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  December 16th, 2016 | Written by

U.S. Funding Team to Cut Heavy Truck Fuel Use

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  • U.S. DOE is looking to Peloton, Cummins, Peterbilt, and Purdue University to cut heavy truck fuel use.
  • Three-year $5 million grant is largest award under DOE program.
  • Technologies could save eight-billion gallons of diesel fuel annually in the U.S.

Peloton Technology is participating in the NEXTCAR program sponsored by the U.S Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy. The project will apply next-generation truck platooning technology and concepts for smart, cloud-connected powertrains to achieve 20-percent fuel savings for tractor-trailers.

Led by Purdue University, Peloton’s NEXTCAR project team also includes Cummins, Peterbilt Motors Company, ZF TRW, the University of Arizona and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Contributions from partners include Peloton’s current platooning system and higher-automation platooning technology under development, advanced powertrain solutions from Cummins, steering controls from ZF TRW and state-of-the-art trucks from Peterbilt.

Peloton is a connected and automated vehicle technology company dedicated to improving the safety and efficiency of freight transportation.

“Our first truck platooning system is coming to market in 2017,” said Peloton CEO Josh Switkes. “This project will build upon our existing system and is complementary to the higher-automation solutions we are developing next. We appreciate the leadership shown by DOE creating the NEXTCAR program and by Purdue in assembling our team.”

Platooning involves the practice of having trucks or other vehicles ride close together on the road reduce air resistance and increase fuel efficinecy.

The partners will develop, integrate, and demonstrate a set of co-optimized powertrain and automated driving controls to improve the fuel efficiency of tractor-trailers, which consumed over 40 billion gallons of diesel fuel in 2015 according to the American Trucking Associations.

By combining novel algorithms, look-ahead data and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-cloud (V2C) connectivity, the team aims to reduce the fuel use of a baseline Class 8 Peterbilt 579 by 20 percent in real-world driving conditions. That level of savings across the U.S. tractor-trailer fleet would translate to upwards of eight-billion gallons in diesel fuel and 80 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions conserved annually.

The new controls require minimal hardware changes and can be programmed into electronic control units (ECUs) that are already on the trucks. This approach means that innovations that emerge from the project can be commercialized at low cost.

For NEXTCAR, Peloton will address two key research objectives. The first is to increase fuel savings from truck platooning at highway speeds from a baseline average of seven percent across two trucks to 20 percent in combination with connected powertrains.

Peloton’s flagship platooning system, which will reach commercial trucking fleets in 2017, creates a wireless link between the automated throttle and brake control systems on multiple trucks to synchronize their speeds and maintain a safe following distance even in the event of a sudden stop.

“Our objective is to tap into fuel savings that can only be attained by managing the powertrain precisely for the road ahead, and for the specific configuration of the trucks.” said Michael Palmer, Peloton’s director of research. “Cloud connectivity provides information about the road ahead, and the trucks exchange data about their estimated mass and powertrain capabilities. This helps us maintain smooth, efficient platooning through grades and rolling hills.”

Peloton’s second NEXTCAR focus area will be to meet the connectivity requirements of powertrain innovations including over-the-air engine recalibrations and distributed computing between trucks and the cloud. This work will build on Peloton’s experience in developing a cloud-based network operations center to manage vehicles equipped with automated driving systems including its flagship truck platooning system, which employs DSRC, cellular LTE, and WiFi to connect vehicles to each other and to the cloud.

Peloton and its NEXTCAR partners expect to launch the three-year project in March 2017. The team will receive a total of $5 million from ARPA-E and will provide additional cost share funding.