47 points by PaulHoule 10 days ago | 9 comments
bArray 10 days ago
> VTNA has made some improvements to the truck's diesel powertrain as well. It has switched from a six-wave piston to a seven-wave piston, and there are smaller needle control valves in the fuel injectors. There are smaller pistons for the D13 turbodiesel engine, with longer connecting rods and shorter pistons to "create better tolerances to fit in the cylinder to reduce that friction inside the cylinder," Stadler told me. And Michelin has developed new lower-rolling resistance tires for the VNL that further improve efficiency.

Well done to them. 10% fuel savings is massive for something that is already quite efficient.

Steven420 10 days ago
Hopefully the improvements in efficiency are real. I've had trouble trusting the numbers coming from car companies after the emissions scandles
xoa 10 days ago
This isn't a consumer car situation. They're not trying to hit some paper efficiency number that matters environmentally in aggregate but is hard for any individual with highly variable driving, pricing etc to really notice. As the article also emphasizes this is about cold hard money in real world constant heavy usage across the entire country since this is long haul. These vehicles are going over 100k miles a year, which at their fuel economy translates to something like 14000-16000 gallons of diesel per year, and in turn at an average price of ~$4/gallon [0] is like $50k-60k, per year, just in fuel. Individual truckers and companies will absolutely notice whether they're adding 5000 to 6000 dollars to their net income per vehicle, or not.

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0: https://www.eia.gov/petroleum/gasdiesel/

toast0 10 days ago
If you had a VW TDI, you got better real world fuel efficiency than the EPA fuel efficiency. And lower CO2 emissions. And all you had to do was wiggle the steering wheel ever.

Yes, yes, some fraud. Yes, yes, NOx emissions. But the fuel efficiency numbers were better than published.

uticus 10 days ago
10% fuel savings only matters if you never have to think about maintenance costs. Same with the replacement cost for tires, although to me the tire efficiency is a bigger multiplier since they aren't replaced as often as the fuel tanks are topped off.
TylerE 10 days ago
Truckers can easily spend thousands a day on fuel. They’ll take it.
nkurz 10 days ago
You have a good argument, but the exaggerated numbers hurt your case. $5 per gallon and 5 gallons per miles are high/low estimates. At this rate, fuel costs $1 per mile. Are you saying they "easily" drive thousands of miles in a day? I'd hope that 2000 mile days (the minimum for "thousands") are really rare.
AlotOfReading 10 days ago
It's also not possible at legal speed limits in the US. The highest legal speed on any public road in the US is a short 85mph section on one toll road in Texas. The more common 80 mph only gets you to 1920 miles per 24h without stops.
TylerE 9 days ago
They use way more fuel in hilly areas.
quesera 10 days ago
Your numbers are for an individual truck driver.

A trucking company is also a trucker.

AnthonyMouse 10 days ago
Relatedly, it's not uncommon for trucks to have sleeper cabs and multiple drivers so that the truck is on the move close to 24 hours a day. Using the provided numbers and ordinary highway speeds, that leads to a fuel cost of more than $1000/day. Whether "thousands" has to mean strictly more than $2000 is being somewhat pedantic.
TylerE 10 days ago
Yes, exactly. Long haul drivers operate as 2 or 3 driver teams. They specially high value cargo. Those things stay moving.

Also 5mpg is high for pulling an unawrodynamic load.

TylerE 9 days ago
Diesel is well over $5/gal on the west coast right now, and flirted with $7/gal last fall
ZoomZoomZoom 10 days ago
> America sends five times more freight by truck than rail, so it's important to start making those trucks more fuel efficient and safer.

If safety is really a concern, why is it not a Cabover design? Aren't those supposed to be safer due to better visibility?

denimnerd42 10 days ago
I think that's up for debate depending on application.. the longer wheelbase gives much more stability and comfort which is important on long drives. Vs a cabover might be a better design for a tight city.
ourmandave 10 days ago
Cabovers have worse aerodynamics so bad for long haul.

Short haul and in town they win with a tighter turn radius.

