Not Just Blowing Smoke

“Trucking” does not jump to mind for most people when you mention “environmental technology.” That’s changing, thanks in part to Michelin’s Challenge

Bibendum, held this fall in California. The annual gathering tests the best available technologies for environmentally positive vehicles.

This year’s event included heavy-duty trucks and buses for the first time. Volvo and Freightliner had entries, as did Cummins (through a joint venture) and Eaton. Other entrants featured trucks large and small.

The big rigs showed they can be more than the diesel-belching behemoths perceived by the public. Volvo, competing only in the overnight idling competition, received an A for its VN780 with a fuel cell-powered auxiliary power unit. Freightliner received an A in energy efficiency, using a 2001 FL70 powered by standard diesel technology coupled with compressed natural gas capability.

Within our industry, it’s no surprise that so much is being done to achieve environmental benefits. The research and development required to meet the October 2002 emissions alone was a major effort, and there’s equally vigorous work going on now to produce engines that will meet the squeaky-clean emissions levels of 2007. Other sectors of the industry, such as the makers of gen sets and auxiliary power units, as well as IdleAire’s ambitious truck stop electrification initiative, are making steady strides to reduce idling.

Patrick Oliva, director of the Challenge Bibendum, correctly observes that commercial vehicles are an area in which “environmental technologies are quickly emerging.” Stay tuned, Mr. Oliva. You’ll be seeing a lot more from this industry.

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