A Closer Look: Medium-Heavy Duty Engine Fuel Economy

Recently mandated fuel economy standards are forcing engine manufacturers to squeeze every last drop from fuel.

16 October 2012

Recently mandated fuel economy standards are forcing engine manufacturers to squeeze every last drop from fuel.

In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released fuel economy standards for medium and heavy-duty vehicles. For the first time ever, work trucks will be required to have fuel consumption data on their "window stickers" on everything from full-sized vans to Class 8 tractors. These new requirements are taking a phased approach beginning with 2014 Model Year (MY) vehicles.

As fuel consumption and CO2 emissions go hand in hand, the estimated reductions in CO2 amount to millions of tons over the life of the vehicles. This scenario has truck builders and engine manufacturers evaluating technologies to help them meet these future standards. Engine lubricants are one area which is capable of achieving reductions of this magnitude. The challenge is to develop a lubricant that can achieve these reductions in friction, while not compromising engine durability or oil change intervals.

Development of these lubricants requires test specimens that can simulate real-world driving, while achieving extremely high accuracy and repeatability. On-road testing is not suited to differentiate at these levels. However, Intertek has moved the "road" into a test cell and has shown nearly an order of magnitude improvement in lubricant differentiation over a similar number of tests. This is accomplished through automation, custom engineered test cell systems, high-quality instrumentation, and advanced simulation, formulation, and repeatability of real-world drive cycles. Internal testing of a 13L diesel engine over US drive cycles focusing on city driving resulted in a 2 percent reduction in CO2 between 2-commercially available lubricants of different viscosities.

What questions do you have about fuel testing? Please leave your comments below and one of our experts will get back to you.

Today’s expert blogger is John Sparrow, Director of Engine Development Testing for the Americas region at Intertek. John is based in San Antonio and has been leading the automotive research engine development business for Intertek.