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Big rigs need to cut fuel consumption up to 23%

Having high fuel efficiency in a vehicle is a great thing for the driver because they can spend less on fuel. Having higher fuel economy on vehicles across the automotive market will reduce the need to import foreign oil and will help to reduce overall pollution as well. The big downside is that the cost of the tech to improve fuel economy is not cheap and that cost will be passed onto the car buyer.

The Obama administration today outlined its Heavy-Duty National Program [PDF] fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles like semis, concrete trucks, dump trucks, and other heavy work trucks. Rather than targeting a specific mile per gallon rating  for the heavy-duty vehicles – like what has been proposed for passenger vehicles -- Obama is going to target a percentage of fuel savings.

The reason for this significant difference in fuel savings is according to the administration imposing a MPG standard on this sort of vehicle would be very confusing considering that the range of categories is wide and the payload and duties in the segment vary widely.

The administration wants a 9% saving in fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions for work trucks (fire trucks, garbage trucks, and busses, etc.). Gasoline swilling heavy-duty trucks and vans will need to see a reduction of 10% with diesel versions needing to see a 15% savings. Big rigs have the most stringent cuts at up to 23%.

The regulatory announcement also makes the following claims with regards to recouping the added cost associated with adopting more fuel efficient technologies: 

Using technologies commercially available today, the majority of vehicles will see a payback period of less than one year, while others, especially those with lower annual miles, will experience payback periods of up to two years. For example, an operator of a semi truck can pay for the technology upgrades in under a year, and have net savings up to $73,000 over the truck’s useful life.

The new standards will apply to covered vehicles in the 2014 to 2018 range. The hope is to cut 530 million barrels of oil consumption and $50 billion in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles with the new standards in place.

The cost to meet the new standards on the varying vehicle types are expected to be in the range of hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars per vehicle.

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Clearing up some misconceptions...
By lagomorpha on 8/9/2011 5:52:48 PM , Rating: 2
The administration and many physics ignorant members of the general public seem to have this notion that technology can endlessly continue to make engines more efficient. This is not the case, there is an absolute limit. A gallon of gasoline contains 120,276,367 joules of energy, a gallon of diesel contains 136,629,733 joules of energy. That's all the work it can do. Period. And even that breaks the second law of thermal dynamics because it would mean that 100% of the chemical energy is converted into forward motion. That means no frictional losses and the exhaust gas is the same temperature as the ambient air.

Continuing to increase standards will not change the laws of physics. If you want to reduce fuel use from transporting goods you're going to need to either change transportation methods to train or pipeline, reduce the weight of the goods (do we really need 10 lbs of indestructible plastic packaging for every $5 mp3 player?), or reduce the distance the goods need to travel.

If fuel costs continue to increase significantly 2 and 3 will happen on their own because:
2: The increased transport costs will outweigh the cost of thefts prevented by using massive packaging
3: The locally grown tomato will finally cost significantly less than the imported tomato. Which will stores purchase?

RE: Clearing up some misconceptions...
By MrTeal on 8/9/2011 6:44:59 PM , Rating: 2
Well, as long as you're starting and ending at the same elevation, there's nothing saying you HAVE to use a lot of energy moving a load from one end of the country to the other. The problem is reducing losses significantly and reclaiming the energy used to accelerate when you decelerate.

It would help if you could reduce the rolling resistance substantially by using very hard wheels that have minimal deformation. A huge help would be a more aerodynamic shape, preferably something very long so that it has a very high mass/cross-section ratio. Even better would be if the transit could be segregated from normal road travel so that stops and starts are minimized. Hopefully some day some intrepid person will design a system like that.

By lagomorpha on 8/10/2011 10:19:36 AM , Rating: 2
You mean put more freight on more efficient means of transport like trains and pipelines? Couldn't agree more. Intercity trucks get around 41 ton-miles per gallon, freight trains are around 155 ton-miles per gallon. Pipelines get 280 ton-miles per gallon but at the moment there's a limit of the type of thing they can transfer (liquids...).

Often when companies want to ship multiple grades of oil through the same pipeline they put a large bead in the pipeline to separate a batch of low grade from high grade fuel. I wonder what kind of efficiency we could get by building pipelines full of water and shipping goods by pushing hallow beads full of merchandise through like tapioca through a bubble-tea straw.

Steel wheels on steel rails are great for having almost no rolling resistance. Trying to design tires with less deformation for trucks will result in significantly reduced traction which would be a massive safety risk (think 80,000 pound trucks sliding all over the road and unable to brake in a reasonable distance).

RE: Clearing up some misconceptions...
By StanO360 on 8/9/2011 8:43:47 PM , Rating: 2
They grow tomatoes in New York City for 10 million people? Cheese in Colorado Springs? Refine oil in Santa Fe?

I live in California, so almost all the food we eat is "locally grown", even the tomatoes. So you think if the government dictates packaging to companies that will solve the problem? Will they also take responsibilty for broken devices? For poor sales if it can't be displayed properly?

By lagomorpha on 8/10/2011 10:00:27 AM , Rating: 2
I did not say there should be a government mandate, I said it will happen naturally as transportation costs increase. I predict companies will get around the product display problem by creating collapsible displays out of paper that take up no space when shipped but expand to fill shelf space when unfolded.

By The Raven on 8/10/2011 1:34:59 PM , Rating: 2
The locally grown tomato will finally cost significantly less than the imported tomato. Which will stores purchase?
The answer to this depends on:
1) what kind of gov't subsidies there are for the imported tomatoes.
2) what kind of regulations the gov't places on tomato growers and sellers (imported or domestic) because an economy of scale will be favored in such cases (=cheaper imports).

In other words, if Obama, Bush or whoever wants to save us money and lower emissions, they can help by getting out of the tomato business.

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