MisterTea 10 days ago
The old thinking was the driver of a cabover was the first to arrive at the scene of the crash. Truckers had a bad image of them and they wanted a hood with a big lump of iron between them and whatever they were plowing into.

Old cab-overs were pretty much tin boxes and they were plentiful before the length laws in the USA were relaxed in the late 70's. After that happened the cabover in the USA died a pretty fast death and the only company to attempt a proper modern cabover design was Freightliner with their Argosy. Other than that maybe the Mack MH Ultraliner was decently modern introduced in the early 80's that replaced the F Model and WS series Cruiseliner.

Tor3 9 days ago
As far as I know the reason for cabover is much simpler: In Europe the total length of the vehicle is covered by regulations. As total truck length is restricted you choose a cabover design, to maximize the transport capacity. When it comes to driving, cabover can turn in tighter places, but that's all.
vondur 10 days ago
Cabover designs tend to be pretty bumpy due to the driver being on top of the wheels. Long distance truckers don't like that. Used to be more common in the past here in the US.
dghlsakjg 10 days ago
Cabover's were popular because there used to be a different limit on total rig length. Those laws have changed which is why cabovers aren't popular anymore.
tibbydudeza 10 days ago
Afaik the cab behind the engine design makes for a bigger cabin for sleeper space since US truckers are on the road so long.
xeromal 10 days ago
IRRC, cabover is safer for others, but not the driver and vice versa for the longnose design.
moate 10 days ago
Citation needed? 30 seconds of google with “cabover safety” found only the opposite in results.

Maybe it’s a trade of “better visibility” vs a “battering-ram with no front crumple zone”?

VBprogrammer 10 days ago
Many US trucks are of a design which has barely changed since the 1960s. I can't find any good references but I'd bet that the DAF CF of early 2000s design has a better survival rate than a similar vintage Peterbuilt 379.
Hamuko 10 days ago
Isn't the issue with cabovers that American truck drivers think they look dumb?
dghlsakjg 10 days ago
US Cabovers were designed around laws that limited the length of trucks + trailers. Those laws changed, and cabover trucks disappeared.

They have a lot of disadvantages like serviceability and driver comfort. I don't think that looks really figure into it, since a lot of truck purchasing is driven by businesses which would gladly run an absolute pig of a truck if it saved them money.

moate 10 days ago
Optimus Prime would like to have a word with you in the other room…
Hamuko 10 days ago
I remember him being a conventional Peterbilt in the movie.
jonasdegendt 10 days ago
He's a cabover in the original comic and animated show, the first movie's twenty-something years later.
aidenn0 10 days ago
30s into the trailer you can see it's a cabover: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_25RK5GbJIc
hengheng 10 days ago
So, new tires (which happen independently) a stroked engine (without saying it), a more aerodynamic cladding (surprise), and that is it?

In IT that is called a spec bump, not a disruption.

nabilhat 10 days ago
It's a standard entry in the OTR long haul market segment, Volvo's equivalent of the Freightliner Cascadia and International Lonestar, all with their own take on the same set of features. Efficiency trim like aero and tires are standard, but marketing hypes it anyway and brags about how their new engine technology is superior when they do something as banal as switching to a different injector supplier.

The USA market supports a substantial truck hauling segment to fill the rail deficit. All they do is drive a thousand miles from warehouse A to warehouse B over and over, so aero between cab and trailer that restricts tight maneuvers doesn't matter, LRR tires start to make sense since they never spend significant time on lower speed surface streets, etc. It's not like the USA is going to update (much less upgrade) rail and that truck market is fully saturated and primarily cost sensitive, so actual disruption only adds risk.

