After five years and $115 million of development, the Freightliner SuperTruck is Daimler's answer to a lofty challenge set by the Department Of Energy: "improve semi-truck fuel economy by at least 50 percent." This concept blows that benchmark out of the water.
The SuperTruck managed 12.2 MPG on a 312 mile road test in Texas with a 65,000 pound load, which doesn't sound great compared to a road car (or even a pickup truck) but it's actually 115% better than the average big rig on the road right now.
An 11-liter diesel engine is paired with an electric motor to create a massive hybrid setup, with most accessories running off a battery as opposed to adding parasitic drag to the engine. The transmission's dialed in with a navigation system, which theoretically "plans shifts ahead of changes in terrain" to maximize coasting opportunities and minimize throttle input.
Solar panels on the trailer power the cargo box's climate control system.
Other power-scavenging and fuel-saving methods include an aerodynamic body sitting on a lightweight frame, height-adjustable suspension, and an intelligent power steering system that's supposed to minimize unnecessary activation.
SuperTruck's fuel savings are estimated at 10,000 gallons of diesel a year, and while the whole package is still "conceptual only" the company's planning to integrate elements of the design (so far just aerodynamics) into to their lineup immediately.
"By incorporating a mix of available technologies with future innovations, we were able to use the SuperTruck program to take the first steps in seeing what may be technically possible and commercially viable," said Daimler's Principal Investigator for the SuperTruck project; Derek Rotz. "We still have a long road ahead to determine ultimately what will be successful and what will achieve the greatest efficiencies."
Inside, the thing looks like some kind of IKEA-designed powerboat. Until you turn the lights to "blue mode" and make it look like a space-age nightclub refrigerator.
For some more specifics on the truck and the DOE program, check out Freightliner's animated and informative website on the SuperTruck right here.