Autonomous Driving and Fuel Efficiency

TuSimple – a San Diego-based company that designs autonomous driving technology for the trucking industry – claims that their autonomous driving technology reduces fuel consumption by 10%. In terms of fuel saved, TuSimple asserts that a 10% reduction across the board would be equivalent to 4 billion gallons of fuel. TuSimple arrived at these figures by conducting a study with the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. The study examined how autonomy impacts fuel consumption.

The test was conducted by equipping autonomous trucks with what is known as black box technology. This technology tracks and records data pertaining to the vehicle’s driving performance, including statistics such as speed, GPS location, and distance to name a few. In order to gauge fuel consumption from the black box data, TuSimple’s researchers relied on the Virginia Tech Comprehensive Power-based Fuel Consumption model which combines the function of speed, location, acceleration and braking to derive estimates. Researchers also equipped manually driven trucks with black box technology so that they could compare fuel efficiency between manual and autonomous trucks.

Once the manual and autonomous trucks had black box technology installed, researchers looked at fuel consumption at different ranges of speeds. According to researchers, the goal was to determine whether fuel efficiency changed at all based on speed. Based on the study, TuSimple concludes that the greatest fuel savings between manual and autonomous trucks happen while driving at slower speeds that involve a higher frequency of acceleration and braking. Conversely, TuSimple reports that highway speeds showed very little difference in fuel efficiency between autonomous and manual trucks. In conclusion, TuSimple believes that autonomous trucking can significantly reduce fuel consumption and asserts that if all medium- and heavy-duty trucks adopted their self-driving technology, that CO2 emissions would be cut by 42 million metric tons per year.

Taken from: www.sae.org

Engine Developers Face New Challenges

Engine developers face new trends in the industry that significantly influence how they produce engines for heavy-duty vehicles. Their main areas of concern include machine ownership patterns, political forces such as government regulations, and getting new products to the market quicker and more efficiently. Caterpillar Industrial Power Systems designed the new C3.6 engine with these factors in mind, stating specifically that customer feedback and lower owning and operating costs were at the top of their priorities list. According to Caterpillar, the result is the compact C3.6 engine that is electronically turbocharged, giving it the capability to produce 134-hp, more power density, and better torque than its predecessor.

As for machine ownership patterns, the product marketing manager for Caterpillar – Alex Eden – explains that customers are shifting towards a rental economy rather than the traditional ownership model. Instead of buying heavy-duty vehicles and machines, customers and fleets are looking to rent them. This raises questions about future sales processes and product cycles that are yet to be answered.

In addition to market influences, government regulations put pressure on engine developers with measures such as CO2 and emissions regulations, air quality improvement standards, and zero-emission zones for urban areas. In particular, demand grows for quieter engines that fall in line with urban noise restrictions. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) is a major concern in engine design. Pierpaolo Biffali – VP of product engineering at FPT Industrial – states that though the industry is heading for zero-emissions, clean diesel engines reduce CO2 levels in the meantime.

The last major factor that influences engine design is the competitiveness of the industry. When producing the C3.6, Caterpillar utilized a 3D printer to reduce production time. Developers printed an entire C3.6 engine in its various parts and examined how all the pieces would fit together before actual assembly. When the parts arrived, they assembled the engine faster and more efficiently than they had without the 3D printer which is crucial to remaining competitive in the market. Caterpillar believes that technology like this will help them remain competitive in the future by getting products to the market faster without sacrificing quality.

Taken from: www.sae.org

AI in your EV

Tim Sherstyuk embarked on an ambitious journey towards understanding and improving the efficiency of EV batteries. The idea initially came to him when he was a college student studying chemistry at Carleton University. He wanted to investigate why cell phone batteries die quicker than batteries operating other devices. He and his father, who is an electrical engineer, put their heads together to research why batteries die out and if there is a way to prolong the lifetime of batteries.

One hypothesis is that “pulse” charging can accomplish exactly this. The traditional method of charging – the constant-current method – inflicts a lot of damage and wear on batteries. The hope is that pulse charging will alleviate some of that wear on batteries while they charge.

The Use of AI

The Sherstyuk team incorporates the use of artificial intelligence in their studies of pulse recharging on batteries. They rely on AI because it offers much-needed insight that accelerates the feedback loop during experiments. In fact, other companies have taken advantage of AI, one of which is the Toyota Research Institute (TRI). They implemented AI into their tests and research on batteries and now assert that AI accelerates the progress of research and discovery. They currently use it to run 400 different battery tests and experiments at the same time which would be impossible through traditional channels. In their words, “AI accelerates R&D cycles.”

For the Sherstyuks, the goal is to improve the method of battery charging so that the battery itself lasts longer. Reducing impedance and the damage incurred from charging quickly are examples of what Sherstyuk aims to eliminate during the charging process. Fast charging raises the temperature of the battery which can lead to heightened cell degradation and potentially cause the battery to swell. The Sherstyuks conducted testing by using an adapter-like device that could potentially be built into the charging connector. AI provides real-time measurements during the charging process that helps Sherstyuk determine how much energy needs to go into the battery pack. After seven years of testing, the Sherstyuks see positive results. Though pulse charging is not new, the use of AI provides real-time feedback and data that was previously lacking. Sherstyuk’s hope is to fine tune pulse charging so that the lifetime of EV batteries is prolonged. This would have many benefits, according to Sherstyuk, including environmental benefits as longer battery life would lead to less battery waste.

Taken from: www.sae.org