AlotOfReading 10 days ago
They may not say it in the article, but there's been overhauls of most of the internal systems to accommodate use cases that didn't exist decades ago when the previous models were designed.
sn9 10 days ago
What's stopping automakers from using fuel to power a generator so we get the benefits of an electric car (e.g., efficiency, torque, etc.) while still retaining the benefits of carbon fuels (e.g., energy density, quick refueling, etc.)?
tarasglek 9 days ago
Incumbents are risk averse. Edison motors is doing exact this https://www.youtube.com/@EdisonMotors
postepowanieadm 10 days ago
Real button and knobs!
Kon-Peki 10 days ago
Volvo Cars and Volvo Trucks split up in 1999 (but still share usage of the trademark). These trucks have nothing to do with the cars and their designers.
linksnapzz 10 days ago
They’re using the same font for the labels on the buttons that Volvo cars does…
Hamuko 10 days ago
Are there lorries that don't have real buttons and knobs for things (except for the Tesla Semi that barely even exists)?
PaulHoule 10 days ago
I don't know but I think the dashboard pic is lovely. I don't have a CDL but I would sure love to sit in that seat and touch the buttons.

It looks like there is a radio with buttons so I'm not so sure what the touchscreen does. Maybe it has a truck-specific satnav application which would be improvement on the truckers who use a car satnav and wind up sticking their truck under bridges and such.

jonahhorowitz 10 days ago
> For one thing, they're not speed-limited, unlike heavy-duty trucks in Europe, which aren't allowed to go faster than 56 mph (90 km/h). "So we had to take that in consideration in the design," explained Stadler.

Seems like we could help things a lot by adding this regulation to trucks in America. Slower == better fuel efficiency and safer too!

uticus 10 days ago
I'm skeptical, if slower == better fuel efficiency, everything else being the same, the owners would drive slower because that would be money in their pocket.

If you're looking for levers to tweak the system, this probably ain't the one.

zardo 10 days ago
Aero drag goes with velocity squared, it is absolutely more effecient to reduce speeds.

Drivers are paid by the mile, if you drive faster your effective hourly pay goes up.

AnthonyMouse 10 days ago
> Aero drag goes with velocity squared, it is absolutely more effecient to reduce speeds.

It's more complicated than that. Up to highway speeds, energy costs are dominated by mechanical losses like rolling resistance. Meanwhile engine efficiency is higher at particular engine speeds and power outputs, and higher gearing improves efficiency but only if the engine remains in its optimal efficiency range.

This implies there is an optimal speed before aerodynamic losses become dominant, but that speed increases based on various factors like the air viscosity and vehicle aerodynamics. So the optimal speed will be higher at higher altitudes (common in the western US) and higher for vehicles with better aerodynamics.

> Drivers are paid by the mile, if you drive faster your effective hourly pay goes up.

This is another type of efficiency. It does you little good to reduce your fuel costs by $100 if you increase your labor costs by $200.

TheRealPomax 10 days ago
Safer for... who? The 500 miles of mostly empty highway through no-man's land between two population centers? The US, unlike Europe, is mostly empty. You can drive for 5 hours and not just still be in the same state, you're still on the same road.

The only type of road where a regulator would make sense is the kind of road where in the US a regulator makes no sense. Every other type of road already has speed limits at or below what a regulator would be set to.

eddd-ddde 10 days ago
Safer for the driver?
AnthonyMouse 10 days ago
But then what do you need laws for? The driver already has the incentive to balance their own safety against their other interests. Laws are only needed to prevent someone from imposing an externality on an unconsenting third party.
TheRealPomax 10 days ago
Not seeing that one without a lot of words - what highway situation are you thinking of where the driver's safe enough at 50 but not at 70?

(Bearing in mind that US highways are radically different from Europe's)

eddd-ddde 10 days ago
I'm not too familiar with US or European highways.

What I am familiar with is lots of curves, inclines, declines. The kind of road where a loaded truck going the limit easily flips into the cliff to the side on the slightest error.

TheRealPomax 10 days ago
See, that's a little bit of a problem if you're trying to make a point about why US cargo trucks should have speed limiters then, because: none of those things apply to US highways.

