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  • Writer's pictureKristin Cooper

Energy Efficiency &Renewable Energy’s Medium- and Heavy-Duty Truck Research and Development RFI

The Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), within the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), seeks feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on research needs and opportunities related to medium and heavy-duty freight trucking. The information requested is intended to inform EERE’s medium and heavy-duty freight energy and operational efficiency R&D planning. EERE plans to support a future public workshop following this RFI to discuss the feedback received.

Category 1: Freight Operational Efficiency and Systems – DOE has research interest in improving freight efficiency at the vehicle and freight transportation system levels. This includes the vehicle and how the vehicle is used within the context of the overall freight management system. It covers the role of connectivity, automation, last mile delivery options and new operating patterns. It recognizes that freight moves through multiple vehicles and processes to go from manufacturing to its end destination at a business or home.

For this RFI, the following questions are posed to help understand the freight operational efficiency space and focus areas for research.

1a.) Understanding the trends and defining metrics: Data and analysis identified by VTO highlights several trends: (1) Average length of haul for dry van freight has decreased in recent years by 38% (to around 300 miles); (2) 75% of freight by mass moves less than 250 miles; (3) freight shippers are making more use of hub and spoke distribution systems; and (4) day cab tractors are becoming increasingly popular as an option to meet freight needs as a result of items 1-3. 1.a.1.) What are the most critical data gaps in understanding current freight operation and developing scenarios for future freight trends? What data sources might fill these gaps? Are there gaps that cannot currently be filled with existing data sources, so new data collection would be needed?

1b.) How will the trends for long-haul and regional-haul change in the coming years and what are the implications for the types of trucks and propulsion systems that will be used. 1.b.1.) In the past, DOE focused on freight efficiency as a metric (ton-miles/gallon), looking at the benefit of changes to a single truck, operated over a prescribed duty cycle. In the future, are there better ways to measure system level efficiency? How could these metrics cover different technologies whose benefits may vary in different types of operational environments? 1.b.2.) If DOE retained a freight efficiency metric, should it change from tonmiles/gallon? Should energy metrics be weight-based, volume-based, or both? Are cost metrics valuable to include, and if so, should they be totalcost-of-ownership based or cost of shipment based? Are time-based metrics valuable to include, and why or why not? Should Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) or CO2-eq emissions metrics be included? 1.b.3.) With these trends, are there additional opportunities to increase efficiency and decrease emissions across a broad range of trucks? What classes provide the largest potential from technological advancements? 1b.) What are the major benefits, research opportunities, and barriers for developing system-level freight efficiency technologies (i.e., technologies with an effect beyond the efficiency of individual vehicles)? What are the research needs and barriers to connectivity and automation technologies to improving freight efficiency?

1c.) What opportunities do these trends open up for alternative fuels such as electricity, natural gas, biofuels, and hydrogen? Will the use cases change to fit the technology or will aggressive technology changes be needed to make them fit the current use cases? What impact will infrastructure have on the uptake of these fuels, and what opportunities and barriers exist in the area of infrastructure?

1d.) Understanding system constraints: To utilize the efficiencies of today’s system and improve them, building off existing assets is necessary. These constraints may help identify the key needs and make incremental changes in efficiency while breakthroughs that disrupt the system are also developed in the longer term. 1.d.1.) Do trucks typically operate at maximum payload capacity (by weight or volume)? In the coming decade, are there any anticipated any changes to the typical weight of payloads on board trucks? In what truck vocations/class and/or regions of the country is there anticipated market growth in the coming years, and why? 1.d.2.) Are commercial fueling stations for trucks commonly co-located with light-duty vehicle fueling stations? Are commercial fueling stations for trucks commonly located in regions where land area is a constraint (e.g., urban locations)? 1.d.3.) What is the typical payback period for capital equipment (e.g., fueling stations) for trucks? What is the associated discount rate? 1.d.4.) What are the major benefits, opportunities, and barriers in this space and is this worthwhile to pursue?1.d.5.) Is there data available that shows distribution of distance traveled versus payload? Is there data sufficient to validate baseline truck models? This includes drive cycle data with grade as well as fuel consumption measurements and vehicle characteristics (tire rolling resistance, aero drag coefficient, frontal area, gross weight (including payload data).

