Commercial Trucks that Save 20x More Fuel than 100mpg Car

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Wrightspeed reports that its Route™, “a retrofit electric drive powertrain with an on-board generator engineered for the surprisingly large medium-duty commercial fleet market,” saves 20 times more fuel than a 100mpg car.

“For electric drive to make economic sense, you have to displace enough fuel to pay for the technology,” says founder and CEO, Ian Wright. Because commercial trucks use so much fuel, switching to electric saves fleet managers a lot more money than normal car drivers.

Notably, the setup includes an on-board generator that probably uses not-completely-clean energy, but it looks like the technology still offers a significant net benefit for the environment (and certainly for fleet managers’ budgets). Here’s more on the Wrightspeed Route retrofit powertrain, designed specifically for such customers:

By preserving existing truck chassis and bodies, Wrightspeed avoids the capital costs, time, and pitfalls of learning how to make trucks as cheaply and as well as the established vehicle manufacturers. It also frees Wrightspeed to address more than the new medium-duty truck market; because their trucks run so many miles (an average of 30,000 miles annually), the fleet industry is accustomed to regularly replacing powertrains.

Unlike a pure battery powertrain, the Wrightspeed Route™ does not restrict fleet operations with range limitations, because it has an on-board generator that charges the 40 mile battery in the field. Unlike in a conventional hybrid, the efficient electric motors are always producing the variable torque necessary to turn the wheels. This frees the generator from having to perform over the entire speed-load map, and allows it to operate at its most efficient point to charge the small, high-power battery. Wrightspeed calls this system architecture a Range-extended Electric Vehicle (REV) powertrain.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Wrightspeed’s marketing manager, Maya Giannini. “The Route™ combines the efficiency of an EV with the unlimited range of a mild parallel hybrid. And our generator fuel system can be fitted to run diesel, compressed natural gas, or landfill gases; so, the Route™ is really the best of all three worlds.”

Wrightspeed has retrofitted an Isuzu NPR with their Route™ powertrain. The NPR holds 70% of the world’s cab-forward box truck market. With its conventional diesel powertrain, the NPR averaged about 12 miles per gallon in testing with a metro drive cycle. With the Route™, under the same test conditions, Wrightspeed measured 44 miles per gallon (on a cost equivalent basis), a more than 300% improvement.

“The measured miles per gallon will vary widely with drive cycle. We are modest in our calculations, because fleet operators are looking for a new technology they can trust to reduce their bottom line.” says Giannini. “They carefully track their fuel usage, and inflated efficiency numbers do nothing to further their trust in the clean tech industry.”

What do you think?

Source: Wrightspeed

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7 thoughts on “Commercial Trucks that Save 20x More Fuel than 100mpg Car

  • Nice to see some progress with Wrigthspeed and those Capstone microturbines that drive their range extenders ( I’m assuming that’s what they are using ). What I really like about this that you can retrofit an existing truck which is likely to stay on the road for many years to come. If we were to wait for the life expectancy of an truck bought today to be replaced with a new cleaner truck in say 20 years the reduction in CO2 emissions would take a lot longer than if we additionally start to upgrade these older trucks along the way now. As I look on the road today in baltimore where I live I see that since busses have been cleaned up a lot the trucks are now the biggest source of black soot-filled emissions and it would be great if that problem could be fixed sooner than later.

    As an aside those micro turbines are used in a lot of things these day and not just automobiles. As a transitional technology this is a great piece of technology that’s ready now.

  • The issue that perplexes me, is that, with the Izuzu, it get’s almost 4 times the mileage…..(12 to 44) but in a toyota car, it goes from about 35 to 48….only about a THIRD more….so, how come?
    Cars should have a 1litre diesel, which fully powers the car once it gets to 35 mph, or 65 mph depending what kind of road you’re on…street or highway…..because it takes little power to maintain a constant speed…….2 50hp electric motors could boost power for all acceleration the car may require..even the slight need at times to maintain the speed when there is a slight gradient, or headwind….if the diesel was a turbo, and had 75 hp, and the motors added 100…..well, 175 hp will run any small car…..this would only have the motors running about 10 to 15 minutes on the hour. The diesel, at a constant 2000rpm, would get about 100mpg……when it was going 35….and about 90 at 65mpg…..conservatively…..this arrangement should be able to get at least an overall rating of more than 75 mpg…..and could also recharge itself, because diesels don’t mind much if they’re running for an extended period of time while the vehicle is stationary.

    • Hi Stan:

      I believe part of the reason for the ‘4 times’ the mileage might be because we are talking about different hybrid types i.e. series vs parallel. In a parallel hybrid [think Prius] the engine speed varies. In a series hybrid [think something like a Volt] the engine can be run at a constant speed [most efficient speed] or at 0 speed regardless of the vehicles speed. These are frequently called ‘range extending hybrids’ and can be very efficient with regenerative breaking.

      If I had my choice [which I don’t, LOL] I would prefer a series hybrid with a SMALL battery pack – think 1/4 the size of the Volt battery. The smaller battery pack would reduce the price of the vehicle so more people could afford hybrids. The only purpose of the battery pack in my IDEAL vehicle would be to level out the demands of the stop and start driving condition. As you suggested it takes very little power once the desired speed is achieved.

      However my really ideal vehicle would be a two passenger vehicle something like the ‘MIT City Car’. Make it a series hybrid with a 250-500 cc engine OR all electric with a 30-40 mile range. Both the wife and I are retired and we need a 5 passenger vehicle like a hole in our heads. Someday someone will start selling this type of vehicle for us old retired folks, LOL. .

  • Norm Mathers, a hydraulics engineer in Brisbane,Australia (Mathers Hydraulics Pty Ltd), has developed an award winning revolutionary two-stage hydraulic pump for power steering that will save the trucking and construction industry millions of dollars a year. The pump reduces the load on the engine and reduces fuel consumption, which translates into huge fuel and cost savings while also reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    I understand that some of the large truck and truck parts manufacturers are looking at this solution.


  • hello. generators on-board making electricity from motion instead of fuel, with perhaps a transmission -to a single road wheel, geared to charge above 45 MPH, could extend range indefinitely.  

    • ” generators on-board making electricity from motion … could extend range indefinitely”

      Just how does that work? How do you get around the laws of physics?

      Perhaps pick routes that were always downhill?

  • Very interesting concept. A similar, but battery-less, system has been used in heavy hauling (passenger trains) for 6-7decades now. Diesel engine, drives an electrical generator>drives wheel motors. I’ve often wondered why it has not been more widely adapted(?) It’s been reported that both Audi and VW are working on similar designs promising impressive mileages. Keeping an eye on that!

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