US highways are (by design) very straight, very flat, and very long. And on the rare occasion they're not, there are already speed limits in place.

wiredfool 10 days ago
I see plenty of trucks^H^H^H^H^H HGVs going 100+ in Ireland in 120 (auto)/80(truck) zones.
jandrewrogers 10 days ago
That would significantly increase the cost. The US isn't Europe, long haul trucking is traversing a thousand kilometers at a time on mostly empty flat highways.
dghlsakjg 10 days ago
The speed limit for trucks in CA is 55mph statewide. Doesn't seem to be that big an issue.
jandrewrogers 10 days ago
That speed limit is widely flouted on rural highways in California and other States don't observe it at all. Typical max speed limit for trucks in the US is 70 or 75 mph, and a few States have 80 mph.
kyleblarson 10 days ago
Because long haul trucking routes never go through Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana, etc?
hi-v-rocknroll 10 days ago
Wyoming's motto should be Drive whatever speed you like!

(It's not an exaggeration because there seem to be about 2 state patrol cars and they're always parked at Walmart getting coffee. If you want to drive 100 as private passenger vehicle, go right ahead. If you want to drive 85 with a rig full of cows, feel free. While Nevada and Montana lost their no speed limit statuses due to federal funding and regulations, but worked around it by issuing smaller penalties.)

KeplerBoy 10 days ago
Or it would lower costs because saving gas saves money.
jandrewrogers 10 days ago
Increasing the transportation time by 30% has costs throughout the supply chain that greatly exceed the small difference in fuel costs. They aren't even on the same scale. That latency directly adds to the production cost of everything the trucks are carrying.
KeplerBoy 10 days ago
In my experience latency has near zero cost and if it has, just use air cargo. It's all about throughput and reliability.
uticus 10 days ago
> Some readers are bound to be a bit disappointed that the VNL doesn't improve fuel efficiency by quite as much as that ambitious research project.

That's because it will take something drastically different than upgrading the truck - either switching to a completely new type of tractor/trailer, or switching to a different mode of transportation entirely.

Long-haul transport has been economically incentivized for a good return on fuel cost since forever, unlike the typical four-wheeler configuration most of us drive. The trucks are pretty much maxed out on performance that they're able to do.

I should lastly add, maxed out on performance when balanced against maintenance. Like, I could put a very performant F1-type high-tech engine in one, and possibly eke out some performance gains. But the overall schedule and cost will negate any fuel savings, not to mention the added hidden environmental burden of maintaining exotic frail engines.

bArray 10 days ago
> I should lastly add, maxed out on performance when balanced against maintenance. Like, I could put a very performant F1-type high-tech engine in one, and possibly eke out some performance gains. But the overall schedule and cost will negate any fuel savings, not to mention the added hidden environmental burden of maintaining exotic frail engines.

This would just be a flat rejection to any engine modifications at all. I suspect they would still be just as reliable and no more exotic than any other engine.

And if want to go down the route of unmaintainable, I think we should discuss electric trucks. Each part is coded to work only with specific parts, insane costs to repair/maintain, no real standardization to any part, quite dangerous to work on, etc. The environmental burden of those is going to be insane.

uticus 10 days ago
> This would just be a flat rejection to any engine modifications at all. I suspect they would still be just as reliable and no more exotic than any other engine.

Not a flat rejection to any engine modifications, but an acknowledgement that meaningful and maintainable engine modifications have already been implemented.

I'll say it again: performance and efficiency have to be balanced against cost, a large part of which is maintenance. There's nothing like simple capitalistic profit math calculations in a business setting to separate what really works from imagination, pointing to the intersection of gains vs cost. The operators have done the math, they have been ready for anything that moves the needle significantly to better profit for quite a while, but apparently it will take something more than upgrading the truck.

bArray 10 days ago
> meaningful and maintainable engine modifications have already been implemented.

In the last 10 years alone, engine efficiency gains are really being made. I work with people who literally do this stuff. Not all improvements that can be made have yet been made. It was just 2007 that VVT was used in Caterpillar diesel engines [1].

> I'll say it again: performance and efficiency have to be balanced against cost, a large part of which is maintenance.

Most engines are getting better maintenance wise. My 10 year old diesel has a significant number of sensors that allow it to predict issues before significant maintenance is required. These kinds of improvements should significantly improve reliability.

> The operators have done the math, they have been ready for anything that moves the needle significantly to better profit for quite a while, but apparently it will take something more than upgrading the truck.

