LAS VEGAS—Daimler Truck North America unveiled its SuperTruck II Wednesday, showing off an efficient diesel big rig intended to demonstrate fuel-saving technologies that can be deployed as the trucking industry pivots to zero-emission vehicles.
The sleek cab, painted in a pixelated rainbow livery to evoke a sense of effortless motion, is more of a proof-of-concept vehicle rather than the typical pie-in-the-sky concepts common in the auto industry.
"We focused on technologies and ideas that could be realistically implemented. We don't do science projects at DTNA," said Daimler Truck North America CEO John O'Leary.
The concept truck is based on Daimler's Freightliner Cascadia model, which with nearly 40 percent of the market is the leading seller among Class 8 trucks in the U.S.
The project's aim is to develop a tractor-trailer combination that demonstrates advances in aerodynamics, diesel engine technology, tire rolling resistance and other systems to dramatically increase the fuel efficiency of a Class 8 big rig.
Some will likely find their way into future Cascadias.
"The research and development we have done here is creating tools that we can later pull out of the toolbox and use," said Derek Rotz, Daimler's U.S. head of advanced engineering.
Daimler said the truck runs at about 12 mpg. The typical diesel Class 8 truck gets about 6.2 mpg, according to the North American Council for Freight Efficiency.
Although California, parts of Europe and other regions are forcing a gradual transition to zero-emission trucks, O'Leary said diesel would endure as the predominant fuel choice for the foreseeable future because it suits 100 percent of all applications.
"It remains the most cost-effective and efficient way to move goods and people," he said. But truck manufacturers can still make significant efficiency gains.
The SuperTruck II is clearly recognizable as a Freightliner. The most visible change is the removal of the large elephant ear-style side view mirrors — long recognized as efficiency killers — required on current trucks. Instead, the truck takes advantage of a program exemption allowing cameras and screens inside the cab granted by NHTSA.
Daimler said the change solves a major efficiency fault in current trucks and might improve the driver's visibility. The company sees the camera system as a potential regulatory change.
Elsewhere, engineers redesigned the hood, bumper and chassis fairing to work with the Cascadia's existing cab but now allow air to flow around the truck with less disturbance. They also changed the grille, air intakes and doors to improve aerodynamics. The truck features prototype low-rolling resistance tires from Michelin.