Today, virtually everything we buy has at some point been on a commercial freight truck, traversing countries and even continents to reach us, the consumer. Commercial vehicle manufacturers are now seeking and implementing methods to reduce the weight of their vehicles. The factors driving this are two-fold: firstly to save fuel costs and secondly to meet ever more stringent emission limits being established by the European Union.
There exists an inextricable link between weight, fuel consumption and engine emissions: the heavier the vehicle, the more fuel used to travel from one point to another, ultimately bringing higher costs.Further, the greater the fuel consumption, the higher the emissions.
Several methods by which manufacturers may achieve gains in the ‘light-weighting’ process are highlighted below:
Traditional thinking has always dictated that heavy-duty materials should be used for heavy-duty commercial vehicles. However, the industry is beginning to take examples from aerospace and motor racing to introduce viable lightweight alternatives for a growing list of applications.
Truck manufacturers have already begun to swap heavier metals for aluminium and other lightweight metals, but the latest developments lie in non-metallic materials such as carbon fiber reinforced polymers and advanced plastic molding technology.
Another area that could offer potential weight savings for manufacturers lies in system design. System suppliers such as Parker, who specializes in customized motion and control solutions for the global truck market, can ensure that new systems and sub-systems have a primary design factor of weight saving without compromising performance and reliability.
There are also other emerging factors which will help shape the vehicle design of the future, such as the rise of 3D printing, a manufacturing trend which could influence the way we design and develop vehicle components in the future.
Thinking of greener vehicles, fully electric vehicles or even hybrid fuel cell technologies would be an ideal way of reducing fossil fuel dependencies and emissions that come with them. Replacing the internal combustion engine with a system comprised of a motor, drive and battery energy storage will reduce emissions considerably, providing a greener solution.
Perhaps the greatest opportunity to reduce global carbon emissions lies in the hands of today’s truck manufacturers and the suppliers who manufacture their components and sub-systems. With manufacturers partnering with innovative suppliers to find emissions and weight-saving solutions, our highways may soon be filled with lightweight vehicles using cleaner technologies.