The third iteration of the United States Department of Energy’s SuperTruck research and development project, will focus on electric and fuel-cell trucks, and will address a broader range of vehicles than the tractor-trailers involved in the first two projects.

US Secretary of Energy, Jennifer Granholm has announced $US100 million in funding for SuperTruck 3 during a webinar  on the 15th April, which also involved the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and  the North American Council for Freight Efficiency revealing the focus for  the projects will be on electric trucks in its Run on Less Electric demonstration project.

The first incarnation of the SuperTruck concept was launched in 2009 by the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, aimed to improve heavy-duty tractor-trailer freight efficiency by 50 per cent.

Within seven years, teams from Volvo, Daimler, Cummins, Peterbilt and Navistar   had met and exceeded that goal.

The second iteration of the concept, SuperTruck 2, was launched in 2016, with the five projects on track to more than double  heavy truck fuel economy according to the DOE.

“Getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 means we must aggressively cut down the largest source of emissions: the transportation sector,” Secretary Granholm said.

“DOE’s first two SuperTruck initiatives led the biggest truck makers in the American prime mover market to take massive leaps in fuel efficiency,” she added.

“This new funding triples down on that progress with a push towards electrifying trucks of all sizes, along with efforts to expand EV charging access and develop low-emission car engines,” said Granholm. 

Now EERE’s Vehicle Technologies Office and Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office is partnering to offer up to $US100 million in funding over four years  for the SuperTruck 3 project, which is designed to pioneer electrified medium- and heavy-duty trucks and freight concepts that achieve even higher efficiency and lower emissions.

The funding has been targeted across a range of approaches to electrification including all-electric, plug-in hybrid using renewable biofuels, and hydrogen and fuel cell technologies, including hybridization strategies such as fuel cell range extenders.

Granholm said SuperTruck 3 will fund projects “that push the envelope event further, through electrification of vehicles and hydrogen fuel cells. And not just for semis. We want all kinds of trucks – garbage trucks, delivery trucks, tow trucks – really any medium or heavy duty truck on the road, we want them to run on alternative or cleaner energy.”

In addition to SuperTruck 3, another new DOE project will address the challenge of charging/fueling infrastructure for all sizes of low-GHG vehicles of all sizes.

The Vehicle Technologies Office is offering up to $US 62.75 million as part of its Low Greenhouse Gas Vehicle Technologies Research, Development, Demonstration, and Deployment program. This project will fund innovative solutions to reducing emissions and increasing efficiencies for on- and off-road vehicles.

To accelerate electric vehicle adoption, this funding will also support expansion of EV infrastructure and charging, along with community-level EV demonstrations that can lower barriers to EV adoption — such as piloting EV car sharing and installing EV charging in apartment complexes. The FOA is also open to projects developing advanced engines and fuels that operate with lower emissions.

“Both of these opportunities, combined means “more than $US162 million dollars in funding to develop clean transportation technologies for vehicles of all sizes. It is a powerful salvo in our war on the climate crisis,” , Granholm said.

Turbo compounding for the Volvo D13 engine was one of the efficiency features that was developed on Volvo’s SuperTruck  and which it the adopted for regular commercial truck models.

Michael Berube, acting deputy assistant secretary for transportation oversees EERE’s Sustainable Transportation sector and said developing infrastructure isn’t just about battery-electric charging, but also about hydrogen for fuel cells.

“We envision through this SuperTruck initiative to get some of that hydrogen refueling infrastructure out there, maybe more in the demonstration phase, but it’s important to get that first experimentation and learnings out there.”

Mike Roeth, NACFE’s executive director,  said that his experience with the SuperTruck program goes back to the mid-2000s when he was with Navistar.

Roeth said that while the SuperTruck project and truck OEM research has led to diesel engines with amazingly low emissions and good fuel economy, it also created additional complexity, with aftertreatment systems for instance.

“By comparison, battery-electric trucks are “elegantly simple,” Roeth said.

“Battery electric starts with smaller urban trucks and will find its way into semis,” he said.

Roeth noted that both the SuperTruck 3 program and NACFE’s Run on Less Electric demonstration this year address a much broader range of vehicles, adding that there’s a place for fuel-cell vehicles and hybrids where fuel cells can extend battery range.

“There will be a lot of choices for manufacturers and fleets going forward, but we think battery electric and hydrogen fuel cell will be the predominant and necessary ones as we enter into 2040 and 2050 carbon-free transportation [goals] that the secretary talks about,” Roeth said.

In many ways the SuperTruck program and Run on Less are unintentionally linked, Roeth  explained.

“The original SuperTruck projects, as they were deployed in prototype trucks and started to show some good numbers, around 10 or 11 mpg (around 4km/L) , it became obvious that some of those technologies were ready for market, while others still haven’t come to fruition,” he said.

“Waste heat recovery as an example, hasn’t given the ROI to really get into the trucks on the road, but so much has,” he added.

The Run on Less programs took the technology that was becoming commercially available, much of it a result of the work done during the SuperTruck program, and demonstrated its real-world performance. In the first Run on Less program in 2017.

In a real word demonstration of the benefits seven truck drivers driving cross country averaged 10.1. mpg ( 4.3km/L).

“That 10.1 mpg and the fuel economy these guys do for their companies every day wouldn’t have happened without the SuperTruck program,” Roeth said.