Taking engines to the next level

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It still surprises me just how much potential yet remains for fuel savings from the tried-and-true diesel engine, invented by now well over a century ago.

Jeff Jones (at right), vice president of North American engine business at Cummins, touched on that very subject last evening during a press event that’s become something of a traditional “kick off” mark for the press corps covering the Mid America Trucking Show.

[You can view more photos of the speakers at the Cummins event by clicking here.]

Jones noted that the heavy truck engines Cummins is building today get about 7% more fuel efficiency compared to models produced just four years ago.

And while that’s fuel savings “recovered” after a nearly decade-long sojourn to comply with exhaust emission reduction mandates, it’s still a pretty amazing engineering accomplishment.

[You can watch Jones discuss what such fuel improvements mean in terms of money saved for fleets in the video clip below.]

Yet there’s still apparently more room to run where fuel savings are concerned. I talked to Jennifer Rumsey, vice president of engineering for the Cummins engine business unit, on that topic a bit and she’s a big believer in the ability of various engine sub systems, control systems, and powertrain integration to deliver more fuel sipping capability down the road.

“From a controls perspective, we’ve not only made the fuel economy ‘sweet spot’ for engines bigger, we’re able to get the engine to stay in that ‘sweet spot’ longer during a wider range of operations,” Rumsey told me.

That means, if operated correctly, even in many “low speed” situations an engine can function in far more “fuel sipping” modes compared to the past.

[Rumsey talked about that development trend as well as a few others in the clip below.]

It just goes to show that the diesel engine’s day is far from over in terms of its ability to provide more power while burning less fuel and generating fewer emissions – regardless even of what fuel its running on. And if all of those capabilities can conspire and deliver monetary savings to fleets over the life-cycle of a commercial vehicle, that will be a very good thing indeed.

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