Rigs to roll on reserve power and save 25% on fuel costs

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

New propulsion system stores energy so engines don?t work so hard

The Province

Despite social media being hailed as the 21st century form of communication, you can still quickly get a message out by simply telling one truck driver.

We know how to spread the word like wildfire. I was reminded of this recently when I heard through the trucker grapevine about a new power source.

For as long as I can remember, we’ve marvelled at the power a rig’s engine can produce. Now comes word that a company called Hyliion has just won an award for devising a way a rig’s trailer can help with powering the unit down the highway and up and down the mountains.

The concept, as it was explained to me over multiple cups of java, would see the removal of the rear axles of a trailer, and have them replaced with an electric propulsion system.

Apparently, when the rig and trailer are slowing down, or just not applying power to the rig’s drive wheels, the system captures the unused energy and stores it in a series of batteries within the new rear assembly.

Then, when the driver applies throttle, the trailer/chassis wheels kick in some of that stored energy, powering the trailer’s rear wheels. The rig’s engine doesn’t have to work so hard and this translates into fuel savings.

I’m also told this intelligent electric-drive axle system doesn’t affect the rig’s drive system, so no modifications need to be done to the rig’s power or computers controls.

The whole system can be swapped out in less than an hour. That’s generated a lot of laughter among drivers, because we’ve seen how long it can take to get work done on our rigs and trailers.

But aside from our skepticism, this add-on hybrid power system for semi trailers is expected to reduce fuel consumption by at least 25 per cent. Over one year, the system is expected to pay for itself with that saving in fuel.

Weight wise, the system tips the scales at about 227 extra kilograms. In the trucking industry, revenue is made by the weight of cargo hauled, but with that minimum added weight, the driver or company won’t incur a financial loss.

This power system unit is also said not to make any difference in the width or height of the trailer.

Our coffee table experts did pose one question that nobody had an answer for: what happens when driving on ice and snow? Will this intelligent system force the back of the trailer to suddenly come around and say ‘Hi, Mr. Driver?’ due to the lack of traction and difficult weather conditions?

That’s a legitimate question based on the millions and millions of kilometres of trailer pulling our table had under its collective belts.

We drivers hope the folks at Hyliion are still crossing all the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s” on this concept, because, we think they really have a great idea.

The part we really like is that a driver is required to make it work.

I could fill a newspaper with stories about road life on the road, but why not share yours?

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