Spurred by new pollution regulations and sluggish demand, truck makers including Navistar International Corp., Daimler AG, Paccar Inc. and Volvo AB, along with engine manufacturer Cummins Inc., are rethinking everything from engine design to the shape of the trailer to bump up fuel efficiency.
Even small gains can have a big environmental impact. Each year in the U.S., roughly 1.7 million tractor-trailer trucks consume about 26 billion gallons of diesel. Getting an extra mile a gallon would equal removing more than 200,000 trucks from the road. It also could save trucking companies billions of dollars.
Some truck makers want to ditch the combustion engine entirely. Cummins introduced the industry’s first fully-electric heavy-duty demonstration truck in August while Tesla Inc. plans to announce its own prototype next month. But it may be years before they hit the road in big numbers. Meanwhile, the industry is betting on squeezing fuel savings from diesel trucks.
“The race is on,” said Steve Gilligan, vice president of marketing for Navistar’s North America business. “Every truck manufacturer is looking for a technology advantage versus their competition.”
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