Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

SuperTruck Leading the Way for Efficiency in Heavy-Duty, Long-Haul Vehicles

June 27, 2016

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Heavy-duty trucks are getting more efficient thanks to the Energy Department's SuperTruck initiative.

Heavy-duty trucks are getting more efficient thanks to the Energy Department's SuperTruck initiative.

We may pass them each day on the highway without giving them a second thought. However, nearly all Americans depend on heavy-duty, long-haul vehicles as part of their daily lives. They haul our goods and services, deliver our food, and help keep our economy humming along.

And thanks to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE) SuperTruck Initiative, they are becoming much more efficient. I’m pleased to note the enormous success that we have seen with this effort. Teams of industry partners collaborating on the initiative have successfully commercialized approximately 21 new transportation technologies to date, including breakthroughs in the areas of aerodynamics and engine/drivetrain integration. We have found that an estimated 26 additional technologies have the potential to succeed in the market in the next two to four years, while roughly 13 SuperTruck technologies offer the promise of additional fuel savings within the next five or 10 years, particularly in the areas of more advanced aerodynamics packages and further engine thermal efficiency improvements. These capabilities hold enormous potential for improving cost-effectiveness and fuel efficiency.

When we launched the initiative in 2009, the goal was to develop Class 8 tractor trailers with 50% greater fuel efficiency. Class 8 trucks haul 80% of goods in the U.S. and use about 28 billion gallons of fuel per year, or around 22% of total transportation energy usage. This fuel is used in about 2.5 million trucks, which travel approximately 66,000 miles per year each.

SuperTruck technologies hold enormous potential for improving cost-effectiveness and fuel efficiency.

The transportation sector itself accounts for more than 70% of our domestic petroleum usage and nearly one-third of our energy-related carbon emissions. Creating and scaling up technology that helps tractor-trailers burn less fuel and run more efficiently can help us make major strides in reducing pollution, strengthening our domestic energy independence, and cutting our carbon emissions. As President Obama and other world leaders affirmed in the launch of the Mission Innovation agreement last November which committed to doubling research and development (R&D) investments in clean energy over the next five years, technological innovation is the key to tackling our climate and energy challenges. Given the realities of a growing global population hungry to use more energy and drive more vehicles, we must develop new and improved ways to meet our society’s needs.

We’ve partnered with four industry teams who have either met our 50% fuel efficiency goal or laid the groundwork to succeed, leveraging cutting-edge technologies that hold enormous potential for the industry. Teams from Cummins/PeterbiltDaimler, and Volvo far exceeded the 50% efficiency improvement goals, with Navistar on track to exceed the target this year as well. 

The teams achieved this success with advancements in technology innovation, including breakthroughs in advanced combustion engines, lightweight materials, and aerodynamic improvements.

A number of these technologies have already been developed for commercial products, with more to follow over the next several years. If all Class 8 trucks leveraged these technologies, we would stand to lower our oil usage by an estimated 300 million barrels annually – and truck operators could save as much as $20,000 per year on fuel.

We are already looking to the future with the launch of SuperTruck II, which has set our sights even higher – researching, developing, and demonstrating technologies to increase Class 8 truck fuel economy by more than 100% compared to where we were in 2009. This effort will use a variety of technology approaches to meet this target, including improvements in engine efficiency, aerodynamic drag, and tire rolling resistance.

Learn more about the SuperTruck Initiative's successes.