DALLAS. Prognostics – being able to predict a component or part failure in advance – will be the true growth area in telematics in the coming decade, at least in North America and Europe, a leading commercial vehicle analyst said Aug. 20.

Speaking at the Commercial Vehicle Outlook Conference in Dallas, Sandeep Kar, global director, automotive & transportation research for Frost & Sullivan, said that the big challenge in prognostics is that there are only two components of the truck – the engine and the tires – that currently are linked into vehicle telematics in widespread commercial operations.

Remote diagnostics and prognostics aren’t the top application fleets seek in telematics, but the level of interest is high, Kar said. In Frost & Sullivan’s most recent survey of fleet purchasing intentions, the leading telematics technologies that fleets were actively considering were critical event/safety system intervention alerts and navigation-aided regulatory compliance. Remote diagnostics and prognostics ranked fifth among systems fleets were considering, but it was first among those that fleets said they might consider. And along with the critical event alerts, remote diagnostics and prognostics was the only technology that all fleets indicated some interest in obtaining.

Prognostics face a challenge in the near term, Kar said.

“The problem with prognostics is that only a few systems can be prognosed – engines and tires, for example.” Kar said that for prognostics to realize its full value, most vehicle systems will need to be linked with electronic interfaces. Other systems and components he highlighted were brakes, transmissions, cooling system, fueling system, catalytic converter, oil, air filters, alternator and ignition.

One dynamic that will spur this development is the increasing number of vendors and other stakeholders getting into telematics in general and predictive maintenance in particular, Kar said. In addition to aftermarket vendors, all of the truck manufacturers have some type of telematics program, and many of the Tier 1 suppliers are developing their own.

Frost & Sullivan estimates that about 230,000 vehicles in North America have some type of prognostics application currently, and it expects that number to top 1.2 million vehicles by 2020. Europe won’t be far behind at a bit more than 1 million vehicles by 2020, and together North America and Europe will exceed 1 million vehicles with prognostics by 2017, Kar said.

Kar’s presentation to CVOC addressed a number of topics, including Frost & Sullivan’s forecasts for vehicle sales and powertrain developments and for adoption of safety systems. As with telematics, Kar sees the potential for greater integration of systems largely due to economics.

“There are too many technologies chasing too few dollars, so integrated systems on the rise.”

Commercial vehicle demand

Over the next six to eight years, Kar believes the strongest demand for commercial vehicles globally will be in Russia and a number of up-and-coming economics – the so-called Next 11 – with annual average growth exceeding 8%. South America, India and China will be moderately strong with annual average growth in the range of 5% to 6%. And North American and Europe will see annual growth of about 4%

One interesting dynamic is the globalization of the truck itself, Kar said. By 2022, 30 global heavy-duty truck platforms likely will account for one out of every three trucks built.

Powertrains are another area where the whole world is beginning to converge, Kar said.

“The dominant narrative in diesel technologies is engine downsizing in developed markets contrasted against engine upsizing in developing markets.”

And diesel will remain the fuel of choice globally, Kar said. Frost & Sullivan forecasts that in 2022, about 87% of the commercial vehicles built will still be diesel. The greatest in-roads for natural gas will be North America, where Frost & Sullivan sees about 17% market share in 2022. But globally, that number will be only about 9%.

The projected share for hybrid electric vehicles in 2022 is just 3%, but Kar still thinks there’s upside potential. “The hybrid market is not dead yet,” he said. “In fact it will have a new lease on life.” Kar believes advancements in battery technologies, for example, will drive down both costs and weight.

From the perspective of the fleet owner, equipment changes are a mixed bag, Kar said. Although the cost of equipment will be a slightly greater share of a fleet’s operating costs in 2022, improved fuel efficiency and better equipment management technologies will lower the share of operating costs for fuel and maintenance.