SuperTruck 2 exceeded the company’s expectations, achieving a remarkable 136% efficiency improvement over the 2009 Kenworth T660, which was considered the most fuel-efficient truck at the time. This feat was achieved through a combination of improved fuel efficiency (up to 12.8 mpg) and a significant weight reduction of over 7,000 pounds.

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Aerodynamic design and weight savings

The aerodynamic design of the SuperTruck 2 is a standout feature. It resembles a high-speed train with a central cockpit, narrow nose and sloping forehead. The truck also features low skirts, wheels fully embedded in the body and slim camera stalks with night vision that replace traditional side mirrors. These design elements contribute to an astonishing 48% reduction in drag.

Weight savings were also a key factor. The SuperTruck 2 tractor and trailer weigh 26,100 pounds, a weight reduction of 7,100 pounds over a typical tractor-trailer configuration. Lightweight, low-rolling resistance tires, a smaller 80-gallon fuel tank, and innovative materials and design considerations all contributed to this significant weight reduction.

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Powertrain and driver equipment

The SuperTruck 2’s powertrain is equally impressive, combining a PACCAR MX-11-based diesel engine, a TX-12 automatic transmission and a 48-volt electric generator into a mild-hybrid system. This system charges lithium-ion batteries through regenerative braking and provides power to electric fans, steering, coolant and HVAC systems that were previously mechanically powered.

In bench testing, this powertrain achieved a record efficiency of 55.7%. This represents a significant improvement over today’s modern diesel engines, which are around 47% efficient.

For drivers, the SuperTruck 2 offers a unique experience with panoramic views from the central cockpit, a configurable 15-inch digital display and a sleeping berth with a fold-down bed and rotating table top for added comfort.

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Future-proofing and commercialization

While the SuperTruck 2 is powered by a diesel engine, Kenworth has designed the overall layout to be drive-independent and can also accommodate battery-electric or hydrogen fuel cell-powered drive systems in the future.

Kenworth recognizes the challenges ahead on the path to a carbon-neutral society by 2050 and views the SuperTruck 2 program as an opportunity to more quickly research and commercialize new technologies.

Kurt’s key findings

Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 is a remarkable achievement that underscores the company’s commitment to innovation and pushing the boundaries of efficiency in the trucking industry. While the SuperTruck 2 itself may not enter production, the technologies and design concepts developed through this project could pave the way for future commercial vehicles that are more efficient, environmentally friendly and driver-focused.

Given the efforts to achieve a carbon-neutral society, what are your predictions for the transition from diesel to alternative energy sources in freight transport? Let us know in the comments below.

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