The government has tasked the truck manufacturing industry to develop high-efficiency vehicles of the future, but some of the technological improvements accomplished through the “SuperTruck” program are here now.

When the U.S. Dept. of Energy handed out $187 million in grants to several key truck, trailer, engine and other component suppliers to create what it’s calling the “SuperTruck,” the goals it set were lofty. The SuperTruck program charges the truck manufacturing industry to significantly improve fuel efficiency for heavy trucks, all while maintaining current exhaust emissions levels while also demonstrating a 50% improvement in overall freight efficiency on a heavy-duty Class 8 tractor-trailer measured in ton-miles per gallon.

The program is a joint public/private partnership with the truck manufacturing industry kicking in for research and development to bring the funding for the program to a $270 million total investment.

“SuperTruck is about developing high-risk technologies and breaking new ground that will move us towards the goal of energy independence over the long term,” says Roland Gravel, head of the DOE Vehicle Technologies Program.

SuperTruck project participants were broken into teams and were competitively selected and charged with the following different focus areas:

-Cummins Inc.: Develop and demonstrate a highly efficient and clean diesel engine, an advanced waste heat recovery system, an aerodynamic Peterbilt tractor and trailer combination, and a fuel cell auxiliary power unit to reduce engine idling. The key focus is on engine efficiency.

-Daimler Trucks North America: Develop and demonstrate technologies that include engine downsizing, electrification of auxiliary systems such as oil and water pumps, waste heat recovery, improved aerodynamics, and hybridization. The key focus is on hybridization.

-Navistar: Develop and demonstrate technologies to improve truck-trailer aerodynamics, combustion efficiency, waste heat recovery, hybridization, idle reduction, and reduced rolling resistance tires. The key focus is on aerodynamics.

-Volvo Technology of America: Develop and demonstrate technologies to improve engine efficiency, truck-trailer aerodynamics, waste heat recovery, hybridization, idle reduction, and reduced rolling resistance tires. The key focus is on combined truck/engine efficiency.