After four years of work, the Department of Energy is on the verge of completing its ‘More Electric Truck’ program aimed at improving the fuel economy of Class 8 trucks.

“Our country is importing too much oil and as we all know this industry has a huge fuel cost,” explained Jules Routbort, technical program manager for the project. “The U.S. consumes 880 million gallons of petroleum fuel per day and two-thirds of that is consumed by the transportation networks in the U.S. So we need to increase the fuel efficiency of trucks in order to lower our oil consumption as a nation, and also help lower the trucking industry’s operational costs.”

The $4.8-million project – the cost split equally between the government and private sector participants – is aimed at increasing Class 8 fuel economy to 10 miles per gallon. While this goal hasn’t been reached, Routbort said the project has come very close – improving the average Class 8 truck’s fuel economy by 8% primarily by developing systems, such as battery-powered auxiliary generators, to eliminate engine idling.

DOE said fleet tests of the technology developed by the More Electric Truck program will start this summer and results should be made available to truck OEMs by October 2005.