White paper

The U.S. SuperTruck Program: Expediting development of advanced HDV efficiency technologies

Heavy-duty vehicles constitute the largest or second largest source of transport-sector carbon emissions in every major economy around the world. The fuel use of these vehicles, and hence their carbon emissions, can be reduced by new developments in technology and changes in policy. In the United States, heavy-duty engine and vehicle efficiency standards pertaining to 2020 and later trucks, tractors, trailers, and buses are to be developed in the 2014–2015 time frame. These standards need to take into account the availability of advances in technology, as well as how regulatory test procedures promote given technologies.

The U.S. Department of Energy SuperTruck program is a cost-shared, public-private partnership that promotes precompetitive research and development to improve the freight-hauling efficiency of heavy-duty Class 8 long-haul tractor-trailer trucks. The program aims to help accelerate the development of advanced efficiency technologies that are not currently available in the market. It leverages public and private industry efforts to develop, demonstrate, and showcase technologies that can greatly increase the efficiency of this class of trucks, which moves the most freight, consumes the most fuel, and has the highest carbon dioxide emissions of the heavy-duty fleet. Relative to approximate 2010 baseline technology, the program seeks a 50% increase in overall tractor-trailer freight efficiency and a 20% increase in engine efficiency by 2015.

Four industry teams were competitively selected for the program. This report investigates, compares, and assesses the implications of the four teams’ ongoing work. Descriptions of the technical specifications, the engineering results, and the technology choices of the various teams are based on public data from DOE analysis, industry reports on the projects, and communication with members of the teams.

The assessment finds that the teams have each made substantial progress toward the project objectives. Three of the four have approximately achieved the tractor-trailer fleet target of a 50% freight efficiency increase, and all the teams have identified technical pathways to achieving the engine-efficiency target.

This analysis makes clear that substantial effort and investment from the public and private sectors are contributing to long-term economic efficiency and environmental goals. The implications of such a comprehensive program for advanced efficiency technology could be quite profound. The heavy-duty vehicle industry is global; many of the technologies demonstrated in this U.S.-based program can be customized for other markets that are striving for more efficient commercial freight transport.