8 March 2005

Rapid changes in heavy-duty vehicle powertrain technologies by 2020 have been predicted in a study by TIAX, a collaborative product and technology development firm, and Global Insight, an industry forecasting firm. One of the findings of the study is a predicted growth in homogeneous charge compression ignition (HCCI) engine technology which will be displacing conventional heavy-duty diesel engines. The study also predicts greater use of heavy-duty hybrid vehicles.

The study, titled “The Future of Heavy-Duty Powertrains”, was commissioned by a group of oil companies, engine and vehicle manufacturers, and component suppliers to investigate the impact of more stringent emissions regulations, increased traffic congestion, and a shortage of skilled drivers for large vehicles on the heavy-duty vehicle industry in North America, Europe, and Japan.

Key findings of the report include:

  • HCCI engines will power nearly 40% of heavy-duty vehicles by 2020. Initially HCCI will only be able to power light loads at low speeds so early versions of the engine will also incorporate conventional diesel combustion to supply more power when greater demand is placed on the engine. A full mode HCCI engine will eventually supersede the mixed mode HCCI/diesel technology.
  • By 2020, 15-25% of heavy-duty vehicles globally will incorporate either hybrid electric or hydraulic hybrid technology. The rapid deployment of hybrid technology in the heavy-duty vehicle industry will be driven by savings on fuel and brake maintenance by vehicle operators.
  • The demand for self-shifting transmission technology in heavy-duty vehicles will increase dramatically over the next 15 years. The self-shifting transmissions can maximize fuel efficiency and to broaden the labor pool from which drivers can be recruited because trucks with automated or automatic transmissions are easier to drive.

HCCI is a low temperature combustion technology utilizing compression ignition of well-mixed air fuel mixture. The major technical challenge in HCCI is the control of combustion, with most of today’s engine prototypes being able to sustain the HCCI combustion mode only at low to medium engine loads. Unlike the conventional diesel engine, HCCI emits ultra low emissions of NOx and PM. On the negative side, it can produce increased HC and CO emissions.

The predicted growth in HCCI engines is particularly significant in that the exhaust gas aftertreatment systems currently being developed—targeting mostly NOx and PM emissions—and expected to reach the market in the next few years will start to become obsolete by 2020. Instead, HCCI emission aftertreatment would need to target HC and CO emissions at very low exhaust temperatures.

Source: TIAX/Global Insight (report summary | purchase the report)