Published on June 15th, 2009 | by Susan Kraemer
Huge Electric Semi Would Transform Trucking
When you think about the fuel-efficient vehicles we’ll need as we descend the other side of Hubberts Peak you think of an electric car, right? You just don’t think of a hybrid diesel electric Semi Truck, do you?
Well, luckily, somebody is thinking about this fuel-efficient Semi, because we will still need to transport stuff even as the oil age slowly comes to an end.
Kioko Muthui has designed a humungous concept vehicle that would operate as a Series Range extended EV – a bit like the Volt – but instead of gas to run the onboard ICE, using a tiny amount of diesel.
Like the series hybrid Volt, this internal combustion engine is used only to generate electricity to run the truck as an EV, never to power the vehicle.
Since the ICE does not directly drive the vehicle, it would run continuously at the most efficient speed (RPM) and at the most efficient power output. This electric generator would have a maximum power of 440KW. This power would be channeled to two 220KW electric motors – one at each drive axle.
The transmission itself uses only electric power (i.e. no gearbox, driveshaft, or differential) to enable extremely efficient use of its diesel fuel. The internal combustion engine doesn’t power the vehicle as a backup the way a regular hybrid does if the electricity runs out. It just runs an internal combustion engine to make electricity. It is the electricity the ICE makes that actually powers the vehicle.
So it has all the efficiency of an EV powertrain, and all the security blanket of having an onboard electricity generator.
Its Kenyan designer names it the HST, or the Highly Sophisticated Transporter, and this is no hyperbole: Quite apart from being the most fuel-efficient way to haul goods on the highway, this highly computerized EV would turn the drivers job into a white collar job more akin to piloting a plane than driving a truck.
1. The full 64 foot roof would be all solar – enough space for 6KW of solar power; far more powerful and effective than the single modules that can fit on a small sedan just to power the air conditioning. But on this monster truck, this would be just a booster for the 440KW electric motor.
2. The driver would take an elevator to his cab from the sidewalk side; safer and easier than vertical steps. He’d have a (vehicle specific) smart card in his pocket for complete access. When he gets to the door, he pushes a button on the door’s surface and it electronically glides back. He then takes a short step onto the elevator. He pushes the ‘UP’ button and the door closes as he is smoothly lifted to the cabin floor. The driver proceeds to the cockpit. would provide easier and safer cabin entry vis-à-vis typical vertical steps.
3. When the driver is seated, he inserts his personal memory card into its slot. This card features information about his custom settings and preferences. After inserting the card, he pushes the Engine button and the HST comes to life. The engine roars as the CCi display unit turns on and the seat configures itself into the custom position set by the driver.
4. Like an airline pilot, the driver has a display where he configures his environment and the journey’s routing, navigation parameters; and the cargo etc. A supercomputer would be the nucleus of the HST. Apart from linking the components, functions, and systems of the entire vehicle into a common interface, the supercomputer would simplify the driving experience by assisting or controlling its elements, thereby leaving the driver with a simplified role.
5. The supercomputer would be developed to operate in an advanced state of intelligence that would replace or complement conventional human command. It would have the capacity to sense the driving situation and environment. Thus, the supercomputer would know the best course of action to take in any situation (e.g. accident avoidance, driveline performance management, headlight activation, etc) and would act accordingly.
6. The driver would now assume an administrative/supervisory role, as the vehicle handles the details. This would not only provide for an effortless driving experience, but it would also simplify driver training while encouraging driver recruitment – truck driving could be transformed into a “white-collar” profession.
7. Visibility enhancements also reduce drag: no mirrors, windscreen wipers or design doodads. The driver is centrally positioned in the conical cab (a 180-degree arc) and this provides for a uniform and panoramic view. The low-cut windscreen would be made from a material that would be strong enough to contribute to the structural strength of the cabin, eliminating the need for obtrusive A-pillars. During wet conditions, the water-resistant windscreen and a series of air jets keep the windscreen clear, eliminating the need for distracting wipers. Conventional mirrors would be replaced with small cameras that do not obstruct the view, and that relay the information to the central screen.
8. A well designed live/work space reflects the realities of road life. At the rear left corner would be a workstation that features a desk, USB ports (for networking a PC and for connecting devices like a Playstation or an iPod), and an activity seat. The activity seat would be similar to the driver’s seat, except it would recline and feature a Maybach-style leg rest. For leisure, the seat would revolve 90-degrees (the seatback is parallel to the rear face of the cabin). With the seat in this position, the driver could recline to relax or view the TV.
9. Save on Motel 6 sleepovers. Above the elevator and workstation would be a bunk that descends from the ceiling at bedtime to increase headroom. Next to the elevator and the workstation would be standup consoles (one on either side of the cabin) for storage including a shoe rack, drawers, clothes closet, and shelving.
10. Last but not least of this sophisticated design; to help avoid the fast food life on the road – the console next to the workstation would store items required for living and would include a fridge, sink, microwave, coffeemaker, and a pantry.
Expect to see this truck driver at the roadside fruit stand.
Sustainable and fuel efficient. Nice.