Hybrid Axle For Semi-Trailers Could Improve Fuel Economy 30%


Why are the best ideas always the simplest? Hyliion, a start-up that originated at Carnegie Mellon University, is developing a hybrid axle concept for long haul semi-trailers it says can improve fuel economy by over 30%. A normal trailer on the road can weigh up to 60,000 lbs. If it is travelling at 60 mph, it has a lot of kinetic energy. What if there was a way to harvest that energy and use it to help get it back up to speed later?

Hyliion hybrid axle

That’s the Hyliion Suspension System in a nutshell. According to Next-Gen Transportation, the system hybridizes the trailer portion of a tractor-trailer combination and uses regenerative braking to capture power when the trailer is slowing down. Then it reuses that energy to power the trailer upon acceleration. It is designed to replace any standard sliding 8 wheel suspension beneath a trailer. The company says installation takes under an hour. Slide the old unit out; slide the new unit in. It’s as easy as that.

Once installed, the Hyliion Suspension System’s regenerative braking technology combines with an improved aerodynamics and reduced engine idle time for a total reduction in fuel consumption of 30% or more. The Hyliion system leases for $500 per month, but the company claims it can save drivers about $1,300 per month in fuel costs. The hybrid system is currently undergoing road tests and, according to Hyliion, should be ready for sale sometime in 2017.

Hyliion says that its hybrid trailer could reduce fleet operating costs by 10%, improve a tractor-trailer’s average fuel economy to 8.5 miles MPG and save the average truck driver $15,600 a year. If the entire trucking industry were to equip their trucks with the Hyliion suspension system, it would result in a 10% decrease in overall emissions from the transportation sector, a 2% reduction in the U.S.’s total energy usage, and a 2% reduction in overall carbon emissions, according to Hyliion.

More people are realizing that increasing the efficiency of the nation’s heavy trucks is a vital part of reducing US carbon emissions. The US Department of Energy is spending $80,000,000 to fund research into new ways to lower truck emissions and boost fuel economy from the big rigs that are so essential to our national economy. The Hyliion system could play an important role in reaching our national carbon reduction goals.

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  • AaronD12

    Brilliant. I wonder if this is a KERS-type setup or a supercapacitor/electric motor setup. Heck, even a compressed air setup might work!

    • Steve Hanley

      Good questions. If I find out more, I will update the story.

      • GregS

        Please do update when you have more details.

    • JP

      From the picture, it looks to be hydraulic. The pulley out the back of the differential connected to a device with a large tube.

  • Rick Danger

    Didn’t this company try marketing a bolt on hybrid system for passenger cars several years ago?

  • No- because the DOE program is significantly behind the current wave of tech, IMO.