What is the Best Kind of Powertrain?

May 24, 2012

The most important part of any big rig is the powertrain, which is the engine, transmission, and rear axle. In purchasing any new or used truck this is something that needs careful inspection. You will not only want to know how much horsepower and torque is involved but how much fuel, oil, and maintenance is going to be required.

Volvo, for example, has put out a D16 engine that has three power ratings ranging from 500 to 550 hp. It is also said to be easy to drive with 1,850 lbs. ft. or torque while getting the very best in fuel economy. This particular engine is available in VNL Daycabs and Sleepers.

Volvo also states that the standard I-VEB has 1500 rpm with 420 braking hp and 600 hp at 2200 rpm. Control is maintained by a brake stalk switch, which allows three engine-brake increments. Oil is changed every 35,000 miles.

Tokyo's Mitsubishi Fuso Truck and Bus Corporation have announced it is testing a Super Great Eco Hybrid powertrain for Daimler AG's truck group. It is expected that this hybrid will be used in heavy-duty trucks, including Freightliner. It is expected to have a 10% fuel economy improvement. The company states that this hybrid uses a 6-cyliner diesel engine, a 12-speed automated transmission, electric motor, and a lithium-ion battery pack in a parallel system. The diesel engine is the principal power and the electric motor augments the diesel engine as needed.

Volvo is also stressing vertical integration on it XE 13 powertrain. They state that more than 40% of their trucks sold last year had the Volvo I-Shift transmission. However, Mack has also entered the discussion. They state that they have had integrated powertrains since 1900 and every one of their trucks has it. This consists of a transmission, proprietary engine, and axles. They claim a 3.5 improvement in fuel economy.

Also involved is Eaton and Allison. This company is well known worldwide in the manufacture of transmissions and other mechanical parts and is the first company to introduce automatic transmissions. This history shows that they launched a hybrid electric program in 2000, unveiled parallel hybrid technology in 2001, and in June 2010 opened a new hybrid manufacturing plant in Indiana.

It is apparent that improvements are going to be made in the manufacture of truck engines as new techniques are developed. Since powertrains are what makes a big rig operate smoothly it is important to obtain one that will best fit your needs. Some have more gears involved than others and therefore will require more expertise in correct maneuvering. Others claim fuel economy and less emission. It is always advisable to review all the literature available as well as talk to other truckers and see what they recommend. They will be able to relate any problems that may be involved in trying to accomplish a smooth operation.

The main things to look for are ease of handling, amount of power involved, fuel economy, amount of maintenance required, and so forth. When a truck is found that gets an A+ on these items then you will know you are in a vehicle that will be easy and comfortable to drive.

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