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Daimler Trucks North America

Sustainability, Marginal Improvement, and Target Setting

by Alan Pearson Chief Engineer, Daimler Trucks North America4/6/2017
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How in the world are these topics connected when it comes to engineering our products? The connection is very strong if I think about Fuel Economy, one of my favorite subjects. 

It is a fact that the fuel economy of our tractors has improved by roughly 30 percent over the past 10 years. If you had asked me 10 years ago if this was possible, my answer would have been clear … impossible. How did this happen then? Magic? Luck? Plasma Generators? Gravitational Field Disruption?

None of the above. It came from setting aspirational, yet achievable, targets for the organization. It came by looking at the entire vehicle from bumper to bumper, gathering the ideas of many, and then executing on these great ideas. One percent here, half a percent there -- pretty soon when you add these together, you get a significant number. Marginal improvement exemplified.

This presented a problem for the Fuel Economy Team in our Product Validation Department. How in the world can we measure, with high statistical confidence, a fraction of a percent in fuel savings? I posed a few questions to Danny Borski who leads the Fuel Economy measurement team.

Q. Can you shed some light on your measurement effort now and compare it to what was done 10 years ago?

A. 10+ years ago, we would run a limited number of tests per year using old technology tank fill fuel measurements and basic physical instrumentation with short mileage runs with limited resources. Today we have a dedicated team of engineers and technicians that are testing nearly every day on long mileage runs recording hundreds of data signals and using advanced fuel measurement techniques. This large quantity of data goes through extensive analysis to validate the fuel measurements with vehicle and driver behaviors. We have made quite a leap in the validation to go along with the product!

Q. What is the typical fuel economy of our industry leading tractor?

A. With the latest high volume fuel efficient spec, we are achieving 7.5 to 8.5 mpg with full loaded on-highway testing compared to the 6 mpg or less we saw 10+ years ago. While the numbers are great, we still see large variance from weather, traffic, and driver interactions, which justifies the extensive engineering efforts that go in to tightly controlled validation practices.

Q. Can you put a number on how much fuel this saves?

A. With the fuel economy improvements we have implemented in the past 10 years, our product will save over 4,000 gallons of fuel per truck per year. We are extremely pleased that this is worth over 45 tons of CO2 per truck that is no longer in our environment.

Q. You guys are really into it. What is it about your job that you love?

A. Our role in the organization is unique as we get to understand the impact of the entire vehicle and the need to optimize from bumper to bumper to achieve our targets as well as the large environmental impacts. We are constantly improving our validation methods to stay ahead of the new technologies and ability to measure very small changes.

Alan Pearson Chief Engineer Daimler Trucks North America

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