Category 2: Internal Combustion Engine, Powertrain, Fuels, and Emissions Control - Internal combustion engine powertrains are projected to dominate the commercial truck market for several more decades, but the challenges of achieving higher efficiency with lower criteria and CO2 emissions at an acceptable cost continue to drive DOE research. New combustion strategies coupled with advanced fuels and cost-effective emissions solutions may find customer acceptance.

2a.) Understanding fuel choice: Fuel choice has a significant impact on total cost of ownership and represents a significant and long-term commitment by fleets when options are available. Please consider whether the following issues qualify as research topics relevant to industry – i.e., precompetitive work from fundamental to applied research, excluding deployment or technology implementation issues applied exclusively to existing technology (e.g., subsidies for vehicle purchases or infrastructure installation, etc.). 2.a.1.) Are Spark Ignition (SI) fuels, such as gasoline, attractive for stand-alone ICEpowered vehicles in MD and HD vehicle classes? If so, in what specific applications and vehicle classes? 2.a.2.) Is there interest in using market gasoline for advanced compression ignition combustion strategies in MD or HD engines? Is there consideration to use of technologies such as an intake heater or additive injection to enable such a combustion strategy? 2.a.3.) Are dual-fuel engines/vehicles of interest to industry and consumers? (These would include any system requiring two fuels to be available at all times, e.g., pilot-ignited gaseous fuels as well as systems that rely on advanced combustion such as reactivity controlled compression ignition. Please exclude bi-fuel systems which can provide full utility on either of two fuels.) If dual fuel systems are of interest, please specify applications, fuel pairs, and type of system of interest. 2.a.4.) To what extent are gaseous alternative fuels, such as natural gas or LPG, of interest in the MD and HD vehicle classes - i.e., Class 3-8? If gaseous alternative fuels are of interest to industry and consumers, what specific fuel types are of interest for what engines/vehicle platforms and applications? 2.a.5.) To what extent are biofuels of interest in the MD and HD vehicle classes - i.e., Class 3-8? If biofuels are of interest to industry and consumers, what specific fuel types are of interest for what engines/vehicle platforms and applications?

2b.) Renewable and Biofuels for Trucking: Trucks OEMs, large truck fleet operators and large commercial customers have indicated a need to target low carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2-eq) emissions for future trucks. Given the ubiquity of liquid fuels, this has led to increased industry and commercial customer interest in drop-in renewable fuels such as biofuels that can deliver large reductions in CO2-eq emissions from conventional powertrains. DOE R&D has shown that CO2-eq reductions of 80% or more relative to incumbent fuels (gasoline or diesel fuel) are possible from renewable fuels. 2.b.1.) Is there an interest from industry or consumers in research into low lifecycle CO2-eq liquid fuels? How much CO2-eq reduction is sufficient to qualify as “low-carbon” and compete with other advance technologies? Is there value in expending additional R&D effort to reduce lifecycle CO2-eq emissions by greater than 80%? 2.b.2.) Low lifecycle CO2-eq liquid fuels have the potential advantage of not requiring vehicle, infrastructure or operational changes that could come with other options such as battery electrification, hydrogen fuels, or natural gas. How important are these benefits? If these fuels cost more per mile than today’s fuels, how much does the benefit of less disruption offset that higher cost? 2.b.3.) How important to industry and your customer’s is the lifecycle CO2-eq emissions of medium/heavy-duty trucks? Is CO2-eq emissions accounting, if any, conducted on a tank-to-wheels or well-to-wheels basis? And is any accounting down looking at the total movement of freight from manufacture to customer? Are customer/market/investor interests in CO2- eq emissions reduction a major factors in industry’s interest in CO2-eq emissions reduction, or is it driven primarily by regulations? What is the relative importance of domestic markets vs. international markets for determining current and planned CO2-eq posture?

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