PACCAR developing next generation of electric trucks

Wednesday, May 04, 2022

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The electric trucking revolution is here, and Skagit County has a front row seat.

PACCAR, a global leader in medium and heavy-duty truck manufacturing, is developing a new lineup of all-electric trucks. The PACCAR Technical Center, an EDASC Signature Investor located in Mount Vernon, is leading research and development of zero emissions electric trucks thanks in part to a $33 million matching grant from the U.S. Department of Energy’s SuperTruck 3 program.

The project aims to solve two of electrification’s biggest quandaries, said PACCAR Advanced Technology Manager Dr. Maarten Meijer: cost and range.

 “Those are the key challenges for large-scale adoption of zero emission vehicles,” Meijer said. “The range of a long-haul diesel truck is the benchmark, and the total cost of ownership of having an all-electric fleet needs to be competitive without long term federal and state incentives.”

By the end of the 5-year project, PACCAR plans to demonstrate electric trucks with increased performance and significantly reduced cost of ownership, that are ready for large scale production. The program also involves developing and building charging infrastructures.

And, as the prime recipient of the U.S. Department of Energy grant, many of these development activities will take place in Skagit County.

“The PACCAR Technical Center will work closely on this project with the PACCAR truck divisions, Kenworth and Peterbilt and our external partners,” said Dr. Philip Stephenson, General Manager. “All program aspects will be supported by the Technical Center

PACCAR’s local roots date back to 1982 when the Technical Center opened about an hour north of the company’s Bellevue headquarters. The facility leads PACCAR’s development and testing, with rigorous testing facilities, a 1.6-mile banked oval test track, and a durability test track simulating rugged driving conditions.

 Globally, PACCAR manufactures light-, medium- and heavy-duty trucks under the brand names of Kenworth, Peterbilt and DAF. Its trucks are deployed all over the world, and so are its facilities with locations in England, The Netherlands, Mexico and Australia, to name a few.

 In Skagit County, it’s common to see PACCAR Technical Center trucks, often sporting camouflaged wraps as the trucks are still under development, hauling huge concrete blocks up and down Interstate 5 and on other roads for testing.

The SuperTruck 3 program is the third such emissions reduction project. The U.S. Department of Energy launched the SuperTruck 1 initiative in 2009 to significantly reduce fuel consumption. SuperTruck 2 went a step further, seeking to push the limits of diesel engine and overall powertrain efficiency, to further improve vehicle and trailer aerodynamics, and to reduce weight.

For SuperTruck 2, PACCAR Technical Center led development of a hybrid powertrain using a diesel engine and an electric motor. “That program continues and is in the final phase,” said Meijer. “It will push the limits of what can be achieved with diesel engine efficiency, while minimizing the weight of the vehicle which means less fuel is used to deliver the same payload.”

PACCAR received the most funding of all recipients for its SuperTruck 3 program, a testament to its current and past success.

SuperTruck 3 The new project, along with developing its next-generation electric trucks, also focuses on the deployment of its latest generation of all-electric vehicles and the development and construction of new charging infrastructure. Its charging stations will be optimized in terms of fast charging and clean power generation.

“The charging infrastructure could have the flexibility to either be connected to an existing grid or be isolated and generate and store clean energy independently, a concept referred to as a micro grid,” Meijer said.

The current range of an electric truck is up to 200 miles. PACCAR aims to double that, expanding the applications for electric vehicles while providing its customers with low cost and increased uptime solutions.

As part of the electric trucking revolution, automation will play an important role in SuperTruck 3, focusing on driver safety support systems such as lane assist, lane departure warning systems, and automatic braking and steering specifically developed for electric vehicles.

“It won’t replace the driver, but it’ll increase safety and comfort,” Meijer said.

Truck electrification also provides new opportunities for big data analytics and connected fleets.

 “The fleet and infrastructure will be connected to the cloud to optimize overall operations,” he said.

For instance, a connected vehicle could help define the best charging location and times of day or support the definition of the best truck configuration for the job based on actual vehicle usage by each fleet owner. It’s something PACCAR is already working on with other U.S. Department of Energy programs and this research area will be extended to SuperTruck 3.

Locally, 10 to 30 jobs could be added to support SuperTruck 3. The PACCAR Technical Center currently employs about 420, including engineers, technicians, mechanics, and drivers, making it one of the largest employers in the county. With this expansion into the next generation electric vehicles comes career opportunities for technical and supporting roles.

Clean technology is one of EDASC’s key development sectors, typically offering family wages and innovative products.

EDASC has done much over the years to support and grow this sector through its business retention and expansion efforts. Most recently, EDASC featured PACCAR and its developments at the virtual Skagit County Innovation in Mobility event, connecting Norwegian transportation businesses with companies and governments in the U.S.

The event was held in collaboration with Innovation Norway, an organization of the Norwegian government supporting and developing its enterprises and industry.

 EDASC in 2019 also brought a delegation of French business leaders to tour Skagit businesses, including the PACCAR Technical Center. There, the delegation walked through the facilities and even had the chance to drive semitrucks on its oval track. PACCAR also showed off an autonomous truck.

“There are amazingly innovative companies across Skagit County,” said EDASC CEO John Sternlicht, “and we are extremely proud to have the PACCAR Technical Center leading the way to clean transportation. EDASC works to support a healthy economic environment for businesses like PACCAR to thrive.”

 Added Stephenson, “PACCAR is committed to developing state-of-the art zero-emission commercial vehicles and next-generation technologies. We are proud of the work we do here at the PACCAR Technical Center and feel fortunate to be based in the Skagit Valley.”

Category: Innovation, News