It's a little more complex than that, it will be investment vs return. If anybody can innovate in this area, Volvo are a good candidate. I personally liked their (petrol) modular engine design [2]. I personally liked the B5254T3 with the Ford modifications.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Variable_valve_timing

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Volvo_Modular_engine

uticus 10 days ago
> In the last 10 years alone, engine efficiency gains are really being made. I work with people who literally do this stuff. Not all improvements that can be made have yet been made. It was just 2007 that VVT was used in Caterpillar diesel engines

Tellingly, Cat doesn't do on-road diesel engines anymore, and hasn't for years... largely due to the inability to produce maintainable, efficient engines and meet legislative demands for clean air. My opinion, they could've stayed in the game but saw where the game was headed and decided to let others take the pain. Old Cat 13 and 15 engines were sought after for a time after production stopped, exactly because of their reputation for reliability and maintainability. The most notable changes in the diesel engine scene lately has not been VVT but instead the bolt-on addition of SCR for Tier 4 legislation, which does indeed make the emissions cleaner (when it works) but at the expense of maintainability.

> If anybody can innovate in this area, Volvo are a good candidate.

I appreciate the enthusiasm and I agree there may be engine improvements yet to be made, but I am quite wary of anyone saying significant improvements are ahead while not costing the owner or the supply system more in total over the long run.

jrmg 10 days ago
It sounds like 7 percent of the 10 percent efficiency gains are from aerodynamics. I expected (probably naively) engine changes to play more of a role.
SAI_Peregrinus 10 days ago
Diesel engines already have very high compression ratios. Compression ratio directly correlates with the ratio of temperature at combustion to the temperature outside the engine, which is the limiting factor in the Carnot efficiency. A gasoline engine will be able to get up to maybe 12:1 before knock is an issue, high-efficiency diesels can hit 25:1. Gas turbines can hit even higher ratios, but are far more complex & expensive (e.g. the GE GEnx-1B78/P2 turbofan has an overall compression ratio of 58 and thermal efficiency of 58%, but it has a list price somewhere around $20 million and is bigger than the entire truck cab).
uticus 10 days ago
If you noticed, the article talked about aerodynamics in terms of frontal area and side fairings - on other words, the parts of the tractor interacting with the airstream.

The trailer's leading edge is, well, a large, flat, un-aerodynamic rectangle. Lots of potential for aero improvements there. I sometimes see boat-tails etc attached to trailers, but my understanding is that they are usually attached (an unattached at destination) by tractor owner, as trailer owner doesn't pay for fuel costs. Could be wrong on that though.

dghughes 10 days ago
If you ever a chance check out YouTube videos on US / Canada vs European trucks it's wild. I mean just regular Euro trucks not heavy duty.

Euro trucks which seem to be mostly Scania are V8 diesel vs US straight 6, Euro can be 800hp vs US 400hp since the Euro trucks can haul 40 tonne vs US 36 tonne max.Euro trucks many seem to be automatic vs USA all manual(?), have air ride suspension.

renewiltord 10 days ago
Why does this happen? I've heard that Euro trucks have the less aerodynamic design because the truck length limits are total truck not cab length. But I don't understand why US truck is less powerful and all manual. Looking online, it appears that US trucks are less reliable too. Is it some sort of protectionism of local player who is bad producer (sort of like cars - where US car manufacturers are bad at cars).
dghughes 8 days ago
From the info I've seen Europe in general compared to the USA is more hilly and more densely packed. So trucks need to be more compact and more powerful (more torquey?). US is more open so flatter and truck length is not an issue. Maybe the reason for auto vs manual in Euro truck, you'd be constantly shifting 18 gears. As for heavier loads allowed? Not sure.
Glawen 10 days ago
Different regulations (e.g speed limit being higher in US) emphasis of bang for the buck and keep it simple for reliability, more room for sleeping in cab, etc...
Glawen 10 days ago
More or less only Scania sells V8, all other euro truck are 6 cylinders.

But you're right about the equipment which is better

10 days ago