Bullet train looking giant semi truck to hit US highways

Bullet train looking giant semi truck to hit US highways

A glimpse into the future of trucking from legendary Kenworth

by Kurt Knutsson

Kenworth has 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 US 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 surpassed the company’s expectations, achieving a remarkable 136% improvement in efficiency over the 2009 Kenworth T660, which was considered the most fuel-efficient truck at the time. This feat was accomplished through a combination of improved fuel efficiency, reaching up to 12.8 mpg, and a significant weight reduction of over 7,000 pounds.

Credit: Kenworth

Credit: Kenworth

 

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Aerodynamic design and weight savings

The aerodynamic design of the SuperTruck 2 is a standout feature, resembling a bullet train with a central cockpit, a narrowed nose, and sloped forehead. The truck also features low skirts, fully enclosed wheels within the bodywork, and slim camera stalks with night vision capabilities, replacing the traditional side mirrors. These design elements contribute to an astonishing 48% reduction in drag.

Weight savings were also a crucial factor, with the SuperTruck 2 tractor and trailer weighing in at 26,100 lb, representing a 7,100-lb reduction compared to 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.

Credit: Kenworth

 

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Powertrain and driver amenities

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

In bench testing, this powertrain achieved a record 55.7% engine efficiency rating, a significant improvement over today’s modern diesel engines, which demonstrate around 47% efficiency.

For drivers, the SuperTruck 2 offers a unique experience with a panoramic view from the central cockpit, a configurable 15-inch digital display, and a sleeper berth featuring a fold-down bed and a rotating tabletop for added convenience.

Credit: Kenworth

 

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Future-proofing and commercialization

While the SuperTruck 2 is powered by a diesel engine, Kenworth designed the overall layout to be powertrain-agnostic, capable of accommodating battery-electric or hydrogen-fuel-cell-powered drive systems in the future.

Kenworth acknowledges the challenges ahead in achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050 and views the SuperTruck 2 program as an opportunity to explore and commercialize new technologies more quickly.

Credit: Kenworth

 

Kurt’s key takeaways

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

With the push towards 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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