PICTURE OF THE WEEK : Kenworth Unveils SuperTruck 2 at ACT Expo

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Move over Optimus Prime – Kenworth has showcased its SuperTruck 2 demonstrator vehicle at the ACT Expo in Las Vegas. The futuristic new truck was developed over a six-year period as part of a collaboration with the Department of Energy’s (DOE) SuperTruck program, designed to challenge truck makers to improve freight efficiency using a diesel engine as the main power source. The project was the result of a joint investment by the DOE and PACCAR.

The unique look of the Kenworth catches most of the attention, but the powertrain and driver amenities are just as impressive. “We started with an ideal aerodynamic shape when we started the design of SuperTruck 2,” said Joe Adams, Kenworth’s chief engineer. “At the start of the project, we asked ourselves, ‘What does the next generation vehicle for long haul transportation look like?’ What we produced pushes the limits in reducing aerodynamic drag while it also incorporates a new powertrain. But, with everything Kenworth, we wanted the SuperTruck 2 to embody ‘The Driver’s Truck’. The result was a systematic approach to developing a futuristic looking, yet relevant vehicle with technologies that have the potential to be refined and commercialized.”

From an engine and transmission standpoint, Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 utilizes a PACCAR MX-11 engine, rated at 440 hp, which is driven through a PACCAR TX-12 automated transmission. In addition, the truck features a 48-volt electric generator. This creates a “mild” hybrid system and leverages next generation lithium-ion batteries. The batteries are re-charged through regenerative braking. This allows Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 to operate electric fans, electric steering, and power for electric coolant and HVAC pumps, which were previously mechanically driven. The engine fan alone can draw up to 80 horsepower. The hybrid system also provides an overnight engine-off ‘hoteling’ solution. In addition, the 48V generator powers the exhaust heater in the in-house developed close coupled aftertreatment system which demonstrated CARB 2027 ultra-low NOx compliancy.


The SuperTruck 2 team managed a parallel project for energy efficiency testing by combining a PACCAR MX-11 based engine, the mild hybrid based 48-volt auxiliaries and energy waste recovery to bench test a program record 55.7% engine efficiency. “We did this while keeping in mind the technologies we developed needed to be commercially viable,” said Maarten Meijer, PACCAR’s senior engineering manager for advanced technology. “Today’s modern diesel engine demonstrates around 47% efficiency. Reaching 55.7% was a major step forward and could only be done by applying new technologies that had not been explored until today. To put that efficiency number into perspective, if this engine were to go into production, it would lead to a 10% fuel efficiency improvement. That’s an astonishing number.”

The unique look of Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 features a “center driver” cab, along with a new sleeper compartment. It’s a look that resembles a bullet train. “We wanted to push this beyond just a demonstrator truck,” said Jonathan Duncan, Kenworth’s design director. “We wanted to show something dynamic and what the future of Kenworth might look like. Our headlamps take up the entire front fender of the truck. It’s striking — you can’t miss it as it’s going down the road.”

The aerodynamic design was enabled thanks in part by the location of the powertrain content, which fits between the frame rails. This also allowed the engine to be lowered and placed behind the front axle. A reverse- splayed chassis allowed the engineering team to narrow the front of the truck and fully enclose the wheels within the bodywork. The entire hood and the chassis fairings were mounted directly to the cab, and they move with the entire cab as one unit. A variable suspension system was developed to customize ride height and optimize aerodynamics — Kenworth’s SuperTruck 2 can be raised over rough roads to avoid obstacles, then brought back down when running over smoother interstates. Combined, the sleekness means a 48% reduction in drag as compared to Kenworth’s baseline vehicle.

Even though SuperTruck 2 is powered by a diesel engine, Kenworth is thinking toward the future. The overall layout was designed to be powertrain agnostic. To support zero and near-zero emission solutions, the truck can efficiently package fuel cells, hydrogen tanks, natural gas tanks, or batteries without changing the basic cab.

Climbing into the truck is altogether different. The driver-side door has a large opening, and the extendable bottom step supports a stairway-like entry and exit. Drivers have easy-viewing electronics at their disposal — SuperTruck 2 features PACCAR’s state-of-the-art 15-inch digital display, with a configurable gauge layout, advanced driver notifications, and a user-friendly menu navigation.