Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – The rumble of diesel-powered trucks idling through the night – and spewing unwanted emissions in the process – soon may be a distant memory thanks, in part, to developments at Tenneco Inc.

Tim Jackson, chief technology officer, and Patrick Garcia, director- acoustics and advanced engineering, at the company’s European OEM emission-control unit, tell Ward’s at the Management Briefings Seminars here they have an advanced auxiliary power unit (APU) that will eliminate the need for truck operators to keep their engines idling while parked.

Truckers customarily use power from their engines to keep accessories, such as heaters, air conditioners, lights and sound systems, operating without drawing down their batteries. Diesel-powered trucks also typically are difficult to start in cold weather.

Garcia says Tenneco’s APU, which is nearing the full prototype stage, is targeted for installation on heavy-duty Class 8 trucks in the 2011-2012 timeframe. Renault SA, Fiat SpA and Daimler AG are testing the device. No production orders have been placed, but Tenneco is working with truck manufacturers on development contracts.

Jackson says Class 8 trucks burn an average of 3,000 gallons (11,356 L) of diesel fuel yearly due to idling. He estimates Tenneco’s APU could save an estimated 2,000 gallons (7,571 L).

Garcia describes the ACU as “a little chemical plant” that can be mounted in several areas of a truck’s cab. The device takes the vehicle’s diesel fuel and splits out the hydrocarbons to produce hydrogen fuel that generates 5 kW of power to replace electricity lost when the engine is shut off.

Jackson says Tenneco is targeting a price of about €2,000 ($2,750) and estimates this could be recaptured in fuel savings over three to four years.

The market potential is huge: Some 110,000 Class 8 heavy-duty trucks are sold annually in the U.S. In Europe, the tally is 150,000. Jackson reckons another 50,000 units could be retrofitted each year, boosting the overall market to more than 300,000 vehicles.

Tenneco’s APU currently weighs about 330 lbs. (150 kg), but Jackson says some of that will be offset by eliminating the alternator and associated belt-pulley systems.

“That will save 150 lbs. (68 kg),” he estimates, but Tenneco’s goal is to make the APU “mass neutral.”

Jackson says the APU likely won’t find many takers in Japan due to different driving conditions. China’s low truck prices and use of diesel fuel containing high sulfur content is not conducive to the technology, either.